Title: Romeo x Juliet
Manga, Anime: Romeo x Juliet does have a manga spinoff, with art done by COM and story still done by Gonzo and Sky Perfect Well think, that began running in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Asuka on March 24th, 2007. It is still running at this point in time, and has yet to be licensed Stateside.
Romeo x Juliet is a twenty-four episode anime that was produced by Gonzo (famous for their work on Gankutsuou and Saikano) and directed by Fumitoshi Oisaki (this was his first major work as a director). It ran from April 4th to September 26th, 2007 on Japanese TV, and, contrary to Funimation's giving subbers a cease and desist (which was on supposedly on behalf of Gonzo's requests for them to enforce Japanese copyright laws), the anime has NOT been licensed Stateside.
Story: Fourteen years ago, on the floating continent of Neo-Verona, the Montagues led a coup against the Capulets, and slaughtered the entire family, except for a young girl and her servant. The girl, in the meantime, has been bought up as a boy, Odin, and kept in hiding, occasionally going out as the masked vigilante the Red whirlwind. On the day of her sixteenth birthday, the day when her true identity is to be revealed, she meets Romeo, the son of the Montagues...
As you can tell, this is an EXTREMELY loose adaptation of the story. And, honestly, it had the chance to be good. However, the story has issues, and lots of them. And to cover them requires some SPOILERS, so read ahead at your own risk
First of all centers in the adaptation of the story. It's absolutely bare-bones: two star-crossed lover from rival families who die. I'm not a Shakespeare purist at all, but dear GOD, they fucked a lot up. They can't decide when to use Shakespearean dialogue or when to adapt it, or when to keep scenes from the original play in just to remind people that yes, this is an adaptation. And for the recored, they fucked up the balcony scene in the extreme. I'm sorry, but you have to be really trying with a vengance to mess it up.
Another major problem in this is the characters. Gonzo might have been able to pull this off if they'd kept the original personalities from Shakespeare. Instead, Romeo becomes a naive whiny little brat who waxes philosophically (and unconvincingly) about justice and freedom and peace once he is sent to work in the mines by his father (Maoist China, plz?), Juliet can't decide whether she wants to be a shoujo heroine destined to lead a revolution and avenge her parents or a whiny little Mary-Sue moping over her angsty past and her TRU WUV with Romeo, not to mention that she's supposedly uber-skilled with a sword, but makes incredibly stupid beginners mistakes at several critical times, and Tybalt, probably my favorite out of the whole lot, is dark and brooding and actually doesn't coddle Juliet, unlike most of the cast. Other characters from other Shakespeare plays are thrown in haphazardly, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to be like in other plays; they're all butchered versions of their former selves (like most everyone else from the original Romeo and Juliet), most of whom are fawning over and coddling either Romeo or Juliet or both. Background stories for some major characters (such as Tybalt and the generic evil tyrant Montague) don't come until later in the series, and when they do, it's just more WTF (Montague is a son of the Capulets and got adopted into the Montagues and backstabbed his way to the top in order to get his revenge on the Capulets for mistreating his mother, who was, in fact, a whore; and Tybalt is apparently the son of Montague and a Capulet woman - again, WTF?!) The biggest issue with characters is the fact that NONE of them get any development; they're all one-note personalities running around in circles for most of the series.
This, in turn, is compounded by the issue that, for most of the series, THERE IS NO PLOT. It's either Juliet running around with Romeo in puppy love, angsting, or attempting to lead a revolution but failing at swordfighting when she's supposedly amazing at it, while Romeo either runs around with Juliet, tries to kindly let down his arranged fiancee, or starts to realize just what a douche his father is. Gonzo tries to build the series on Romeo and Juliet's TRU WUV, but the most that it is is puppy love, as they never meet for anything more than six minutes, yet this is enough for them to decide to run away together about halfway through the series and marry each other and set up house in a pastoral village out in the middle of nowhere. (...Then again, it was kind of like this in the original play, so they got that aspect down, to some degree.) They get captured, though, and Romeo goes off to the mines to have a slight development arc that makes him even more annoying at the end of it, and Juliet goes off to finally lead that revolution (which is instigated by something so fucking EASY that it's a wonder they didn't try this years ago, let alone the other five times that the revolution failed in this series!). And when the revolution comes about, it's glossed over to make room for the random tree that apparently keeps Neo Verona in the sky and that is dying because of the Montagues, and apparently Juliet is the next sacrifice to keep it alive. This brings about the situation in the last two episodes that I bought up back in the third paragraph. To say the least, this thing is a fucking MESS.
In short, the whole story is made of FAIL. There are bits of redemption that come through in Tybalt here and there, but all in all, this was just made of suck. And you wonder where it comes from, because on the one hand, you've got stuff like Saikano, and Bokurano, and Gankutsuou (which was an EXCELLENT adaptation), and then on the other, you've got THIS.
Art: Neo-Verona is absolutely beautiful. Gonzo really tried to emulate classical Italian Renaissance architecture in its construction, and they did it well. The winged horses that show up here and there in the series are pretty neatly designed and executed as well.
The character designs could've been done better, I think. Most everyone in this show looks pretty generic -- well-animated, for the most part, but fairly generic. And there are times when it was pretty obvious that they were trying to save budget with pan shots, still frames, and glossing over fight scenes. The animation quality dropped every once in a while, too.
Music: The background music for this was a study in extremes: it was either melodramatic or overdramatic string orchestra, to match the "epic" fight scenes and "dramatic" revelations, or soft and gentle string and piano numbers, to match the "tender" moments and the angst. All in all, it took the suckiness to whole new places.
The two versions of the OP and its instrumental, a cover of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" by Lena Park, were used at several points in the series, and even if I didn't really like where it was used, I liked the songs themselves. The first ED, "Cyclone" by 12012, was a pretty nice rock piece as well. I didn't like the second ED all that much, as it was another female emo ballad, which we kind of already had in the OP.
Seiyuu: Overall, the seiyuu for this did a good job in portraying their characters, even if I hated their characters' guts. Props especially to Tybalt and Montague's seiyuu, who pitched their voices so that they matched, something I didn't recognize till I saw them in scenes that happened one right after the other, which was a hint to a major (if slightly WTF-ish) plot point.
Length: Honestly? I think this series shouldn't have even been able to get off the ground -- whoever greenlighted this should probably get fired.
But, in the long run, this was just way too long. I was starting to get sick of this around episode 13. If they went and retooled the whole damn thing (and maybe took care of the issues with the plot and the characters), they should've been able to wrap this up in about sixteen to twenty episodes, and had a chance of it being decent, too.
Overall: A pretty, well-acted series that, unfortunately, is an EXTREMELY loose adaptation of the original has nothing resembling a plot for most of its entirety, and when it does get a plot, it's quite WTF-ish, one-note characters that, for the most part, you will HATE with a passion by the third episode (except maybe for Tybalt) and music (save for the OP and the first ED) that doesn't help its case.
Stay as far away from this series as possible.
Overall: 29/50; 58% (F)