Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Romeo X Juliet Anime Review

Romeo X Juliet Anime Review
Romeo X Juliet Anime Review 
The Houses, Montague and Capulet, alike in dignity hence roses hate.
An Iris not remains but Juliet who escaped her family’s sanguinary fate.
The tyrant’s heir, a lad named Romeo.
The lady Capulet, whose vengeance sworn, they meet where cheap and wiser not to go.
And thus their star-crossed love was bred and born.
But fate, whose heart beat fast for tragic stern, would suffer not their love to sail to port.
The last, doth learn, that love is not enough.
Twixt siller and crouptious they cavort.
How find you then your bliss, with celestial foe?
This solitaire does not predict, no.

Romeo X Juliet is a Fantasy/Romance anime based on the play by William Shakespeare back during Elizabethan England. The 24 episode anime comes to us from Studio Gonzo (Last Exile, The Count of Monte Cristo) and was directed by Fumitoshi Oizaki. It originally aired from April to September 2007, with FUNimation as the current American Licensor. A manga adaptation written by the same writer as the series, Reiko Yoshida, was released in 2007 and finished in 2009. Yen Press holds licensing rights.

Fourteen years ago in the floating island of Neo Verona, Leontes Montague and his men led a bloody coup and murdered all of the members of House Capulet, the rulers of Neo Verona. However one survivor, Juliet, was able to escape thanks to a group of Capulet loyalists. Fourteen years later, Leontes, the new Prince of Neo Verona, rules the land with an iron fist and crushes anyone who opposes him. Juliet, now a sixteen year old girl, fights against House Montague's oppression by becoming a masked vigilante known as "The Red Whirlwind". While attending a ball with a friend, Juliet meets Romeo, Prince Montague's son and both of them fall in love at first sight. Unlike his father, Romeo is a kind and humble man who is opposed to his father's cruelty and shares many ideals with Juliet. Unfortunately for them, Capulet loyalists are planning a rebellion to overthrow House Montague while Leontes is obsessed with destroying the threat of House Capulet permanently. As these star-crossed lovers face many challenges and adventures together which will strengthen their love, an ancient secret hidden within Neo Verona is slowly revealed.

Alright, animation, time to rip you a new one. I mean, it’s Gonzo, there’s gonna be a good amount of screw ups........ Oh wow....... *looks at the sky and whispers* Thank you! Alright, jokes aside, Gonzo really REALLY made this series look amazing! With Gonzo, there are series that have minimal flaws in it’s animation (Yay Last Exile and Gankutsuou!), and then there are those series that are just plain sloppy (Thanks NHK.....). Romeo X Juliet is the exception to both these kinds of series because it is completely flawless! Animation, character design, and even the music is perfect for the series! The character design, especially, kind of reminds me of your typical Disney movie (if you can actually believe that one). Shakespeare would be rolling over his grave if he saw all this!

Romeo X Juliet Anime Review
Romeo X Juliet Anime Review 
Speaking of rolling over in his grave, let’s talk story. There are only two things that are kept from the original play in this series, when it comes to story. The first being the obvious and iconic romance between Romeo and Juliet. Not much to explain there except there is even conflict between the two of them. It’s not just their families tearing them apart, but other circumstances during the series bring hard times for even young lovers. This makes the story even more real then the original play intended it to be. The other is the war between the Montagues and Capulets. But this time, there’s a little bit of a different angle to it. How the story starts is Lord Montague kills off the entire Capulet family, the current rulers of Neo Verona, and takes over. The only survivor of this incident is Juliet, and, years later, the remaining loyalists to House Capulet try to take back Neo Verona. This makes the story even more complex and give more reason as to why there is a war between the two families instead of “because we hate each other”. Everything else in the story, plot wise, is vastly different. The one part that I have issues with in this series is the tree deep in Neo Verona known as Escalus. It’s mentioned throughout the series, but it would be more helpful to give more explanation to this tree then just the last few episodes. In all honesty, the end is rather rushed with writers probably going “we solved that problem, now let’s kill them off!” If you’ve read the play, then you shouldn’t be surprised when I say that. It’s not really a spoiler...

