It's charming, heartfelt and often ridiculous. It's also funny. It's doing "Romeo and Juliet" in such a broad, silly, anime way that you assume the only connection is the characters' names... and then the final episode threatens you with an authentic ending.
THE SETTING: the Black Doggies and White Cats are rival gangs at school! However it's also a bit more than that. Each represents their country in an international situation that's on the brink of war. Princesses, aristocrats and the rich and powerful send their children to Dahlia Academy.
Romeo Inuzuka is the anime's greatest weapon. He's hilarious. He's a hot-blooded roaring macho delinquent who's liable to deliver his dialogue as if shouting on a battlefield... but he's also a pure-minded, naive innocent with the common sense of a flea on acid. He acts first, then thinks later (if at all). His exploits are legendary and his voice actor (Yuuki Ono) is pushing the boat out too.
Juliet Persia is more mature and practical than Romeo (although that's a low bar). She's also a bit distant and messed up, with an inferiority complex about Romeo never fighting her in earnest. She also wants, literally, to change the world.
This show goes all over the place. It'll have daft gags like Juliet's arrow-letters being fired into someone's head, which might be treated as nothing more than a visit from the postman. The school has a coliseum. Real and fake swords are lying around a-plenty for anyone to use. Character names will generally be a dog or cat breed.
Then there's the ep.7 lullaby, sung in finest Engrish. (Ai Kayano is fairly good at English, as it happens, but that doesn't mean she can sing it.)
At the same time, though, the central relationship is genuinely interesting and (in its heightened way) real. Yes, despite everything. They're both leaders in their respective communities and have to hide their relationship, even if it leads to walking into a fight and hospitalisation. Romeo's brother is a source of trauma for him. It's normal in romantic series for fake threats to jeopardise the central relationship, but this show knows how to ramp up the stakes until you genuinely don't know how it'll end. Ep.12 surprised me twice over.
The supporting cast are variable, but I liked them all. The male supporting cast don't tend to add much and could often have been deleted without significant loss, but I liked Hasuki, Char and the prefect twins.
This is one of those shows that probably shouldn't work. The tone whips around everywhere, with plenty of jokes and characters that are flat-out absurd. Aby Ssinia and Somali Longhaired in ep.5 are outrageously silly even for this anime. A weaker show would have been sunk. However we also have an endlessly watchable Romeo and Juliet, who cover as much ground in ep.1 as many shows do in their entire run. They're lovely. They're idiots. (Well, Romeo definitely is, anyway.) They're also stuck in a modern updating of the Montagues and Capulets that genuinely does have them living on the edge.
I laughed. (It can be laugh-out-loud funny.) Sometimes I groaned. I became fond of the characters. It's definitely worth a look.