Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 8th 2007
Supposed friend Sae has managed to ostracize Momo from the rest of the class and separate her from Toji, even arranging for Momo's swimsuit to be sabotaged so she couldn't use good performances in the swim meet to get back in her class's good graces. Kairi gets wise to her scheming, though, and helps open Toji's eyes to it, too. Her manipulations finally revealed and unraveled, Sae soon becomes the ostracized one while Momo enjoys her time with Toji and frets over kissing, but attracting the attention of the hunky fashion model Jigoro gives Sae a fresh chance to renew her former status in class. When that and Jigoro's attention proves unsatisfying, she connives him to become involved in a renewal of her original scheme: to win Toji, the boy she has come to realize she actually does love, away from Momo. So tight are Toji and Momo, though, that such an endeavor will require even more drastic measures than before.
It's not hard to see why Peach Girl may have been popular amongst Japanese teenage girls, as it certainly provides heavy and juicy amounts of teen relationship melodrama. If given half a chance it could probably catch on well amongst general North American teenage girls as well, as the elements of boyfriend-stealing, ostracizing, copycat behavior, trying to manipulate people through gossip and misinformation, and fretting over kissing and getting more serious cross cultural boundaries; only the Japanese names and distinctive artistic styles specific to anime separate this from a production that could have been made in the States. Anyone who is not a teenage girl will probably require a high tolerance for teen melodrama to appreciate this series, however, as this volume follows the pattern of the first one by laying it on especially thick.
That is not necessarily a Bad Thing, though, as unlike many shojo romantic comedies, events here progress quickly enough that the content never gets boring. Agonizing that might normally be spread over several episodes gets condensed to just a few minutes, and plot developments move along at a good clip. The first major story arc finishes by the end of episode six, and not even a full episode of downtime passes before the next one involving Jigoro starts up. To a fan of the manga or shojo romantic comedies in general this may seem a hurried pace, but it might help keep those unaccustomed to such content involved if they know they don't have to sit through loads of mindless drivel in between the comedy bits and highlight scenes.
For all its scheming, plot development, and relationship issues, how much you like the characters will probably be the key determining factor in whether or not you like this volume. Momo has a bad tendency to be overly emotional, but at least she actually does possess a backbone in the face of adversity. Catty Sae, who initially seems to be motivated by a need to gain status by one-upping other girls, goes even further towards earning Bitch of the Year honors once she realizes where her priorities lie and decides to be motivated by love instead. (The way she acts in between those cycles, presumably intended to reflect a social survival instinct, is amusingly pitiful.) Toji is more dull and stereotypical as the naïve but sweet-hearted Pretty Boy #1 and newcomer Jigoro thoroughly disappoints as the even more thick-headed and personality-less Pretty Boy #2, but Kairi makes up for both as the playboy who plays up his light-hearted womanizing nature but in truth may be Momo's most deeply caring and trustworthy friend. Unfortunately he gets little more than cameo appearances after episode 6, and even more unfortunately the plotting of the story sometimes requires these characters to act remarkably stupidly for events to progress. One fine example is the scene in episode 6 where Sae spills the beans about her master plan to Kairi. How it goes down is especially hard to buy given that Sae has, until that point, acted too intelligently to blurt out everything to a guy who has already betrayed and pointedly rejected her.
The artistic style indisputably identifies the series' shojo foundation, as all of the main male characters have that generic lanky pretty-boy look so typical of shojo manga, with little more than hair color separating their appearances visually, and a pastel color palette dominates the overall look. All of the girls have much more distinctive and easily differentiated appearances, especially Momo's “California girl” look. (There's a constant irony about how Momo is always trying to avoid getting tanned, when many girls her age in the U.S. would kill for a tan like that.) As with the first volume, Sae gets all sorts of visual gimmicks to highlight her behavior, but the biggest ones here come in the paper-thin chibi transformation she undergoes during most of episode 7 to reflect her massively reduced post-revelation status and how everyone reacts to her as if she really has undergone that physical transformation. That whole sequence, more than anything else, is what distinguishes this one from other titles of its type. Background art is more typical, and because this is a shojo rather than shonen/seinen romance, it totally lacks fan service. The animation uses the minimum amount of effort necessary to make it look decent, although part of the problem could instead be the storyboarding. Moreso than most animated series, this one has more a feel of feature shots linked together than the truly fluid look which should separate anime from manga versions of a story.
The musical score at least tries to reinforce the tone and mood of each scene, but only usually succeeds in the sillier moments. The rest of the time it's just there; not bad enough to be a detracting factor, but not good enough to be an enhancement. The J-Pop opener and love ballad closer are pedestrian numbers in Japanese but get slightly more interesting interpretations in the English versions used on the English language track. The closer, sung by an unidentified female performer (who is likely one of the English VAs), takes on a gentle American Idol kind of sound, while the performer for the English opener (also unidentified) is an audio dead ringer for Avril Lavigne. Remarkably, the lyrics in both remain fairly close to the originals but still flow smoothly.
The actual English dub isn't one of FUNimation's better efforts, which may be partly attributable to this being the first major role for four of the five lead English VAs. On the upside, using an actual teenager for one of the two lead female roles (Cherami Leigh, Sae's English VA, is only 18 at the time of this dubbing) does help make the characters in the dub sound more authentically like American teenagers. Someone who has listened to the Japanese language track first may find the English performances to sound a bit too brash, but they do generally retain the styles and personalities defined by the original performances. The English script is much more of an issue, as it goes beyond even normal FUNimation rewrites by totally changing what is said in some scenes and greatly shortening the dialogue spoken in others. Certain sacrifices for purposes of maintaining smooth flow are allowable, but at times this script goes too far.
Extras for this volume include a short interview with Megumi Nasu (the seiyuu for Sae) and textless songs available in both English and Japanese versions. The menu design could use some work, as making the “select” color the same indistinct pastel shade as one of the background colors can, on some screens, make it difficult to determine what option you're actually selecting.
Episode 9 finally reveals where the title of the series comes from, and the volume as a whole marks the initiation of additional love triangles for those who didn't find the original one to be enough. Overall, though, nothing about the style has changed from the first volume to the second, so if you did not find the first volume at least tolerable then you'll want to avoid this one.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : C
+ Never gets dull, some nice visual gimmicks.
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