Now with a story like Romeo and Juliet, you expect the same kind of characters as in the play. Not the case here..... SO not the case...... Because of the situation in the story itself, the characters respond in the way they should in that situation. The biggest 180 when it comes to character development is Juliet. In the original play, she was fair and reserved. What the anime decided to go and do was make her into a complete badass character! She is one of the few strong lead female characters in any recent anime, from what I can think of. Not only does she have to deal with the truth and duty of her real identity, but she also is the people’s hero known as The Red Whirlwind. Takes a very strong female character in order to achieve this feet, and she is my favorite of this series. As for Romeo, he’s also a 180 character, but in a more gentle, naive kind of way. However, he does become stronger throughout the series. He not only defies what his birth right is suppose to deem him, but even completely turns on his father and assists Juliet in taking him down. In other words, there’s a complete role reversal between Romeo and Juliet in this version. The rest of the characters have minimal development, but it’s justifiable. The story is about our two young lovers, that’s it. The rest of the characters are there for support. However, I will say, the supporting cast is a lot more interesting then the original. Characters go crazy, are evil tyrants, and are always seeking revenge (What is it with anime and vengeance?). Downside to this is there are WAY too many supporting characters in this series, taking it away from the main leads.

The English Dub FUNimation put together is fantastic! Brina Palencia (Spice and Wolf, Nabari no Ou) and Chris Burnett (Nabari no Ou, Hell Girl) as our two leading lovers are a perfect casting choice! Palencia especially because she not only has to play a female, but she had to create another voice for Juliet’s aliases Odin and The Red Whirlwind. Together, they make their love innocent like in the play, but not as naive as the play portrays them to be. As for our villain, Lord Montague, Sean Hennigan (One Piece, Baccano!) makes the cruel tyrant come alive with every word he says. The rest of the cast is so well done that it would take a long time for me to get through everyone, so I’m gonna make this short. A few people I’m glad to see resurface in this series are Maxey Whitehead (Baccano!) as Antonio, Joel McDonald (Nabari no Ou) as Vittorio, and Carrie Savage (Gankutsuou) as Hermione. Mainly because Whitehead and McDonald were awesome in Baccano! and I was excited to see them in more things. And if you’re wondering about William de Farnase (AKA Shakespeare the anime version), J. Michael Tatum (Spice and Wolf) took on this task and brought to life the famous playwright (And there goes Shakespeare in his grave again....). Other voice actors for the series include: Colleen Clinkenbeard, R. Bruce Elliott, Eric Vale, Robert McCollum, Mike McFarland, Larissa Wolcott, Sean Michael Teague, and Christopher Bevins.

Now, there’s a reason why I only decide to review the English Dub and not even bother with the Japanese version. What FUNimation decided to do, unlike Gonzo, was take the extra time and effort and use the same dialect as the original play. The literary device the series decides to use is called Iambic Pentameter, which is defined as a common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet or accents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable. This gives more of a feel of a Shakespeare play rather than just coming up with completely new dialogue. Granted, it does drop the ball (a lot) and add some newer phrases, but the series doesn’t need to be punished for that. It takes lines directly from the play and are used in the dub. I think it clearly makes up for it.

By the end of the production, Romeo X Juliet is a remake of a classic story with many twists. From the new story, to the setting, and even the characters the series takes Shakespeare’s classic ideas of star crossed love and puts it on steroids! If you’re a theatre student, like myself, and have read any Shakespeare, this is a must see. If you’ve never read any Shakespeare (hard to find someone who doesn’t know what the hell Romeo and Juliet is now a days) and watch this, don’t read the play after that cause you’ll be mad it’s not as epic. Either way, go and watch it! And if you are looking for something else to bide your time with then look no further than another Gonzo/novel adaptation Gankutusuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. Very stylized and very faithful to it's original story, it's a must see!

Strife, hatred, sorrow, pain.
What is that brings these things to final end?
Tis ultimately, love, that wins the day.
For love, indeed, doth old wounds warmly tend.
And so, dear friends, with that we close our play.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Last Exile Review (English)

Since when am I watching Star Wars? I mean, I did see the movies, and I thought it was ok.... but I didn’t know there was an anime adaptation... What’s that? ...This isn’t Star Wars? Oh…

Last Exile is an original 26 episode Adventure/Fantasy anime from director Koichi Chigira and Studio Gonzo (Full Metal Panic!, Welcome to the NHK). It originally ran in 2003; and was originally being licensed by Geneon, which we won’t discuss it further then that, and then was picked up and relicensed by FUNimation. A second series called Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam, also from Chigira and Gonzo, was picked up by FUNimaiton. It ran in July 2011.

