Adachi Momo is a girl whose tanned skin and bleached hair gets her into all sorts of trouble with those who assume she's a tanning salon-hopping tramp. It doesn't help that her "best friend", Kashiwagi Sae, couldn't be less of a friend. Sae is constantly stealing Momo's fashion sense, and Momo tries to avoid mentioning her crush on Toujigamori "Touji" Kazuya (can't have Sae stealing her hopes of dating *him* too, right?)
In doing so, Momo gets caught in a lie when she points to a random guy and tells Sae she likes him. Turns out he is Okayasu Kairi (Kiley), a smart-mouthed joker with a playboy reputation ... who sees right through Sae and immediately starts going after Momo's attention.
What sort of mess has Momo gotten herself into now?
Unlike Carlos and Christi, who were fans of the manga long before watching the television--and most likely unlike the rest of you, my first experience with the overwhelmingly popular Peach Girl franchise was with the Taiwanese drama series, which unfortunately failed to capture my attention due to poor cinematography and stale acting.
But this isn't a review of the drama. The Peach Girl anime, at least for me, was a return to what made me love anime in the first place, and what has made me stick with anime even through what I thought were hopeless eras of CLAMP-dominated, monster pet-infested anime seasons, one after another...a trend that had pushed me away from Japanese animation back to the recent trend of girl-centered Western animation in the States, including (but not limited to) Winx Club, Kim Possible, and Totally Spies!.
Peach Girl had all the makings of what makes shoujo animation the irresistible medium of entertainment that it is--quirky female leads, love triangles with numerous hottie boyfriend candidates, gossip and anxieties, a bit of angst, overdramatics, and of course we can't forget the fashions, the carefree consumerism that the true definition of shoujo encompasses, and the cute little trinkets and toys that are exchanged between friends and lovers--all resembling a sentimental value that is only known between those involved in the relationship.
Adachi Momo is a female lead that is every girl's girl, but at the same time, unlike any shoujo heroine we have ever encountered before. She is neurotic, temperative, and in Kiley's very words, "loud and healthy." She sticks out from the fragile delicate girls in school because of her tanned skin and bleached hair--all a result of being a dedicated member of the swim team, not because of the raging ko-gal fads of the time. However, in spite of her tough, confident exterior that she portrays at school, it is really a defense mechanism--she is, in fact, a fragile, insecure girl full of paranoia, always on guard for the next bad thing to happen to her.
And it isn't without reason. The other female lead, Kashiwagi Sae, is in every way Momo's antithesis. Delicate, fair, dark-haired, and on the surface quiet and vulnerable, Sae is really a self-seeking, conniving, vendictive monster whose entire purpose in life is to continually one-up Momo in anything that makes her happy. Quite a pathetic creature, but, fortunately for the viewer, could not possibly be less entertaining. One could argue that although Momo is the main character, Sae gets the greatest character development--actually becoming an enjoyable character after several occasions of her getting her just desserts. As much as Sae's antics make you want to pull her hair out and slap her silly, she really eats up the screen whenever she is on it, and never does she monopolize the series in such a way where you tire of her antics. (You just tire of certain someones *coughToujicough* continue to buy into them time and time again.)
Moving on, no shoujo is truely complete without a romantic lead...or two. Unfortunately, unlike shoujo masterpiece Marmalade Boy, which gives equal billing to Miki's Yuu and Ginta triangle, the anime shows ultimate favoritism in what should have been portrayed as one of shoujo's most perplexing love triangles. Touji's character is tragically reduced to being an over-trusting, dense, stoic character whose compassion and resilient dedication to Momo are terribly glossed over--key scenes showing the passion and heart-warming love between the two in the manga were cut out completely to make enough time for some of Sae's story arcs and rival Kiley's tender moments with our heroine.
On the flip side, while Touji's delivery in the series was overly flat and unsympathetic, Kiley (who I loved anyway) was a little over-the-top in his angst and came across to me as a bit of a crybaby at times. It was as though any of the angst that Touji had the potential of having was somehow transferred to Kiley, making him an amplified version of what he should have been.
