(NOTE: This is basically the same as my MAL review on the same show)
Fall 2018 drew quite a good amount of attention with shows like Bunny Girl Senpai, Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken, Goblin Slayer, Zombieland Saga, and SSSS Gridman (not counting sequel seasons). Because of this, quite a number of other series mostly felt under the radar or were simply ridden off as “boring” or “lame” after just a few episodes. Many of those you can actually say are “objectively bad”, many are just mid-ground, and then some are actual hidden gems (even if not diamonds)…..this show, in my honest opinion, was one of them.
I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard about that classic play by William Shakespeare called “Romeo and Juliet”, which encompass the story of two star-crossed lovers and their feuding families/groups. Two other anime series come to mind: a two-cour fantasy take called Romeo x Juliet (a great fantasy romance show I’d recommend) and another popular rom-com series called Nisekoi, an amusing but ultimately generic run-of-the-mill show (in my opinion).
And now, we get this single-cour (SOB…) rom-com manga adaptation by the name of Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet (english title is “Boarding School Juliet”). From what I heard, the manga depicted certain events and characters quite differently compared to the anime, which to me, really doesn’t change anything considering I’m mostly an anime-only sort of individual, sans special occasions of peaked curiosity.
(WARNING: Some spoilers up ahead)
Boarding School Juliet focused on the two main characters Juliet Persia and Romio Inuzuka, who are from two opposing groups in a boarding academy, with Juliet being of the White Cats and Romio being of the Black Dogs. Like with the original story and the anime Romeo x Juliet, Juliet and Romio secretly established love relationships, and like Nisekoi, the story has comedic value wrapped with it.
This version of the Romeo and Juliet story takes place in a European-esque school setting, but not quite a typical school setting, as the two opposing families/groups occupy their own domain and facilities, including the dorms. The two parties are in conflict on a practically daily basis, often over the silliest things. What I noticed from the get-go, especially from the first scene in the first episode, is that this show is quite a bit more action-oriented than most rom-com series. Practically everybody in the academy seems to be quite more athletic than the normal student. Another interesting aspect I found out in this show is that the segregation between the two groups in terms of educational establishments goes as far back as elementary school. There’s also the strong sense of pride and personal image that is instilled into the ideals of both parties, where not meeting up to expectations or committing acts that are frowned upon, which include peaceful interactions with members of “the opposing team” will subject one to severe consequences. One more key thing to note is that because of the nature of the boarding academy and the parties involved, school activities and events are conducted in a peculiar manner that can be considered a “hyperbolic” version of the same stuff you’d see in normal Japanese school settings. These particular aspects are where I felt the show really did give a nod to the tension, conflict, and competition between the Capulets and the Montagues in the original story.
Before I get to other strong points in the story, I think I should bring up a major weak point that this show does suffer in the narrative department, and perhaps the only real main flaw of this series. The overall pacing of the show is rather unorthodox, so quite often certain key events or arcs feel like they’re being dragged out a bit too long, or (at least from my perspective) played out too hastily. Due to this, many of us as viewers may feel mentally tested trying to keep track of the sequence of the events. Additionally, due to the weird pacing, the show neglected to invest enough time to dive as deep into the characters’ backstories as they could have. However, considering that the show is single-cour with 12 episodes (barring an announced 2nd season if the possibility is there), the rocky pacing and shortage of backstory content can be understandable and forgivable to a certain degree, depending on how one feels about rom-coms in general.
