Anime Review of Peach Girl
About Peach Girl:
"Peach Girl" is a twenty-five episode Japanese anime series that is directed by Hiroshi Ishiiodori and produced by Studio Comet, with its original run starting from January 8, 2005 until June 25, 2005. It had originally aired on TV Tokyo. The North American license has been obtained by FUNimation Entertainment.
Like many anime series, Peach Girl is adapted from a manga. The manga was authored by Miwa Ueda, with its original run starting from 1997 until 2004. There are eighteen volumes so far in the Peach Girl manga. Before Peach Girl was adapted into an anime, it was adapted into a Taiwanese live-action TV drama titles "Peach Girl Mi Tao Nu Hai." There is also a manga sequel that is called "Peach Girl: Sae's Story."
Peach Girl is your typical high school romantic drama with some interesting scenarios. However, there is an interesting twist to Peach Girl as it gives out an interesting moral lesson to learn. While Peach Girl is geared towards the female demographic of anime viewers, it is a series that anybody should watch for the moral and social impact.
With the rise of cyberbullying-related suicides reported on the news the last couple of years, Peach Girl draws parallels with such incidents. It shows how assumptions about a person turn into rumors which leads to bullying. In a sense, Peach Girl comes off as an interesting morality play which talks about bullying while maintaining that it's still a high school romance story at the same time. You don't have to be a high school girl and enjoy Peach Girl at the same time.
Parallels Between Peach Girl And Bullying
With how Peach Girl mirrors the issue many young women face today in the world due to “slut shaming,” it would seem that the original manga's author Miwa Ueda was years ahead of her time. Today, with social media and easy Internet access (especially in Japan), bullying isn't just limited to the school grounds. In the case of Momo, Sae probably wouldn't be above using social media to continuously spread these false and harmful rumors.
The suicide of Phoebe Prince, which happened on 1/14/2010, acted as the catalyst for an anti-bullying movement let alone for stricter anti-bullying laws to curb bullying. Despite of such movements, many young people continue to be bullied and the number of those who are female would further be the victims of “slut shaming.”
With Peach Girl, it's both a complicated romance story and a sociopolitical story about bullying.
Peach Girl focuses on the unexpected love triangle between Momo Adachi (the main character), Kairi Okayasu, and Kazuya “Toji” Toujigamori. This is pretty much a character-driven plot in which there seems to be a one-sided love triangle as Kairi wants Momo who in turn wants Toji. With Momo wanting Toji, it's a difficult path for her due to nasty rumors being spread by Sae Kashiwagi who's a fellow classmate and Momo's so-called “friend.” Momo doesn't have much of a school life due to her insecurities perpetuated by her fellow classmates who know nothing about her.
As the story progresses, Sae continues to perpetuate rumors to shoot down Momo's chances with Toji because she wants him for herself. The story has plenty of realism involved as you have people that will do whatever it takes to get what they want. Because of such scheming, Momo is on the receiving end of being a social outcast amongst her school peers and continuous bullying and misunderstanding.
Since Peach Girl takes place in Japan, it shows the stark differences between Japanese and American culture. Due to Momo's physical appearance, due to the tan skin and bleached out hair, her peers think she's very sexual and so forth. Thus, they get the wrong idea about her. Because of such rumors, Momo forced herself to quit the school's swim team.
While the story about love is nothing out of the ordinary, the story does spread the powerful message about how ignorance causes harmful rumors that lead to bullying and ostracizing. This message can make many people relate to Momo who's the underdog of the story. It's similar to people being ostracized about their sexual preferences, political views, their accents, their skin color, their nationalities, handicap, economic status, etc. When you combine a love-triangle story with the strong message about bullying, it makes Peach Girl a unique romance story.
Since the manga came out back in 1997, not many people had Internet access (let alone high-speed Internet) and/or access to mobile devices. If Peach Girl had taken place right now, things might not go so well for Momo due to social media such as MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. That would be due the false rumors being spread on social media. Due to the already existent false rumors about Momo, she'd become a victim of sexual bullying all thanks to Sae. While Momo is not sexual, Sae spread all sorts of false rumors to make her a victim of “slut shaming.”
Momo's ordeal mirrors that with the ordeal of real life people such as: Amanda Todd, Phoebe Prince, etc.
Peach Girl does share parallels with "Glee" and "Gossip Girl" in terms of bullying and gossip.