...all this being said without reading the manga, mind you. If these many complaints can be made about the four main characters, I don't think I need to go into the mistreatment of the supporting characters (except for maybe Misao--who, while still not as full a character as the manga, was still adherent to the integrity and sentiment of the character, and was, overall, loyal in adaptation and extremely likable), for I fear this may turn into a fangirl rant rather than a review.
Characterization flaws aside, the pacing of the plot was well thought-out, especially considering that an eighteen-volume manga was squeezed into 26 episodes (whereas the "better" Marmalade Boy was a mere eight volumes with 76--er--let's just say 52 episodes and a movie to flesh out the cast properly). My only complaint about the pacing holds true to the manga as well. After reading the manga (which I did after watching the series to see how different/better it was) I still find that the series conclusion (and ultimately Momo's decision) was sloppily rushed, and unrealistic. But that is Ueda's fault, not the fault of the animators.
Let's talk about the animators. Given, attempting to animate Ueda Miwa's artwork appears, at least to me, to be an extremely daunting task. Even moreso than Yazawa Ai with Nana or Paradise Kiss, Ueda's artwork seems un-animatable to me. Still, you have to give the people props for trying. The artwork does improve past the first episode--which left me feeling that the guys looked too much like girls, and Momo looked too much like a guy. They really tried hard to keep to Ueda's style with the faces--but it took a few episodes for them to really get the hang of it, it seems--the only one that didn't seem to suffer from their animation was Sae (they even kept the paper-thin Sae from the manga--probably the best direction decision made)...but her design is probably the simplest.
Forgivable sins, perhaps. However, one thing that is just impossible for me to overlook where the ridiculous excuses for opening and ending themes. The song, silly. Sure. But the animation is anything but! Consisting of recycled stills and anime versions of some of Ueda's artwork, they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel when "animating" (note the quotations) the opening theme. This sequence, as a fan of animation, and especially a fan of shoujo, was downright insulting to my senses. I mean--recycled sequences! IN THE OPENING!
The music is also something that left a lot to be desired. Especially with the vocal talents of Chiba Saeko, surely they would have been able to dish out a better theme song or insert song or something! Wasn't the manga popular enough to deliver something to the fans that would not have disappointed? The saving grace in this area is Sonim's ending theme, which, in two crucial moments in the anime, is played at just the right moment--that I would be sincerely moved as a viewer, and fall in love with the characters all over again.
I still give this series a high rating, because the story and characters, while not up to their manga glory, are still wonderful, and I didn't fall in love with Peach Girl through the manga, I fell in love with it through the anime--and this anime was still good enough for me to buy the entire series, the artbook, the Ura Peach Girl tankobon, and all the CDs...so if you have not had your shoujo fix in a long while, and want something that will fill that hole, Peach Girl definitely fits the bill. Its flaws are, outside of the opening animation, easily forgivable and besides--you can skip the opening without missing anything important.
Even with all its flaws, Peach Girl is still, standing on its own, a thoroughly enjoyable anime. Better-than-average, at least in storytelling, it would earn a rank in my favorites were it not for the fact that, as much as I hate admitting it, the manga is immeasurably better. Unless you are like me, and just cannot resist the idea of having your favorite characters animated, fans of Peach Girl the manga might want to steer clear of this. Although with that said, the anime is still light years better than the Taiwanese drama.
Essentially, Peach Girl is a fantastic series which suffers from the injustices that too many shoujo titles face lately--a scant budget, an unrealistically small episode count, and an aging audience. Those who can forgive things that Peach Girl is really not at fault for, this series is strongly, highly, fanatically recommended. (Just ask my boyfriend who was force-fed it in a week.)
For fans of the manga, this series will be a huge disappointment. Though standing alone, the series is highly entertaining. Lack of quality animation and cutting out key parts of Toji's role kept this from being a five-star series for me. — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: Primarily for fans of the manga. There is some violence and adult themes, mostly later in the series. For now it's fine for young teens and up, though later chapters of the manga feature themes involving rape, blackmail, and teen pregnancy. Be warned.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Peach Girl © 2005 Ueda Miwa / Kodansha / Marvelous Entertainment / Peach Girl Production Committee / TV Tokyo
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