Peach Boy Riverside
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Peach Boy Riverside ?
Far be it from me to declare that Peach Boy Riverside's shaken-up structure can't work. Turns out, much of its stories aren't built around timeline. This week's entry sees Sally's odd little RPG party arrive in another town that looks basically the same as the other ones we've seen them stop in, except this one apparently has a vampire in it! If most of these plots are going to revolve around some sort of stop-of-the-week as they road-trip to...whatever goal they're working towards (the episode where they all make that resolution still being unaired at this point), then there shouldn't be much trouble with dropping in, watching these kids have some weird adventure, then heading off the next week wondering what the hell we might get next. So technically, this episode succeeds at that, though it's still got its own internal problems and remains hamstrung by the more contiguous bits of the story we're still not privy to.
Taking place seemingly shortly after Meki formally joined the group and started going by 'Carrot' instead, the central concept of the story for this one revolves around an ideological conflict between her and Sally. This is itself at the behest of a reprise of the show's previous world-building point about how super-racist the humans of this world are to demihumans like Frau. Given their like status as non-humans, as well as supposition that Meki came up with the name 'Carrot' from somewhere, it's easy to guess at some closeness developed between the two early on in the group's formation. And with Carrot's previous disposition towards human-murdering, her suggestion of straight-up taking out all the jerks besmirching her new bunny buddy at least rings as, uh, consistent.
The thing is, I feel the positions powering this problem are more out of whack for the sake of conflict than they need to be. A huge point of contention Carrot takes with Sally is her seeming to not stand up for Frau at all to the harassment they receive, but that kind of defense was something strongly demonstrated in the first episode aired. As well, Sally's choice to not take retribution on the rabbit-racists is explained as both her power being limited to oni-slaying as well as some sort of ideological resignation at the state of the world. Only Hawthorn is the one to bring up, and only then sort of in passing, that enacting violence on people in the street in a town you just barely got cleared to enter might ultimately lead to some inconvenience for everyone involved.
Look, Peach Boy Riverside, I am trying to meet you halfway here, but retreading the premiere episode's tenuous racism plot in a way that makes even less sense doesn't hold up super-well, even in a randomly-placed episode that would conceptually hold up on its own. One problem in that case is how the actually-interesting parts of the episode are still contingent on the current canonical context of the characters. We get some clarification of that partway through, that Carrot is still hanging onto some bitterness towards Sally for offing Sett, her old walrus pal. In that respect, I can almost grasp the double-standard she's reading, even if casual cultural prejudice is a problem less immediately solved with violence than a big monster murdering people. I think the idea is that Carrot is the one still learning in this scenario, even if Frau's take on it, that they just kind of cope with all the prejudice, still rings as pretty unpleasant by the standards of anyone watching.
That all mostly works, but I can't help but feel it might have functioned better had we gotten to see all of the initial lead-up between Carrot, Frau, and Sally that led to their intersecting views at this point in the story. That's the eternal struggle with Peach Boy Riverside, having to consider what the hypothetical better version of this show will look like once we're finally able to watch it that way. As-is, we can only take what's offered, and in this case that's some slight recontextualization of the demihuman-racism plot capped off with a spicy vampire fight! At least being early in the stages of her character development, I can buy that Carrot would feel few compunctions about reaching out to said vampire, actually an oni named Kyuketsuki, to do the human-murdering she feels Sally is too cowardly for. And the resultant battle looks half-decent, even ending with some of that fanservice I'm sure the audience is here for with a rare shot of a topless Frau!
That's a terrible joke, I admit, but given that we know Frau's still around in 'later' episodes with their upper half intact, it does take a little impact out of the 'shocking' scene of them reduced to a mere pair of not-so-lucky rabbit's feet. What it does do well, however, is drive up our interest in a way that's focally followable for this episode. Peach Boy Riverside has had 'comedy' previously (we finally get the origin story of that odd ongoing octopus gag, if you were craving that), but the nonchalant absurdity communicated in Frau's apparent drop-in relationship with the pearly gates and the angel who runs them easily prompted the best laugh-out-loud reaction to this show I've yet had. As a delightful non sequitur that I think is actually supposed to be inexplicable at this point in the show, it lands great, and as an added bonus nets us that slick final scene featuring Frau's apparent awesome demon form. If I'm pointedly not going to be able to follow this show for most of its run, at least it can just throw wild, cool stuff at me to make sure I'm entertained on a baseline level.
I think there is something here with this episode. The ultimate question of Carrot's loyalties to her new companions in Frau and Sally (hardly anyone gives Hawthorn the time of day this week) versus her understandable support for the survival of oni-kind is a potentially interesting one. But it's obscured not only by the linear context we're still lacking, but also odd articulations of essentialism amongst the races. For all Carrot's besmirching of humans for indulging in racist or tolerant-of-racism behavior, she's also apparently aware of the unavoidable urge of oni to murder humans. The revelation of unsuppressable murder instincts in the species comes off only a little side-eye-worthy after a whole episode clumsily trying to explain why racism was bad but also can't really be helped. It also leads to the last few minutes of this episode wasting our time with Kyuketsuki's hilariously un-tragic backstory, which sees him killing his own wife because "Dang, I just couldn't stop myself from murderin'!". You know what, if that's the sort of cleverly-calculated plot-twist I can expect to see more of from this show, maybe it's for the best it keeps putting off fully contextualizing these characters for me.
Peach Boy Riverside is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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