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 trys 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?
Bear with us here -- this is a first impression that will undoubtedly be updated as the series progresses. Unfortunately, the first impression is the most important one, and for all intents and purposes, Peach Girl has blown it.
The original Peach Girl manga was a mini-epic shoujo dramedy, with bull-in-a-china-shop Momo trying to juggle the affections of two guys she really honestly likes, all the while dodging the occasionally truly malicious plans of her "friend" Sae. It was a fun read, though it really bogged down halfway through when mangaka Ueda Miwa unwisely decided to turn the whole cast into blithering morons.
The anime dispenses with the idea of character development, so, in a way, we're already halfway through Peach Girl right off the bat. The first episode drills through half of the first graphic novel's storyline, never seeming to stop for air (what's a tran-si-tion?). It seems like, BOOM, Momo and Sae are talking in the hall, and WHOOSH, they're still talking, but they're now painting outside, then SWISH, they finish the sentence, but they're in PE class. (ED: Sorry, Raph!) You'd wonder if the director had ever learned the meaning of pacing, but then Ishiodori Hiroshi's only previous directing credit was fourteen years ago in the poorly regarded Bubblegum Crash. They really dusted this guy off ... if he was the only guy they could get, that simply doesn't speak well for the production.
And the production values ... we should really find a better term for that, because there's no value here to speak of. The animation is terrible. Even the opening sequence reuses footage, and looks like Flash animation being routed through a 56k modem. The lag in an online game makes for better animation than this slideshow of an anime. The character designs are hit-and-miss -- Sae and Kiley are well-done, but Momo has surprising consistency issues, looking utterly different depending on the angle she is viewed from. Touji's hair color doesn't know what it wants to be, and the boys in general have stubby, baby arms that don't match their body frames. (No wonder Kiley can't swim!) Kohara Mitsuru simply does not perform to par in his character design debut, and Studio Comet (Shura no Toki, Steel Angel Kurumi) really seems to want to take over Studio Pierrot's place as "Studio Low Budget". It's a terrible sign when the SD sequences are the best-animated segments of the show ... and this being the first episode, there's simply no hoping it could get better in the future. One envisions the staff handing out popsicle sticks any day now.
To continue with our thorough thrashing of the technical specs, the music is alternately Casio-rific and craptastic. The opening and ending songs aren't even mediocre, and Takumi Masanori (Genshiken) simply doesn't know what to do with the material, phoning in a minimalistic score that sounds more at home in a kid's fighting monster show. It only rises up enough out of the background to be annoying.
There is one bright spot so far, and that's the voice acting. Peach Girl would have been utterly unforgivable without a decent lot of seiyuu, and for the most part, the cast does well given the material.
The weak link here, unfortunately, is Chiba Saeko as Momo, the lead, who channels her previous subdued role as the athletic Sakura Tsubaki in His and Her Circumstances, which would be fine if that were the character we were looking for. It's not. Momo is obviously supposed to be brash, awkward, and a bit too frank and extraverted to fit into mainstream Japanese culture ... and all we get is the "awkward". She's not bad ... she's just not Momo. Maybe she'll settle into her role in future episodes.
The relative neophyte Nasu Megumi, on the other hand, is delightful as the bitch-queen Sae. Suzumura Kenichi takes a complete 180 from his normally stoic roles (Shirou Kamui, X TV; Narumi Ayumu, Spiral) and has a lot of fun with the beautifully skewed role of Kiley. Kiuchi Hidenobu (Tenma, Monster) isn't really given much to work with as the taciturn Touji. It's really just a shame that you're already supposed to know these people, because unless you have already read the manga, it's really hard to figure out why you're supposed to care.
A couple more episodes in, and things do settle down slightly, but the characterization and pacing remain decidedly underwhelming, and the animation even more so. I may return to this series when I have a good deal more spare time to devote to it. I can't say the prognosis here is peachy, but at least it's not the pits. Still, I'm fairly convinced this is simply cashing in on the resurgence of this story's popularity among Western fandom (and now Japanese fandom thanks to Ura Peach Girl) rather than a well-crafted story on its own merit.
That's a shame.
The anime version of Peach Girl highlights all of the flaws of the original manga, rather than improving on them. Perhaps a better production team could have done something with this work, but for now, this stands as a disappointment. Folks unfamiliar with the manga may find this fresh and exciting material, and may give this an extra star or even two. — Carlos Ross and Christi
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: digital source
Review Status: Partial (3/25)
Peach Girl © 2005 Ueda Miwa / Kodansha / Marvelous Entertainment / Peach Girl Production Committee / TV Tokyo
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