Romeo × Juliet
COM (art), William Shakespeare (original story), Gonzo x SPWT (animation)
Shoujo – Romance, tragedy, fantasy, drama, action, gender bender
1 Omnibus (complete)
In the city of Neo Verona, the commoners suffer under the rule of Montague. A mysterious vigilante known as the Red Whirlwind fights to protect the capital, but the Red Whirlwind is really a girl forced to cross-dress. “Odin” is nearly captured, but she is saved by a young noble. And the two will cross paths again…
This is a pretty good adaptation of the anime, but I wouldn’t recommended Romeo x Juliet over the TV series.
It’s been a few years now since I’ve watched Romeo × Juliet. So while I remember much of the story, it’s not fresh enough to go into a deep comparison between the two. But we’re talking about 24 episodes versus 2 manga volumes, so of course the story is going to have cuts. The manga Romeo × Juliet covers most of the anime’s main plot — for better or for worse. One of the main criticisms I (and, based on reviews, others) had about the original anime was the ending. Well, if you didn’t like it there, this manga isn’t going to change your mind. If you liked the anime’s ending, then you know how this one finishes.
Despite the ending, the re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is quite the fantastical tale. Flying horses, mysterious beings, floating cities, a power struggle over leadership… it seems like the story has little in common with the original play. However, there’s no doubt Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (and other plays) form the basis for the plot. Romeo × Juliet is both a familiar yet fresh story. Some scenes are based directly off of the play (such as the wedding), but you will never feel like you are reading a manga adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The backstory of a coup d’état with a sole survivor can be traced back even further than the Bard’s plays, but the warrior being a physically strong female is relatively modern invention. Even if you are relatively unfamiliar with Romeo and Juliet, manga fans will enjoy following the tale of two young teenagers fighting for their love amidst political unrest.
Without going into spoilers, the ending is a bit of a disappointment. I doubt anybody goes into any version Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy and expect a happy ending. (Well, outside of the occasional kid-focused adaptation.) However, this ending has a strange twist. The ending doesn’t ruin the story, but I just don’t think it fits. COM does start hinting at the final revelations about halfway through the omnibus, but this makes Montague’s motives confusing. I cannot hold the ending against the manga, as it is directly borrowed from the anime.
Romeo and Juliet are perhaps the most famous couple in history. Fortunately, the star-crossed lovers each have a personality outside of their romance (which, if you go by the play, is missing much of the love). Romeo is conflicted about his father’s rule while Juliet finds herself in charge of a rebellion. The two find themselves falling quickly in love, but they then stop fighting against their feelings. It’s a nice twist on the play: not quite love at first sight, but still fast enough to show how they were destined to be together.
Unfortunately, who really suffers in this adaptation are all the side characters. We don’t get to see Hermine suffering from her unrequited love. Tybalt kind of randomly drops in, and his big revelation is missing the shock factor. Even William Shakespeare’s wise words are mostly missing from this version, and a certain character’s death just doesn’t have a lot of impact. Romeo × Juliet is no doubt about the lead couple, but there are many other characters suffering because of Montague’s rule. The anime, being much longer, has the opportunity to flesh out these characters while the manga concentrates on Romeo and Juliet.
I first assumed this manga was a shounen tale. While the romance is a big part of it, shounen romance manga are not too uncommon. So I was surprised this manga was serialized in Asuka, a shoujo magazine home to titles like Kiss of the Rose Princess and D.N.Angel. The artist, however, is actually a shounen manga artist; this is COM’s first shoujo. As such, while the layout and images look shoujo-esque with lots of whitespace, blushing faces, and light colors. However, the actual artstyle looks more like a typical shounen style, most notably the sharp angles in the characters’ faces. The author’s notes talks about COM doing the drawings for the light novel, and COM’s artwork looks like the illustrations from light novels. I don’t mean this as an insult, but some images do have more of an impact, like ones that would be included in a Romeo × Juliet light novel adaptation. Backgrounds are often minimal or missing, and the action scenes are hard to follow. I could barely see the arrows Francisco is shooting. The art is nice. Not good, not great, not bad, just nice. Take it as you wish.
No honorifics are used of course. For those of you adverse to Shakespeare’s Early Modern English or even the (misconceived Shakespearean) Middle English will not have to worry. Everything is written in Modern English. There’s no “thou” or “ye” in here. I don’t remember any lines being directly lifted from the original play. Despite calling the alter ego of “Odin” as the “Crimson Whirlwind” on the back cover, the manga itself used “Red Whirlwind”. Montague is constantly called the Duke; I don’t think he’s ever called the Prince like in the anime. Otherwise, I don’t have much to say.
If you don’t have the time to watch Romeo × Juliet, then the manga version covers almost the entire plot without feeling overly rushed. However, MSRP $19.99 for two volumes of manga or $29.99 for 24 anime episodes… yeah, sorry, the anime wins.
Note that the writer for the anime (and thus for the manga) is Yoshida Reiko, the writer for the manga Tokyo Mew Mew. Of course, she has worked on many other anime series as well.
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