Animefringe Cover Story:
Peach Girl: A Study in Teen Angst
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold, Jake Forbes and Steve Diabo (Kaneda)
Momo means Peach
Life's pretty rough for Momo Adachi. She got a skin problem that causes her to tan easily, so pretty much everyone assumes she lives at the beach and is nothing but a party girl. To make matters worse, Momo's got a friend named Sae who will stop at nothing to make whatever Momo likes hers. Add two cute guys to the fray and you've got a powder keg that could explode at any minute.
Chic Chick. Skirt, California Concepts, $25; Bag, Global Design Concepts, $15; Shirt, JCPenny's, $49.
This is the basis of one of shoujo's popular teen angst serials. Created by Miwa Ueda, who is also known for a number of short stories and the series Oh! My Darling, Peach Girl has been serialized in Kodansha's Monthly Betsu-fure since 1997 and has so far been collected into nine tankoubon, along with a full-color art book called Peach: Miwa Ueda Illustrations.
One of the interesting facets of the story is how the author reflects her own teenage problems through the characters in the story -- the most important of these being Momo's tanning problem, an affliction which Miwa reveals she shares in one of the early side panels. But, why do the characters in Peach Girl look down on tanned skin so much when a large portion of the world strives to have tanned skin?
The answer to this dwells in the understanding of Japanese stereotypes. In Japan, tanned skin is looked down upon and light, ivory skin is cherished. The stereotype has gone so far as to classify girls with tanned skin to be 'easy' because they probably do nothing but party and hang around at the beach. And when a girl is 'easy,' then they might as well make some money by going on dates with older men so they can go shopping. You know, the classic Ko-gal image.
Moooooo! Pass the beef, please!
Yet, the underlying goal that Momo must strive to attain is to get past her outward appearance and realize it's who she is on the inside that counts. As Miwa said herself, "if her skin color were to change, her personality would change." If Momo were to become light-skinned, she would be no better than Sae. It's Momo's hardship that makes Momo who she is.
The Roots of Love
Our story begins with a guy's memory of a trip to the beach and cuts to our heroine, Momo Adachi, being hit on by an elderly man looking for a date. Momo quickly wards off the advances of the rich old pervert, but nothing can stop the onslaught of rumors that stem from Momo's skin condition. She's got ‘dark beach bunny skin, big round eyes that men think are vacuous, and light colored hair everyone assumes is bleached.' To make matters worse, her High School is definitely not the place you want a rumor to start -- it only takes a few minutes for someone's reputation to be smeared for months.
Enter Sae with her brand new bag... which just so happens to be the one that Momo saw the day before while out shopping with Sae. Seems that Sae talked Momo out of getting it just so she could go back and pick it up for herself. What a jerk! The thing is, Momo and Sae have been friends for three months and neither one has been less of a friend... but when compared to Momo, Sae always comes out looking like a goddess because of her flawless ivory skin. But underneath lies a snake ready to strike.
The ladies will simply swoon for dashing Toji in this dashing ensemble courtesy of The Gap.
Case in point: as Momo and Sae are walking to class, they pass Toji in the hall, and he stops to tell Momo about how he met up with two of their old friends from Middle School and gives Momo a picture they took together. Well, Momo starts blushing because Toji is the guy she's had a crush on since Middle School but has never had the nerve to make anything of it. Later, during Art class, Sae asks Momo why she doesn't talk to a lot of guys but really opens up around Toji -- and Momo freaks and rushes off.
In the next class, persistent as she is, Sae asks Momo who she likes and Momo really starts to sweat bullets because she knows Sae must be catching on that she likes Toji. So she swings around and arbitrarily picks the first guy she sees... which just happens to be one of the hottest guys in school, Kiley. And bizarrely enough, Kiley looks over to Momo and winks at her!
So get this... Sae goes over to Kiley and tries to impress him so that Momo will never have a chance with him. But Kiley sees Sae's new bag, and recalls that he was out shopping and heard Sae tell Momo that the bag was tacky. So he tells her that he doesn't like playing guessing games because, "nothing is worse for a relationship than lying." Needless to say, Sae turns pale as a ghost.
Playing Catch Up - Phase One: As the World Turns
Oh My Goddess! Sae really shins in this stunny once piece dress with angel wings.
As Peach Girl progresses it reads more and more like a high school soap opera that rivals anything that American TV has shown over the years. SMILE began running the serialized manga when it switched gears from a 'gurlz' trend magazine with manga to a full-blown shoujo anthology magazine in May 2000, (SMILE #2.3) and has continued to run in each issue along with the SuperS and Stars sagas of Sailormoon, CLAMP's bizarre series Clover, and the martial arts oriented series Juline.
So how much have you missed? Well, not as much as you would expect. You can pick up virtually any issue and quickly figure out what has been happening. And thanks to TOKYOPOP releasing trade paperback collections of the series you can pick up whole volumes and catch right up to the current issue of SMILE.