Now, back to the strong suits. Unless most rom-coms, Boarding School Juliet endeavored to give more structure to the relationship between the two main characters. With each following episode, our main guy Romio and our main girl Juliet discover and talk about NOT JUST about the fact that they love each other, but WHY they love each other. At the same time, though, due to the nature of their love being “forbidden” to their respective parties, they have to try all they can to keep their secret and keep the façade of being hostile towards each other in the eyes of their schoolmates, which almost always lead to countless hilarious fallouts, often very predictable but still hella funny. I felt like this show really did well in terms of its portrayal and ramping up of its comedic moments, the majority of them, of course, involving Romio and Juliet going through some of the most ridiculous predicaments (even if they’re very predictable); more often than not, their own friends and classmates are often drawn into the gags as well. Some of the comical moments, though, do have instances of fanservice, sometimes forced, which are pretty much hit-or-miss, depending on your intended audience. The relationship between our two main characters was also given more structure as Romio met and interacted with other recurring characters, and through these events, both of them were able to find more reasons and incentive to love each other, as well as encounter and push through adversity that threatens to do one or both of them harm. One more thing to note: the show did not commit the obnoxious crime of forcing an awkward harem situation with our main guy.
It was only until recently that I found that the opening theme of this show was sung by fripSide, a band who also sung the opening themes for both seasons for Toaru Kagaku no Railgun (second season of that series I REALLY enjoyed). While I wasn’t exactly a fan of the Railgun opening themes, I really liked the group’s work with THIS particular opening theme: “Love With You”. This particular opening theme is not something you’d usually find in most rom-coms; from the majority of those I’ve watched, the opening theme had a more “goofy”, light-hearted, bouncy tone that would befit practically any romantic comedy series. This is not quite the case with this particular opening: while it does have a very uplifting, lively, moderate-paced tempo, the singing voices seem to give a certain amount of weight and depth during the verses, before gradually speeding up to enter the chorus section. For someone who’s been exposed to plenty of types of music via just listening from the radio, I tend to notice more of the certain characteristics that make songs or soundtracks unique or comparable, though I’m not versatile enough to come up with the proper vocabulary for them (LOL). The ED theme is sung by Riho Lida (who herself had a very minor role in the show), who also sung the theme songs for the Love Live School Idol series; the ending theme has a more chill and laid-back feel to it, as the visuals focused on the recurring female characters.
The rest of the soundtracks were made to complement the serious moments, the emotional moments, and the comedic gags, however and whenever they occur. They also fit the mostly light-hearted atmosphere, which is fairly normal in any rom-com show. The voice acting did a solid job of not just giving the character dialogue more befitting emotions, but also gave characterization to the kind of person each particular character is, as well as their role in the series.
Apparently the studio handling this show is LIDENFILMS…the same one that managed Hanebado, a Summer 2018 sports series that had stunning animation (though with a lackluster story and poor management of characters). For them to follow up on that show with another solid showcasing of animation quality, even though they’re likely not on the levels of studios like KyoAni, Bones, Wit Studio, and Ufotable, that deserves a honorable mention, if not a frigging medal. What I really liked was the extra attention to linear details and the adjustments of light and contrast, especially with certain scenes when the camera focuses directly on the face of a particular character. A frequently used but interesting visual is where you can actually see specks of floating dust illuminated by sunlight coming through a window…those particular screenshots I found very mesmerizing because the effects can make the scenes seem all too realistic, to where you may be tempted to try to reach your hand through the screen to grab at the glowing specks of dust.
In short, very good, if not great, animation quality all around, with very little inconsistency with character designs and movements. One more thing I will take note, though….why are the girls given more prominent-looking irises instead of the guys? I think it’s more so to bring out the girls’ attractiveness and charm as anime characters, which is honestly not a bad thing or a big deal at all…in fact (again, depends on your audience), it can help the viewers like the characters even more. I mean, you don’t want a bunch of fugly-looking cast members, right?
I did mention before that the show’s shortcomings of not being able to fully dive into the characters’ backstories did kinda hurt the show quite a bit. However, when you put that aside, the characters are well-written. Here’s some focus on some of the prominent characters:
Juliet Persia is a tsundere, but not of the usual bland variety I’ve often had to put up with in the past decade. She is very confident in herself and her abilities, but is shown to be kind and understanding, especially when it comes to Romio’s awkward romantic gestures. While she can be understandably dense at times, she does not shy away from the relationship, and does whatever she can in her power to help her relationship with Romio, in the hopes that their love can one day finally end the conflict between their parties.
