So here's something a little odd, an anime series that draws from the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps that's more common than I realise, but this is the only one I know. Anyhow, it's a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. And by 'loose adaptation' I mean 'the characters have the same names'....well most of them do.
As the story opens, the floating city of Neo Verona has been ruled for 14 years by the tyrannical Duke Motague, who acquired power by overthrowing the rival Capulet house. The only survivor of that house was Juliet, who was rescued from the coup when the royal knight Conrad intervened and spirited her away. She has lived the past 14 year pretending to be a boy named Odin, under the care of Conrad, two other knights Camio and Francisco, and her best friend Cordelia. She spends the bulk of her time running around the city dressed all in red acting as an odd Zorro-like figure called the Red Whirlwind.
Meanwhile, the Duke's son, Romeo, is fast maturing and finding out that he really doesn't like the way that his increasingly insane father is doing things. Along with his friend Benvolio, he spends more and more time out and about. Eventually he bumps into Juliet on one of the few occasions that she has her hair down. Needless to say, the two fall in love and go through many happy adventures trying to keep that love alive while Juliet is trying to avoid being killed by Romeo's father.
It may seem like I'm mocking the plot, but this is a really good series. The plot is well paced, and has several points where it actually raises real questions. How far can you go in persuit of justice? What's the correct response to collective punishment? Can collective punishment ever be appropriate? How can you balance your freedom against the suffering of others? The show tries to make you think about all these and more, and for the most part it succeeds without being preachy.
The graphics are good. The lines and colour are crisp and clean, although somewhat lacking in shading. The music is without exception superb.
The characters are also pretty well done. Even the insane Duke Montague is in some respects a sympathetic character. There are a few who are less so. I couldn't get my head around the slimy coutier Mercutio, he seemed to have no redeeming features whatsoever. I'd have to say my favourite is the tragic lover Hermione. She seems to have Romeo in her grasp, before he's snatched away by Juliet. She convinces herself that Juliet must have wickedly seduced him, and is unable to handle it when she finds out the Juliet is actually a quite nice person!
The voice acting is all very good, but props have to go to Kazukiko Inoue (also Kakashi in Naruto) for his work portraying a character who is basically Shakespeare himself. Portrayed as quirky, effeminate and somewhat philosophical, his dryly humourous comments and annoyed barbs steal the episodes in which he appears.
All in all I would recommend this series. It's 24 episodes of fantastic action and romance. Go watch it now, if you're at a loss for what to do.