Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Things are going well for Momo, at least that's what she keeps telling herself. Afraid that a relationship with Kairi would be nothing but unending uncertainty and disappointment, she's thrown herself completely into her renewed relationship with Toji, despite her painfully lingering hopes and affections. Kairi has done his best to leave Momo completely free to get over him, shifting public scrutiny of their breakup firmly onto himself and covering his true feelings with a nearly impenetrable veneer of good cheer. Toji has been forged into a much kinder and forgiving boyfriend by the hell Sae put them through. Even Sae has toned down, her meddling declawed by her discovery of the glories of love. Nothing ever goes well for long in the Twilight Zone of teen romance however, and sure enough, Ryo Okayasu's heartless ways soon set Sae on the warpath armed with a shocking revelation. And can Momo's desperate bid for romantic happiness survive if Kairi decides that he can't sit by and hide his feelings any longer?
Peach Girl's first half passed in a blur of mercurial shifts in affections—breakups, reunions, and new romances often packed into an episode like sardines in a can. While the end of the series isn't exactly a shift in pace—it's far too eventful to be called that—it does deal with only one stage of Momo's all-important love-life, making it possible to care about what might happen before it actually happens.
The last volume piles on the romantic angst, Momo agonizing, Kairi hurting, Toji soothing, and more "what's important are your feelings" rhetoric than you can shake a teenager at, and yet this is still a cream puff of a show—flaky and sweet and soft to its frothy core. No matter how Momo's Big Decision is drawn out (and it is far too drawn out) it's obvious where her true affections lie and what she should (and therefore will) do. The show is just too much of a big ol' softy for it to end on a truly bittersweet note. Even Sae makes the nearly unthinkable transformation from a cruel, manipulative harpy who was more plot device than human to a damaged girl with her own deeply felt desires. Watching her turn her machinations to more constructive ends is amusing (though still hilariously transparent).
What true feeling the show evokes is largely thanks to Kairi, whose martyrdom is milked for everything it's worth to feed most of the climax's shameless melodrama. It proves a wise move. Smart, principled and inhumanly likeable, he's the goodest of good guys, the kind of guy who pretends to be unaffected just to let his girlfriend break up guilt-free and has an endearing disregard for pride or decorum where the girl he loves is concerned. With more narrative room to move about in, the empathy he inspires is such that it nearly single-handedly elevates the series, here in its final volume, from a mere chain of events to a periodically moving drama. It's not perfect, nor even really superior—Toji seems almost at a loss without his idiocy to lend him personality, Momo comes across as an emotional coward and the conclusion isn't convincing—but it is far better than the first half might lead one to believe.
Visual execution remains stubbornly mediocre, especially the minimal animation (which consists almost entirely of slow pans and only those character movements that are necessary) and the juvenile tinklings that pass for a soundtrack. The soundtrack does feature a few well-placed piano solos, but is otherwise completely undistinguished and occasionally outright bothersome. The quartet of central characters—particularly Momo and her seemingly inexhaustible wardrobe—have an undeniable charm thanks to their unconventional lips and eyes. There is the matter of Misao, who loses about thirty pounds every time it's her turn to play romantic interest. Backgrounds evoke the series' overall light mood in their coloration, and though they occasionally sink into pastel dullness, are never eyesores nor are they ever completely ignored.
The English cast, while generally fair in their emoting, still underplay when they should be chewing the scenery with complete abandon. There's a noticeable lack of enthusiasm that causes an equally noticeable drop in the volume's impact, with the exception of Sae who at long last gets a chance to agonize like mad—and seizes on it with gusto. A healthy respect for the original dialogue (or perhaps pure apathy, they're often indistinguishable) is apparent in the reasonably faithful script, though it's not so concerned with fidelity that it can't have a little fun adjusting the dialogue in some scenes.
The one major extra is a light, fun commentary for the last episode by the core English cast.
It's hard to imagine the merits of Peach Girl's final volume winning over to the other side those who see teenagers (especially fictional teenagers) as an incomprehensible sub-species that specializes in making mountains out of molehills. Those who love teen fiction for those same over-dramatizing tendencies, however, may well leave this often wildly uneven series pleasantly surprised.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Successful melodrama ends the series on a strong(er) note; Kairi.
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