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Romeo x Juliet

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Romeo x Juliet

Romeo x Juliet

ROMEO x JULIET © COM © GONZO/CBC•GDH•SPWT / KADOKAWA SHOTEN

The Bottom Line

Manga based on anime almost always come out strangely muted. There are exceptions, like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's thoughtful expansion of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but one can almost always tell when a manga existed in anime form first: the characters are underwritten, the plotting choppy, the whole project low on energy and invention. The same goes for manga based on video games, although there might actually be more good video-game spinoffs than there are anime spinoffs.

Romeo x Juliet is a spinoff of a TV anime series, with all that implies.

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Pros

  • Appealing protagonists
  • Unusual swashbucking take on Shakespeare

Cons

  • Pedestrian art
  • Uninspired storytelling
  • Plot falls apart in the second half

Description

  • Original Title: Romeo x Juliet (Japan)
  • Author: William Shakespeare, GONZO x SPWT
    Artist: COM
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-0316073288
  • Cover Price: $18.99 US / $22.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for teen romance, some violence and gore
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: July 2010
    Japan Publication Date: August 2007
  • Book Description: 368 pages, black and white illustrations

Guide Review - Romeo x Juliet

Romeo x Juliet is, as one might guess, a loose sci-fi riff on Romeo and Juliet, or possibly a loose fantasy riff. Is there a term for that common post-Laputa genre of anime set in pastoral quasi-fantasy settings that may or may not actually be in the distant future, as hinted at by the presence of ancient lost technologies and cities with "Neo" in front of their names? Romeo x Juliet takes place in Neo Verona, which looks pretty much the same as Renaissance Verona except that it might be floating in the air. It's hard to be sure, since there aren't a lot of backgrounds or establishing shots.

The Juliet of Neo Verona is working hard to be the awesomest Juliet in the history of Juliets. The only surviving heir to the house of Capulet, she disguises herself as a man and holds down dual identities as a celebrated stage actor (who plays women) and the Crimson Whirlwind, heroic outlaw and defender of The People.

The people need defending because the house of Montague, which has ruled the city ever since slaughtering the Capulets, is cruel and corrupt — except, of course, for young Romeo, who meet cutes each of Juliet's identities until they all fall in love. Romeo tries hard to be awesome, too, riding around on his flying dragon-horse, but it's hard to match up to Juliet.

There's some fun stuff here, especially in the early chapters. Juliet runs around liberating and inspiring people, Romeo gets all romantic, there are secret conspiracies and a playwright who looks like a mincing blond William Shakespeare. The sporadic efforts to make any of this swashbuckling silliness resemble Romeo and Juliet (it seems much more inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel or The Count of Monte Cristo) are entertaining.

But the second half of this one-volume omnibus epic gets bogged down in formulaic fantasy-that-might-actually-be-science-fiction elements of the most well-trodden kind. I don't want to give too much away, but read on and you will encounter a) a cryptic oracle; b) underground areas containing ancient magical and/or technological artifacts, depending on whether you want the story to be fantasy or sci-fi; c) somebody needing to be sacrificed to something for the sake of a dying world; and d) a climax where beams of light shoot around a lot and nothing really gets explained. What is the point of these anime clichés? Is it really not enough for two awesome teenagers to just be in love?

The manga is drawn in the pleasant-looking, forgettable, mildly moe style of a thousand other manga, especially those based on anime. If the characters were more visually distinctive or expressive, the story might feel livelier. As it is, it reads exactly like an artist was given the assignment of translating an anime into manga form, and did it, and went home, another job out of the way.

Shaenon Garrity is a manga editor, writer and comics creator. She is the author of CLAMP in America, and the creator of Narbonic.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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