Still wanna know more story info? Knew you would. Well, after Kiley blows Sae off, she gets even by writing on the blackboard that Kiley and Momo are an item. But people think that Momo may have written it... that is, until Kiley makes a comment about how good Momo kisses and his entourage of girls known as the "First Kiley Offensive" go and confront Momo, who of course totally freaks.
The girls tell her they don't approve of her and start bashing Momo, and when her picture of Toji and her friends gets crushed, sweet Momo goes berserk as Kiley watches... and Momo belts him one!
Warm up to these cool wrappers and give your life a new twist.
When things calm down, they start to talk things over and it comes out that the kiss Momo and Kiley supposedly shared two years ago was in fact not a kiss from Momo but mouth-to-mouth from a pumped-up lifeguard, that looks a lot like Fabio.
With the perfect memory dashed, the girls leave, but realizing that rumors will persist, Kiley takes a hold of Momo and kisses her!
Word gets back to Toji who thinks Kiley is doing nothing taking advantage of Momo and he confronts Kiley about it and learns a little to much about his own feelings for Momo in the process. Minutes later, Sae appears and Toji asks her if Momo and Kiley really kissed or not. So, Sae takes Toji and they hide in the bushes to eavesdrop on Momo as Kiley questions her about why she doesn't swim anymore. The truth is a girl told Momo that she overheard Toji saying he doesn't like girls with dark skin. And Toji walks away in shock because he can't believe he said that. But Sae has begun to catch on to the fact that Momo really likes Toji...
Sae hatches a plan to steal Toji away by showing Momo and Kiley making out. To do this, she slips both Kiley and Momo a note saying for them to meet by the pool. As Kiley waits a gust of wind sweeps away the scrap of paper and it lands in the pool. He tries to fish the paper out of the pool but ends up falling in. When Momo arrives she sees Kiley floating under the water so realizing he isn't playing, she dives in and fishes him out and begins to perform mouth-to-mouth... strangely it may really have been Momo who saved Kiley two years ago...
Strike A Pose!
Just then Sae leads Toji to the pool to hatch her plan, the whole plan backfires and Momo yells for them to get an ambulance. Luckily, that isn't needed and Kiley regains consciousness and ends up in Nurse Misao's care. As Momo and Toji depart, he brings up the conversation he overheard yesterday and admits to Momo that "In fact, I...love you."
In a short time, Momo and Toji work things out and become a happy couple -- but they must keep their relationship a secret so Sae doesn't get a chance to ruin anything. But when Toji gives Momo his wallet so she can order them some fast food, a small piece of latex gets in the way...
Playing Catch Up - Phase Two: Days of Our Lives
Then the Starlights appear on the scene... er... wrong manga. Momo gives Toji back his wallet and rushes off. The next day at school Momo just brushes off Toji and finds a fence to cling to so she can contemplate the condom alone -- that is, until Kiley the pumpkin shows up out of nowhere to comment on the situation, expecting to get decked in the process. But something is really troubling Momo today, and his taunts, which normally bring out a rise in Momo, doesn't even phase her.
Meanwhile, Sae has gotten a hold of Toji and they've begun to discuss the problem. Sae recommends that he "should just walk right up to her and kiss her." Toji turns red in shock and begins to stutter "But I... I never."
Another good idea is to stay at home and enjoy the warmth of a fire, make some cocoa, snuggle on the couch and watch the snow fall outside your window.
Sae presists and learns that he's never kissed a girl before because he was too into athletics to have much time for girls. So Sae offers to help train him... just when Momo and Kiley are walking by.
Needless to say, the sight is a total shock -- one that ruins Momo's day. But, not as much as seeing how happy Toji is when he's with Sae at school. The next day, Momo becomes fed-up... and as Sae enters the bathroom, Momo drags her into a stall and lays everything on the line. Sae realizes the jig is up, so she begins to laugh and collects her composure to tell Momo that, "well, I guess I should have seen it. Toji's been tense since I wouldn't do it with him. And I noticed he acted funny when he saw you talking to Kiley. I guess he thought he could do things with you he couldn't do with me."
Later during chemistry class, Toji tells Momo, "After class, wait for me by the pool. I want to tell you something." Like a rat, Sae's been keeping tabs and tells Toji that Momo "wants to meet in the cafeteria instead."
As the sun beats down on poor Momo, Kiley comes by to give Momo a present and ends up getting belted for being too thoughtful. But, we learn Kiley's true reason for liking Momo –- her sincerity.
All the while, Toji's been waiting in the cafeteria. Sae appears and they begin to talk. Later, they walk outside and come across the pool where Momo and Kiley are chatting. Sae gets worried and quickly comes up with a reason Momo blew off Toji -- because Kiley is much more energetic and exciting.
Toji rushes over and pulls Momo away and corners her in the spot where Sae and he were kissing earlier. Momo struggles, and when Toji tries to kiss her, she punches him.
In the aftermath, Toji rushes off and Momo ends up in a daze. Later that night, Toji stops by Momo's house to apologize, and they end up discussing things. As Toji walks away, Momo hands him back the object that started all this.
