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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Peach Girl - Volume 1
Peach Girl - Volume 1
FUNimation // PG // April 17, 2007
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted May 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly

THE MOVIE:

Miwa Ueda's Peach Girl is a highly addictive manga series that ran for 18 volumes before coming to a close in 2003. It's a high school soap opera about Momo, a girl who everyone assumes is a slut due to her darker skin and lighter hair. In Japan, this makes her something akin to a blonde bimbo, the perception being that she goes to tanning salons and bleaches her hair and thus likes to skank around. In Momo's case, she's just highly susceptible to the sun. She's not a bad girl at all, she's a decent student and a member of the swim team. She also has a huge crush on cute heartthrob Toji, whom she believes hates girls who look like her. This is just the first of a myriad of misunderstandings in the on-again/off-again romance between Momo and Toji, the sort of interpersonal epic that makes heroes and villains of average high school kids. Every stray glance has meaning, every misspoken word has ramifications, and the relationship between a boy and a girl is the most important thing in the world.

It surprises me that Peach Girl didn't get animated until 2005. A live-action show preceded the cartoon version, but the drama and the histrionics had otherwise been left to the printed page. Funimation is now bringing the series stateside, releasing the first five episodes on Peach Girl: Super Pop Love Hurricane.

As far as the story is concerned, the anime producers saw that it wasn't broke and didn't try to fix it. Fans of the comic book will be pleased to know that the Momo/Toji romance survives the transition to the screen intact. Momo is the same sweet, frazzled girl that is so charming in the books, and she pursues her desires with the same adorably grave earnestness. Both of the "bad guys" are also in the anime, and as fans of the teen soap opera genre know, it's never the central couple that makes things interesting, it's the side characters that cause everything to get complicated and make things fun.

The first bad guy isn't really so bad. Kairi is the school joker, and he has his own crush on Momo. He's kind of like a John Hughes character, like Duckie in Pretty in Pink. He's relatively harmless, but he's a total pain in the butt. Kairi is always looking for some new way to try to woo Momo and maybe steal a kiss or two (and he's not above a grope, either). Personally, he's much more appealing than Toji. They're equally good looking, and Toji is way too serious. But, the heart wants what it wants...

The real evil villain of Peach Girl is Sae, a deliciously self-centered girl who doesn't necessarily care about Toji, she just wants whatever Momo wants and will do whatever she can to cut the other girl off and snag it for herself. This doesn't just apply to boys, but everything. In the first episode, Sae sports a purse Momo told her she liked. To keep Momo from buying it, Sae convinced her that it was ugly and then snuck back and snatched it up. There is no great reason given for Sae's jealousy of Momo, and it's all the more yummy for it. Sae's just rotten, and I love it.

One thing I always liked was the sense of fashion Ueda brought to her manga. Her stylized covers in particular made Peach Girl stand apart from the pack. The look is preserved here, with the same approach Ueda used on her covers being applied to the opening and closing sequences. The animators also keep the artist's feeling of visual whimsy, using abstract backgrounds or exaggerating the characters to the point of caricature in more emotionally charged scenes. When Sae is showing off her evil ways, she often adopts the appearance of a cat, emphasizing how different she already looks compared to Momo and the other girls at the school. Most everyone else has long hair and slightly darker skin, whereas Sae has a black bob and is pale. Similarly, Toji is taller with harder features, as opposed to the smaller, fresh-faced Kairi. These subtle design touches work wonders.

As far as the animation is concerned, beyond the care taken in the design, the line work is pretty clean and the movements fluid. Occasionally, the line work gets a little jagged in long shots, such as a scene in episode one where a conversation is being spied on from around a corner, or the movements might get a little creaky (the fast food scene in episode 2). Proportion can also be a bit off--Momo can have real man hands at time! But for the most part, everything is consistent, with nice colors and good character acting.

The plot for vol. 1 features Kairi spreading lies about dating Momo and causing a rift between her and Toji, Sae lying about dating Toji and causing a rift between him and Momo, and various other things that cause hearts to be broken as soon as they are glued back together. Sae tricks Toji into locking lips with her under the guise of teaching him how to kiss, forcing Momo to stop being sweet and become jealous and selfish, while all the while Sae drives Momo crazy by convincing everyone she's really the sweet one. You can't blame a girl for thinking the world has turned upside down! Even Kairi's sensitive-pal act starts to work in his favor, and hunky Toji starts to think maybe the clown's the better choice for his gal. If only Momo knew he was developing appendicitis when she talked to Toji on the phone, she might have cut him some slack, too.

It all sounds silly on paper, to be sure, but all melodrama usually does. It can also be gleefully overwrought and ridiculously serious when it needs to be (check out the weepy confrontation in the hospital at the end of episode 4). That's the main reason we watch stuff like Peach Girl, anyway. If it wasn't so silly, it would be a total drag. The addiction is watching the breaking up and the making up over and over again. We know where they are going to end up down the line, but this is about delayed gratification. The longer the party goes on, the better if feels to go home in the morning, and the more satisfying when love is finally found.

Be warned, though: the final episode ends on a major cliffhanger. You will be back for volume 2.

THE DVD

Video/Sound:
The five episodes of Peach Girl on volume 1 are shown in a 4:3 full frame ratio. The colors are gorgeous, and there are no cases of compression or combing or anything.

Depending on your preference, you can choose between two stereo audio tracks, both the original Japanese language and an English dub version. I usually prefer the Japanese language tracks, but I took a healthy sample of the dub, and the casting is pretty good. In this case, too, the English subtitles that go along with the original audio are somewhat Spartan and a little stiff, so the new audio has a little more flavor.

Extras:
Though Peach Girl - Volume 1 can be purchased on its own as a single DVD, there is also a "Deluxe Starter Set" that is actually pretty cool. Not only do you get a full-color, decorated box to hold the first few volumes of the series, but it comes in a pink canvas handbag with the Peach Girl logo on it. Along with the DVD, the box also has the first volume of the English language edition of the manga, published by Tokyopop. Thus, new fans can get a taste of both formats of Peach Girl.

On the DVD itself, the bonus features include the theme songs without the credits. You can also choose between the Japanese and the English credits when watching the title sequences as part of the episodes.

More informational extras are the interview with the Japanese voice actress who plays Momo and a commentary track with the American director and the English actress who voiced Momo for this DVD release. The commentary runs with episode 2, and they explain a little bit about their background in anime and some about the Peach Girl series. The interview with the Japanese actress is in Japanese, and there are English subtitles. It's eight-and-a-half minutes long.

Funimation includes eight trailers for other anime and website promos.

The five episodes can be played back to back, or they can be chosen individually in submenus for each program. The menus are all very classily designed and full of excellent artwork.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Are you looking for a goofy, unabashed good time? Peach Girl is one of my favorite serials, an unpretentious, teenaged soap opera that is full of as many twists and turns as there are flutters of the heart. A good girl vs. a bad girl, a hunky dude who doesn't always see the big picture, and the silly joker who probably should be the one to get the girl--if John Hughes ever wrote for anime, it would be something like this. Though the animation has its hinky moments, it's also generally a pretty good-looking series. With five episodes on volume 1, Peach Girl: Super Pop Love Hurricane is a perfect kick-off to the series, enough to let you know what you're in for while also baiting you for vol. 2. As these things go, Peach Girl - vol. 1 is Highly Recommended.

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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