Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jul 16th 2007
Momo and Toji want nothing more than to put the business with Jigoro behind them, but wouldn't you know it, Sae won't let them. Kairi hatches a scheme to revenge themselves on Sae, but even though Momo rescues her from it, Sae—embittered by their perceived disdain and her own unexamined envy of Momo's happiness—hatches a plan to blackmail Toji into dumping Momo. Will Toji fall for her nefarious scheme? Are rocks stupid? The only question is whether Momo will be able to convince him to hook up again, or if she'll finally be driven into the arms of the one guy who's always been there for her. Meanwhile Kairi's past is starting to catch up with him, in the shape of an aggressive ex-girlfriend.
Given the rarity of shoujo anime making it stateside, it's pretty easy to like Peach Girl perhaps more than it deserves. The original manga was straight-up high-school romance and the adaptation follows suit—after the ripples made by one fairly major change last volume die down, the series stays very close to its source. This is the kind of thing best enjoyed by those who don't mind—or find hilarious—something that doesn't even blush when putting words like "I can't go on without you!" in its protagonist's mouth.
This volume finds Sae back in schemer mode after her brief defeat last volume, which means that the hair-yanking idiocy of everyone who falls for her machinations is back in full force as well. Stupidity is perhaps the plot's greatest driving force; if it weren't for the characters falling for Sae's destructive schemes or jumping to conclusions at the slightest provocation, the series would have long ago finished. This time around though, the idiocy leads to a serious turning point, preventing the plot from staying stuck in the same "Momo and Toji fight and then make up" rut until the dark dawn of Doomsday.
The breakneck pacing has always been one of the series' most prominent qualities, and in this volume it finally becomes a clear, and serious, liability. The series never slows to give the audience time to feel what should be important emotions of the cast, and the swiftness with which events move, with which characters break up and get together, suffer and recover, belittles the importance of all of the relationships involved. The pacing's interference with emotional involvement is exacerbated by the director's rather poor grasp of the timing and execution of an emotional punch-line. What should be a breathless personal realization or a wringing tragedy is instead just another event in the unabated rush of happenings. The moments that work best are those that would be brief anyway, as in one aching glimpse behind Kairi's frivolous facade.
Terminally stiff animation is still the series' greatest technical stumbling block. Characters' facial expressions aren't nearly as mobile as they should be, their bodies move in unconvincing ways, and they're just sort of laid over the backgrounds rather than interacting with them. It isn't quite so noticeable during the romantic drama, but whenever required to do something other than have people cuddle or cry, its limitations become painfully obvious. There's a laughably staged fistfight, a disheartening flying kick, and lots of bad running. The artistry fares better, with characters, though simplified for ease of animation, retaining a shoujo manga look about their wide mouths and shimmery eyes. Momo continues to be the series' greatest visual draw, while the background artistry continues to be a pleasant nonentity.
The music hasn't improved any. It compounds the problems with emotional impact by staying in the background even when it should be juicing things up. It's light and fun and completely wrong for anything harsh, melancholy, or introspective. The opening and ending themes follow anime's usual energetic lead-in, mellow lead-out pattern, and will hang around in your brain like a Puritan at a strip club.
This isn't one of those dubs that gets better as it goes. It may be due to the series' inability to retain interest for long, but this is the most apathetic dub to come out of Funimation in a long time. Waves of mediocrity practically emanate from the television. There is no sense that any of the actors are actually trying; they're never less than professional, but there's no enthusiasm (genuine or otherwise) either. There's plenty of monkeying with the script, but the usual trade-off of accuracy for quality isn't in effect, so it's harder to excuse. And the English versions of the songs have gotten painful to listen to. It's no debacle, but instead of something to look forward to, this dub feels more like a concession to dub fans.
A fairly standard interview with Toji's Japanese voice actor is the only extra of note on this disc.
With its pacing problems finally getting the better of it, Peach Girl—though still fun—is fast becoming the kind of thing that one buys in hopes of encouraging licensors to release more (and hopefully superior) shoujo anime rather than because one actually wants to watch it. If you haven't the money to spend on targeted market support, then it's now time to look for alternatives such as Viz' maddeningly addictive Boys Over Flowers or even Marmalade Boy, both of which get the pacing, stylistic excess and ridiculous melodrama of a classic shoujo high-school romance just right.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : C
+ Growing focus on Kairi; plot is actually going somewhere.
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