Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Apr 28th 2007
Momo Adachi's skin is the bane of her life. After joining the swim team in junior high, her skin has been tanned dark and her hair chlorined red. Dirty old men hit on her in the streets, everyone at school thinks she's a playgirl, and Toji, the boy she's loved for years, is rumored to only date girls with lighter complexions than he. When her pasty-white not-friend Sae gets wind of her crush, Momo, afraid that Sae will try to steal Toji the way she steals everything Momo likes, confesses to being in love with a random guy in the hall. The problem is that the guy happens to be Kairi Okayasu, the most popular guy in her grade. Shockingly, it turns out that playboy Kairi isn't averse to the rumors that Sae starts spreading about him and Momo. It's the birth of a complicated love triangle, with Momo pursuing Toji, who isn't nearly so anti-tan as rumored, Kairi chasing Momo, and Sae doing her evil, devious best to render them all asunder.
Peach Girl is a straight-laced shoujo love triangle: no fantasy or sci-fi gimmickry; just two guys, one girl, and roughly seven metric tons of teen angst. Of course, if the idea that teen life revolves around snagging a hot boyfriend and dodging back-stabbing bitches makes you want to cruise around town dunking teenagers in ice-water, then you may want to give this series a pass.
The strongest impression made by these first five episodes is the show's pace. Perhaps it's an artifact of the show packing 18 volumes of epic emotions into 25 episodes, but the plot definitely moves a few beats faster than is the norm. This means that events never drag on and that fans don't have to wait long to get to the juicy stuff, but each episode is also crammed with so many happenings that it can't help but grow tiresome. A couple having a falling-out, blushing reconciliation, and bitter break-up all within the span of a single episode is definitely stretching things.
And then there's the fact that every character (sans Kairi) needs a slap upside the head: Momo is prone to ill-considered emotional outbursts, Toji's skull is made of bricks, and Sae is a heinous witch, plain and simple. Naturally, each of these character traits plays an important part in the central love triangle—an all-consuming entity that gives the series its raison d'être. Momo's emotion and Toji's thickheadedness ensure that their relationship is constantly on the verge of self-destruction despite their deep mutual feelings, while Sae's plots provide them with reasons to agonize over silly misunderstandings. Honest, easygoing Kairi makes the perfect foil for the overly-somber Toji, even if he isn't a serious contender for Momo's affections (which is, of course, exactly the point). The contrast between dense, reticent Toji and facile, frivolous Kairi (with his unexpected depths) is interesting, while those constant romantic upsets actually manage to squeeze out an emotional response or two, almost in spite of themselves.
Unfortunately, for all of the emoting, angst, and heartbreak horned into these five episodes (Momo breaks down crying at least once per episode), they feel a little too light and fluffy for their own good. Perhaps it's the quick pace interfering with emotional involvement, or the bright pastel palette, or perhaps the bubbly, sometimes silly soundtrack, but regardless the show is missing the sharp edge that would transform it from merely entertaining to truly engrossing.
The lackluster technical merits don't help. Momo, with her golden skin and striking locks, has built-in visual appeal, and the backgrounds are pleasant in their own pastel way, but the shiny, plastic appearance of the characters and the quality control issues with the two boys' faces (which look noticeably different from scene to scene) balance them out. Even weaker is the animation, which is simple at best and just plain bad at worst. Body movements are often jerky, clumsy and poorly integrated with the backgrounds, while facial expressions (absolutely essential in something with an emotional focus) are too generic to effectively communicate the thoughts and feelings of the cast. The music compounds this problem by insisting on being as inoffensive and unobtrusive as possible. This usually isn't a bad thing, but in something that should be assaulting its viewers with emotional bombast, it's a definite liability. The staid execution of this show makes one appreciate the visual risks that Hideaki Anno took when directing His and Her Circumstances. Peach Girl is fun, but nothing more, which is a shame.
This isn't one of Funimation's better dubs. Like many other Funimation luminaries, it plays fast and loose with the original script, if only occasionally going far enough to substantially change the way scenes play out. While the dialogue flows fairly naturally, there is an overall flatness and lack of enthusiasm that compounds the show's already existing problems with character involvement. Fans of English dubbed songs take note: Funimation has dubbed both the opening and the closing.
A pedestrian interview with Momo's Japanese voice actress, and a commentary by the English Director and the actress for Momo that goes over many of the aspects of the ADR process are this volume's non-standard extras.
Even with its impact blunted by the decidedly lighter tone, Peach Girl makes its leap from the pages to the screen with a goodly amount of its classic shoujo charm intact. It's not going to set anyone's pants afire (not even fans of the original work) but it pulls you in one side, and before you know it, two hours have passed and its time for the next volume.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Interesting love triangle; attractive female lead; Kairi is cool.
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