What it’s about: Fourteen years ago, there was a coup in Neo Verona. The reigning Capulet family were slaughtered down to the last woman and child by their rivals, the Montagues. Or so it was thought. A single survivor, the duke’s young daughter Juliet, was smuggled out of the castle and kept secret for over a decade while the ground was laid for a rebellion against the Montagues and a restoration of the Capulet dynasty. Juliet herself is unaware of her heritage, and has been fighting as a vigilante against the increasingly corrupt and violent city guard in defence of the people, when she runs into a young noble named Romeo – the son of Duke Montague.
Why you should watch it: It’s an excellent example of the “action romance” genre, and balances both halves incredibly well. At the same time, the plot spins out at a perfect pace, neither lingering nor rushing through Juliet’s progression and her coming to terms with her destiny. The animation and character designs are clean and well-executed, and the soundtrack (including a Japanese cover of “You Raise Me Up” as the title song) adds an emotional depth to every major scene. It’s also interesting to see an “outside view” of Shakespeare’s work; it’s a different story than the one you might know, more fairy tale than Greej tragedy, but it’s still quite well told. The English dub is well worth picking up if you don’t have a strong preference for subs, as there’s some poetic lines from the original work put in now and then that add some flavour to the script.
Caveats: There is little effort put into creating nuanced antagonists. Montague himself is a classic moustache-twirling tyrant and the traitors, turncoats, and city guards are unambiguously evil. This simplification carries through into the plot itself, with much of the original tragedy excised and streamlined. As a standalone work the show is excellent; as a reflection of the classic play it’s a little lacking. This is not exactly a fair comparison to make, though.
Themes: Much like the original, doomed love is where the meat of the story lies. Acceptance of one’s duties and obligations, and heroic sacrifice to see them through, is also a primary focus for Juliet’s “coming of age” as well as several secondary characters.