Romio is a headstrong and brash young man who usually does the talking with his fists. However, he does have a notably tender and kinder side to him, to where he actually got on good terms with some members of the White Cats, even sometimes helping them in his own way. He tends to be a goofy and awkward romantic in his relationship with Persia, to the amusement of the latter. He also has a great fear of his older brother, Airu Inuzuka.
Hasuka Komai, arguably “Best Girl” of the series, imo, if it wasn’t for Persia, is Romio’s closest friend and childhood friend, and has deep romantic feelings for him. She is very supportive of Romio to where she was able to accept Romio loving someone from the other party after learning about the two’s “forbidden” love. What I particularly loved about Komai is that she knew very well, even after her straightforward, tearful confession, that she was never going to be the one to be with Romio (in short, “friendzoned”). However, because of the fact she still loves him, Komai decided to support and help him whenever she can, as well as wait for him, should the relationship not work out between Romio and Persia; she even agreed to keep his secret from their fellow peers. That level of understanding and support was something I really found admirable. Because of this, she was even able to befriend some of the members of the White Cats as well.
Chartreux Westia is the savvy “cat lady” of the show, and nicknamed “Tyrant Princess of the West”. While she does try to sabotage Romio’s relationship with Persia at one point, it is only because she has been doing everything to protect Persia since childhood, to the point of being obsessed with her. However, after coming to an understanding, she went on good terms with Romio, sometimes even working together with him whenever help is needed. Quite often during the series, she becomes a catalyst for comical gags, much of the chagrin of the men, which does not exclude Romio himself.
As for the rest of the recurring cast, they do passively play a part in terms of giving structure to the dynamics of Romio and Persia’s relationship, whether through giving them adversity or support. As mentioned before, though, the characters could’ve been utilized even better if their backstories were given more detail. Even the minor characters were given a good amount of characterization, making them very crucial to the story because they balance out both sides of the feud.
I actually enjoyed this show a lot more than I expected to. The comical gags, the recurring characters and their personalities, the development of the romantic relationship between the two mcs, the emotional moments….they were great.
It was definitely a huge relief from the constant, generic, blandly written stories of the majority of rom-coms I’ve watched in the past, especially Nisekoi. That show, in particular, never really seems to have any sort of significant progression with a romantic relationship, instead resorting to throwing in numerous potential love interests to instigate a harem situation, which I often grow tired of nowadays. Boarding School Juliet, though, didn’t have as much, if any, of the fallouts that Nisekoi had. It was quite the pleasure for me to watch Romio and Juliet clumsily try to handle their curious relationship, as well as anticipate with glee for the funny gags to show up. While there was a fair amount of fanservice, I didn’t really find it that offputting at all, though at times I will admit every now and then that it sometimes can feel forced; otherwise, it’s more laughs for me….the more, the better. One last thing: I couldn’t help but root for Romio and Persia whenever they face great adversity that threatens to demolish their relationship; especially with the occasions where they took great risks for the sake of each other. It’s safe to say that at the end, I was more attached to the show than most people while it lasted, and while the way it ended would call for a second season, I’m still grateful for what was provided as a solid manga adaptation and a not-so-generic rom-com show in general. A final confession here is that I forgot I was watching a modern day spinoff take on the original Romeo and Juliet story until that final episode.
If you love rom-coms, but are tired of the “same old, same old”, OR if you like watching spinoffs of Romeo and Juliet, this could be the show for you. While this show does have its flaws, at the very least, it’s a fun and well-executed romantic comedy, with very likeable, interesting, and entertaining characters, as well as a honest development of the two main characters’ romance. It is one of those shows that avoided the sin of having “quantity over quality”, something that most shows nowadays tend to fall victim to far too easily.
This show had me smiling throughout its entirety, and I hope it’ll do the same for you as well. Have fun!