In the words of the great William Shakespeare: “The course of true love never did run smooth”. This is no truer than in one of his most iconic and well-recognised tales, the epic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, a tale that has touched the hearts and minds of audiences for generations. Thanks to its incredible narrative, this play has inspired countless re-imaginings and adaptations – some good, some… not so good. So, for this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, we’ll be taking a look at one of the more recent takes on this tragic love story: the manga Boarding School Juliet, published by Kodansha Comics. The question remains, however: is this a love story for the ages, or another casual affair that will soon lie forgotten? Without further ado, let’s jump right into it and find out.
The story is set in the prestigious Dahlia Academy, a boarding school that collects students from two warring nations. These students must coexist (somewhat) during their school lives, but their separation into different dorms and houses merely exacerbates the divide. These houses are the aristocratic White Cat House, home to students of the Principality of the West, and the Black Doggy House (yes… I know what you’re thinking…), where students originally from the Nation of Touwa rest their heads. These students are as different as night and day, with the White Cats maintaining aristocratic graces, while the Black Doggies are far more brutish. These factions are lead by our main pair, Romio Inuzuka of the Black Doggy house, and Juliet Persia of the White Cats. While the pair are at constant odds, the truth remains that Inuzuka harbours an intense love for his eternal rival.
One day during a particularly intense one-on-one confrontation, Inuzuka confesses his love, and the pair decide to date in secret as, should their love be made public, they would be cast out of the academy and, worse still, their standing within their nations would be torn asunder. From here, the story plays out relatively smoothly, with the pair attempting to navigate the trials and tribulations of young love, all while having the unenviable task of maintaining a facade of loathing in the presence of their fellow students.
The story for this first volume is relatively tame and sets the scene for future volumes nicely. Many characters are introduced (more on that in a moment), and the stakes are really emphasised, making for a potentially engaging basis for the series to build off of. However, slight spoiler warning for this review, despite there being a lot here that the manga could have worked with, I personally did not enjoy my time with this manga. But, before I get into that, let’s first take a look at the positives.
One of the undeniable truths of Boarding School Juliet is the fact that, when you look at the cover, you’re treated with a gorgeous first impression. The art is soft, with beautiful detail and the promise of something sweet. While that doesn’t necessarily translate well to the finished product, what remains consistent at all points is the quality of the art. While never fully reaching the lofty heights of the cover art, the visuals feel beautifully done, with memorable character designs and an eye for detail in every panel.
If I were to make one minor criticism here, it would be that many of these panels lack any meaningful background detail, robbing readers of an often vital sense of place within the world of Dahlia Academy. This, while minor, could have helped improve the overall feeling of immersion and investment into these characters that, if I’m being honest, are sorely underdeveloped in many aspects.
Ok, to build from what I’ve already written, the characters in Boarding School Juliet lack depth – so much so that they often feel like caricatures of tropes, feeling unimportant at best or unlikable and irritating at worst. Apart from the main duo, the recurring side characters lack any meaningful importance or the impact necessary to create a distinct and moving romantic comedy, sadly feeling forgettable – a grave injustice to their memorable and distinct designs.
While the recurring side characters are somewhat lacklustre, the characters of Inuzuka and Persia don’t fare much better here. Persia feels like a borderline tsundere, only without the charm and likeability often associated with this character type. Inuzuka is earnest and loving; however, when played off against the cold and almost unfeeling Persia, both end up coming off worse than they would have in isolation. Persia seems almost cruel with her cold indifference, and Inuzuka feels like a blockhead – an endearing blockhead, but a blockhead all the same. Inuzuka is by far the best character here, but by playing him as the lovesick puppy, constantly running after Persia and leaping head over heels for her, his character is reduced to its base level. Effectively, Inuzuka becomes the funnyman foil to Persia’s straight and serious, which sadly ends up coming at the detriment of any major character-building for Inuzuka. Ultimately, this volume introduces a lot of characters, but few memorable ones. Some of you may come to love them, but overall, I can’t say that this character roster is all that impressive.
Ultimately, this volume is a decent introduction to the series and what we can expect from the volumes to come and the series as a whole. The characters that will be our constant companions throughout our time with Boarding School Juliet lack development and the essential likeability that would help cement this series in the hearts and minds of its readers. While this is a decent(ish) rom-com, there are many other series available that do what Boarding School Juliet attempts, only better. This manga sadly finds itself treading the line between decent and mediocre, as it has little depth or the promise of greatness in what’s to come, which weakens its presentation overall. With all this in mind, while it may build into a fantastic series eventually, I’m sad to say that I personally will not be continuing with it, and while this will probably fill the void if you’re in the market for a story about star-crossed lovers, you’re probably far better off looking elsewhere.
Thanks once again for joining me this week on our trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole. I hope you enjoyed this week’s review and, if you did, please consider sharing – it really means a lot. Thanks once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!