Like most people out there, while I was in high school I had to read William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of the most well known love stories in fiction and has been a mainstay of pop culture throughout the years. Obviously, someone was going to turn it into an anime eventually. I have no idea how any of you reacted to the play when you read it, but my cynical 16-year-old self hated it. I don’t hate it now, but I still wasn’t exactly going into this expecting much. But I like to keep an open mind and give everything a fair chance, because sometimes things can surprise you.
Romeo X Juliet is more than just a simple anime version of the classic love story, for a few reasons. The biggest reason is because it’s barely Romeo and Juliet at all. It does share some common elements and scenes from the original, mostly in character names and relationships, but it deviates greatly. In the original story, Romeo and Juliet are simply children from two families that hate each other. In this version, Romeo is the son of Prince Montague, who came into his position by killing the former ruler of Neo-Verona, Prince Capulet, the father of Juliet. This adds another level of tragedy to the love that forms between the two. Instead of Juliet simply falling in love with a boy her family hates, she’s fallen in love with the son of the man who killed her father, a man she swore revenge against.
If you don’t know what you’re getting into, Spice and Wolf can seem a little daunting at first. The very first episode, and just about every episode that follows it, is basically 24 consecutive minutes of people talking. Mostly about economics. Medieval economics at that. Sounds boring, yes? Well, surprisingly, it isn’t.
This is due entirely to how fascinating the characters and their relationships with each other are. Lawrence, being a merchant, always looks at things in terms of money. Either making it, spending it, or keeping track of the debt Holo has racked up during their travels. He always keeps somewhat detached from things, never really showing much emotion no matter what’s going on around him. That is, until it seems like Holo may be in danger, during which time he is genuinely panicked and gets irritated when the people he tries to seek help from don’t act quickly enough. Over time it becomes clear that despite his behavior he has started to develop genuine feelings for Holo and cares about her deeply.
Holo herself is a rather interesting character. Despite being a several hundred year old deity, she behaves more like a child. She gets excited about food, going so far as demanding Lawrence take her to another city for a chance to eat apples pickled in honey. She tries to act the part of a deity, by talking big about herself or belittling humans, acting like she’s not interested in anything they do. But this only makes her seem like a child attempting to impress someone by bragging. All this bragging and boasting serves to hide the fact that she’s really just lonely, having been stuck watching over one particular wheat field for many years, and having no real contact with anyone.