Peach Girl focuses on four characters. With the story being rather character-driven, you need characters that fit their necessary roles. The four characters simply do a rather good job of doing so. You have the four characters: Momo, Sae, Kairi, and Toji.
Momo – Momo is the underdog heroine of the story. She is unaccepted and ostracized, thus “slut shamed,” due to her physical appearance. Her skin color is tan while her hair is bleached out; however, Momo didn't do it by choice. It is revealed that the appearance came due to swimming all in part of being in the school's swim team. Being out in the sun constantly caused her to get tan skin and the chlorine in the pool water caused her hair to be bleached.
The other classmates, who have no idea, perceive Momo to be a Ganguro girl and “beach bunny.” Those misled notions gradually ruin her reputation. So far, it's actually far from the truth. In fact, she's sweet and insecure. The fact that Momo has a temper doesn't help her much. She's the epitome of how appearances can be deceiving. While one could consider her a “devil,” she's in fact an angel.
Her role in the story mirrors that of Rachel Berry (portrayed by Lea Michele) of Glee and Ichigo Kurosaki of “Bleach.” In Glee, Rachel is misunderstood and is often the a target of bullying and ridicule. In Bleach, Ichigo's mistaken for a juvenile delinquent due to the color of his hair.
Sae – Sae is the main antagonist of the story. Knowing that Momo has feelings for Toji, Sae is desperate to break those two up. This is due to Sae wanting Toji for herself. She is what you consider to be “neutral evil” who is doing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Sae has shown to be a schemer and an instigator. In that respect, Sae mirrors Karen Jackson of “Shameless” due to the “mean girl” attitude.
She's also an example of how looks are deceiving. Sae wants Toji and to become popular; thus, she is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Also, she's an example of how she comes off as an “angel” but is really a devil in disguise. Her role is similar to Quinn Fabray (portrayed by Dianna Agron) and Santana Lopez (portrayed by Naya Rivera).
In a story like Peach Girl, she comes off as the ideal school antagonist. However, Sae redeems herself in Peach Girl: Sae's Story (which is the aftermath). Due to Sae's constantly messing around in high school, to derail Momo, she missed classes and must repeat her senior year. Furthermore, this semi-sequel paints Sae as the tragic antagonist.
Kairi – Kairi comes off as the popular classmate who has a reputation of a playboy. He's an example of how he's misinterpreted as a playboy. At the same time, it shows the double standard of it. While Momo comes off as a “beach bunny,” she is shunned. When Kairi comes off as a “playboy,” he remains a popular student. He becomes in love with Momo for several reasons. While Kairi is considered a playboy, there's more to him than meets the eye.
Toji – Toji is the primary love interest. He is the good-hearted man who is a hard head with the blinders on. Due to his inability to see through Sae's lies, there's a schism between him and Momo. He's the target of desire from both Momo and Sae. Due to him having his blinders on, he takes Sae's side instead of Momo's side.
The music selection for Peach Girl definitely helped with the dramatic atmosphere. One has to remember that Peach Girl is a teenage high school soap opera. You need to have the appropriate music to fit that. I found the musical selection of Peach Girl to be satisfactory. Peach Girl focuses on normal everyday issues, no matter how crappy the issues are, and you need the musical score to reflect upon that.
Peach Girl is a more than decent story. Today, since we now live in the digital area, something like Peach Girl becomes more relevant than ever. Romance, let alone high-school romantic love triangles, never gets old. This is because many of us are romantics deep down; though, there are plenty that will not admit to it. Deep down, we cheer for Momo to get what she wants while booing Sae for her actions. In a comical sense, the dynamic would be excellent story material for World Wrestling Entertainment as Momo would be a face and Sae (like the Japanese anime version of AJ Lee) would be a heel.
This story reflects on the message of bullying that many can relate to. While Peach Girl is a fairly good story on its own, the issue of bullying makes the story even stronger today than it was in the past when the manga started coming out in circulation. There are plenty of life lessons that Peach Girl can offer to many people especially those in high school and college. If the story was set in this present era, there probably would've been more twists and turns due to the power (often detrimental power) of social media.
Alone, as an anime, it's a good relaxing anime to watch. Even though it comes off as a chick flick, it's still decent to watch. If you are into shows like Gossip Girl, Glee, or “Pretty Little Liars,” you will appreciate Peach Girl's story.