When I first heard that GONZO was going to make an anime out of the work of William Shakespeare, I can say that I was interested, given their past record with Gankutsuô, namely the visionary adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
Disclaimer: It was evident from the start that it would not be a faithful representation of Shakespeare’s work. Therefore I think it’s evident that we should take it as it is - an anime - and not have excessive expectations. That’s how I approached the first episode.
The episode opens with the Japanese text that referst to the sonnet that Shakespeare put at the start of the drama, then we already see some differences in the basic story: the Capulet family is exterminated by the hands of the Montagues, and Juliet and another, older girl barely escape their doom.
We move a few years later, in the city of Neo-Verona (a curious mixture of several classical Italian architectural styles, to say the least). The government, in the hands of the Montagues, is still looking for the last heir, to kill off the family once and for all. When a (seemingly) innocent woman is about to get executed, a mysterious person (Juliet) appears and frees her. The city guard sets off in her pursuit: she snatches a friend along the way(Cordelia - the name refers to one of the daughters of King Lear, actually) and continues her run.
On her way, she risks falling to her death, only to be saved by - guess who? - Romeo. Their encounter is short, as she runs away quickly. Cordelia and Juliet go to a theatre, ran by some person named William (a reference to Shakespeare? But he’s blonde…). As they rest, Juliet is reminded of how she’s about to reach her 16th birthday (another difference: Juliet was 14 in the play).
Cue to Romeo, who obviously can’t forget about Juliet already, and his conversation with a friend. His father tells him about a sort of party for the night and what looks to be an arranged marriage with someone. Back to Juliet, she’s trying on some dresses for the upcoming night, where’s she supposed to get along with her friend, but by mistake she’s picked up by someone and brought there.
As soon as she steps in, she gets flashbacks of her past (she lived there before the assassination of her parents). Feeling dizzy, she gets to a fountain, and that’s where she meets Romeo again.
The episode ends there, and now it’s time for comments. Technically, it’s top-notch: fluid animation (look at the credits and you’ll see that loads of people participated) and a good soundrack. The backgrounds, as I said earlier, are a mixture of several styles found throughout the classical Italian architecture. While it’s too early to comment on the story, I’ll be surely following this closely, also to see how GONZO interprets other parts of the drama.
As a closing note, the episode titles are in Italian, and, much to my surprise, they’re correct: the credits show a person who helped with the language. Though, at least for an Italian like me, reading “Nella prossima puntata” is somewhat funny…
Luca Beltrame ANIME