In a world that looks like the 19th century with Steampunk-esk anti-gravity devices, Claus and Lavie are pilot and co-pilot of a Vanship and act as couriers. They become involved with a mysterious mission after rescuing a little girl from a strange star-shaped killing machine. Not willing to let the girl die, they complete the mission by delivering her to the legendary mercenary ship Sylvana, only to become part of the crew as fighter pilots. (Anime News Network)

Last Exile’s animation is simply amazing... When it wants to be. Studio Gonzo has a bit of a reputation for finishing things half-assed, making the end result a mess; like NHK, even though this worked to their advantage. With Last Exile, Gonzo didn’t half-ass things but when the sloppy animation is apparent, you take notice. Shows what they can do when they put their minds to it I suppose. Otherwise then that, the art style, lighting, and even the music (albeit, mostly sounding like it comes from Scotland) are outstanding! The fights are done wonderfully, and even some of the small things stand out in a big way.

The story takes a little bit of time to get into due to the lack of a proper opening. The first six or seven episodes suffer because of this. Plus the lack of explanation isn’t the easiest to deal with at the start (considering I had to keep Hasteaguy from going into complete rage mode). However, after they hammer out the characters, get them together, and give them all a goal, the train ride of awesome gets up to full speed. What Last Exile does real well, is give you an epic conflict with characters that you actually care about. Right up to the end, you’re rooting for these guys/gals until the nail-biting conclusion. The end is really satisfying, however, it is rather rushed. It’s kind of like they wanted to make the series longer, but all of a sudden they were told they had a twenty minute episode to end the show on. And then the, “OH S**T!!” moment happens and they rush the end of the story.

On that note, let’s talk characters! About 95% of the characters are really well done. There’s only one character in the entire series that has so much lack of development and personality that it drives me nuts! The lucky character I have issues with? Alvis Hamilton. She’s the key to the mysterious Exile, and that’s where it stops. Oh wait, she looks at you with big eyes, acts like she’s’ never seen anything so sophisticated as a toy cow, and just giving off an overall impression that Hasteaguy calls, “I’m innocent and deep... Love me.” Yeah... But every other member of the cast has great development, great backstory, and really distinct personalities. Overall, Last Exile has a solid cast.

The English Dub casting for the series was certainly picked carefully. From the soft voiced Claus, portrayed by Bleach’s Johnny Yong Bosch to the very interesting character of Dio Eraclea by Digimon veteran Joshua Seth. The cast is a real good selection of veterans and newbies for Last Exile and work really well with each other. My favorite cast members for the dub are certainly Seth’s Dio, Crispin Freeman’s (Hellsing) Alex Row, Kari Wahlgren’s (Samurai Champloo) Lavie Head, Mona Marshall’s (Digimon) Lucciola, and Karen Strassman’s (Code Geass) Delphine Eraclea. Other notable voice actors include Michelle Ruff (Bleach) as both Alvis and Tatiana Wisla, Julie Ann Taylor (Love Hina) as Sophia Forrester, Dave Wittenberg (Naruto) as Mullin Shetland, Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop) as Vincent Alzey, and the late Bob Papenbrook (Magic Knight Rayearth) as David Mad-thane.

All right, you’re probably wondering why I cracked the Star Wars joke at the beginning of this review. That’s because there are A LOT of similarities that you can make between these two series that it’s scary.... First of all, you have your three leads from Stars Wars: Luke, Han Solo, and Leia. Compare them to Claus, Alex, and Sophia (The hair, man! The Damn HAIR!!!) from Last Exile and you get where this is coming from. Then there’s the war between the Guild and the members of the Sylvana in Last Exile, and a war between the Empire and the Rebels in Star Wars. And the final one is the Death Star… wow… That one was so blatant that I probably won’t even need to mention it when it comes up. Yeah, there are quite a few glaring similarities here, but Last Exile doesn’t get knocked down. Oh no, because the series is original, in it’s own way, you don’t notice the similarities to Star Wars unless you really pay attention... Or have seen the original movies recently... Like I did. Did I mention there’s, pretty much, a Death Star in this?

After taking you through this long, hard war, Last Exile truly deserves the title of “Classic Anime” that was given to it by FUNimation after its rerelease last spring. A gripping story with amazing animation and, mostly, developed characters, it’s a big must see! Even though the beginning is slow and the lack of explanation is frustrating, stick with it and you will be amazed! If you're a fan of Last Exile, then take a peak at it's squeal, Ginyoku no Fam. I took a look at a few episodes and it seemed pretty good. If you're not a fan of the Last Exile franchise in any way, then you're probably more of the hardcore action fan, in which case, try Gundam or Drangonball Z.
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