The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 33 – Romeo x Juliet

Romeo x Juliet

There have been many anime and manga re-workings and adaptations, including stories originating from the west. There are anime adaptations of “Sherlock Holmes” and “Alice in Wonderland” for example. This week’s column however covers an adaptation of the one of the Bard’s works.

From 2007, Romeo x Juliet is a very loose adaptation it should be pointed out, set in a fantasy world. If you are a Shakespeare purist this is a series to avoid, but for those who are open to retellings of this kind, they should find to be an interesting and tragic tale. It is however somewhat longer than the original play. To give an idea, the most recent film version of the story directed by Carlo Carlei is just under 120 minutes long. Romeo x Juliet is a 24-part series lasting around 600 minutes.

The story takes place in a floating continent called Neo Verona. 14 years earlier, the ruling Capulet family were all slaughtered by the Montague family, led by Leontes who becomes Prince of Neo Verona. In the present day, Leontes has slowly become a tyrant crazed with power. The main menace he believes is a masked vigilante known as the “Red Whirlwind”. We later discover that this vigilante is 16-year-old Juliet Capulet, the only surviving member of the family who is now protected by loyal subjects and only goes outside dressed as a man.

One day she manages to go out as a woman and visits a ball hosted by the Prince. There she encounters Leontes’s son, kind-hearted Lord Romeo, and the two begin to fall in love. However, Juliet’s family is devoted to overthrowing Romeo’s family, while Romeo’s father is determined to kill Juliet and wipe out the Capulet dynasty. As the story progresses, we witness the romance blossom, the madness increase, and an ancient secret revealed.

As stated, the purists will not like it, but there are plenty of things to keep other Shakespeare fans interested. For starters, one of the regular characters is a playwright called William who amongst other things has written a play called “As You Like It”. There is also a reference to a merchant called Shylock, and there are several other quotations in the programme. There are other things which are recognisable too. When you start to watch it and go through the title sequence you might spot that the opening theme song has a familiar tune. That is because the song is a translated version of “You Raise Me Up”.

The length of the series and the additional plot may put some people off. For example, when it is discovered that Romeo is helping Juliet, Romeo is punished by being made the head of a far-off mine, which takes up several episodes of action. Arguably the series may have worked better as a 13-parter which is the standard length of anime series, but there are interesting stories in this side-story too.

Some people may well be put off by all the changes made, but it could be said that it is a testament to how great the work of Shakespeare is. It has proved to be endlessly adaptable. There are Shakespeare musicals like “West Side Story”, Shakespeare sci-fi like “Forbidden Planet”, and here we have a fantasy. There will always be countless adaptations of these stories, and this is interesting example.

Romeo x Juliet is released on DVD by MVM Films.