The next day, Toji is at a loss for words. Things only get worse when Sae sets Momo up to show Toji that Momo's being a bully to her. And when Sae gets tripped by a broom, Toji chastises Momo.
That night, Momo is in anguish over what Toji said, and she tosses and turns debating whether to call Toji or not. Just when Momo finally gets the nerve to call Toji, it isn't long before he has to cut the conversation short because of stomach pains.
Momo slumps into a depression and is late for school the next day and learns that Toji is also absent. As days pass with no sign of Toji in class, Momo is at a loss for reason. It seems that Momo has been kept in the dark about Toji's condition, and all the while Sae has been visiting Toji and keeping him company as he recovers from his operation. Rumors begin to spread around the school that Momo has been trying to steal away Sae's boyfriend and the truth finally comes out from Kiley that Toji's in the hospital due to appendicitis. Momo becomes furious and literally drags a tied-up Kiley, kicking and screaming, to the hospital just in time...
The Rest of the Story
So you want to know what happens from here on? Well, if you really want some of the finer points of the story just given to you on a platter (as if we haven't done that for you already...) then read on, because here's what you can expect of the series through Peach Girl Vol.7. But be warned though, this is SPOILER filled. So, skip on down to the dossiers if you don't want anything ruined for you... or just read on because we know you want to know what happens to Momo...
Get creative. "Ribbons tie it all together with a little romance." - Seventeen
Last time in SMILE (issue 2.5), Toji's in the hospital and Sae's trying to keep Momo in the dark about this, hoping to make the moves on him while he thinks Momo's ignoring him. When Momo finds out that Sae's been deceiving her, she teams up with Kiley to go and explain the truth to Toji. Momo and Kiley walk into Toji's room just as Sae is about to try and take advantage of the bedridden Toji, literally throwing herself all over him. Momo's furious, but she knows it's Sae's scheming, so she tries to talk it out. Kiley drags Sae away so that Momo and Toji can be alone. When Toji doesn't believe Momo, she threatens to jump out of the fourth floor window. A gust of wind blows up her skirt and almost makes her fall out, when Toji jumps up and grabs her. Soon enough, the two are friends again. Meanwhile, Sae tries to tempt Kiley to join her in breaking up Momo and Toji since they both don't want the two to end up together. It looks like her plan's working, but Kiley's loyal to his Momo's wishes, and Sae is further angered. Just when it seems Momo and Toji will be together forever, Momo announces that she can't go out with Toji because he didn't trust her, and if he can't trust her, what's the point?
Toji and Momo are now no longer an item and Momo opens up to Kiley a little bit. Maybe he was right for her all along. Strangely enough, Kiley proves to be the biggest supporter of getting her back together with Toji. Sae's advances on Toji are fruitless as he's still in love with Momo. Momo gets her confidence back and after her classmates vote her into doing all of the swim events (which she dreads because she's afraid of tanning). When she actually gets in the pool, she becomes a swimming star! All the school starts to like Momo, so Sae starts some new scheming. She has three mean girls gang up and cut Momo's bathing suit just before the next meet so that it rips while she's in the pool. No one will help her get a new suit, so she mends her old one temporarily, but it's too weak for her to swim hard in so she effectively gives up at the meet and the school hates her again. Sae also sets up more rumors that Momo has been beating her, and when Momo loses her temper and pushes Sae, she plays it up for all it's worth.
Finally, with the end of the school year approaching, Momo is alone, depressed, and only Kiley seems to care about her. Sae says Momo gave her a black eye and all the popular boys and girls in the class gang up on Momo and force her to bend over, apologize, and be punished. It's the ultimate humiliation and one that Toji can't stand to let happen. Before he can help her, Kiley tricks Toji, ties him up, and locks him in the closet. By the time Toji gets untied, he's enraged, desperate to help Momo, and Momo is on the verge of mental and physical collapse. Toji bursts in, saves the day, and the school learns the truth about Momo/Toji/Sae. Everyone realizes that Sae was lying about Momo and that Momo and Toji were an item. Toji learns how much of Momo's paranoia was true, and Kiley is pleased that his scheming made Toji all the more heroic. Sae is forced to apologize and the school eggs on Momo to punish her, but Momo forgives Sae. Sae deflates so that she is literally 2-dimensional. For the next two books she is totally obsequious to Momo and sulks around like a paper doll, getting blown over and trampled.
5:30 P.M. Sae and her friend gear up to have some fun.
For the next storyline, the plot slows down and focuses on Momo and Toji working out their relationship. They have a wonderful summer together and are truly in love. Kiley becomes a background character and he builds a comic/romantic relationship with the school nurse. Sae is mostly ignored for a while too, so it's all Toji and Momo for a while. There's even a Momo fan club now, with three popular girls who tan their skin and ask Momo for advice. The big conflict in this story arch is Momo trying to get Toji to express his feelings in public as he's so shy. She makes up a hand signal that means "I love you" to flash at him around school, but he becomes embarrassed. Finally he loosens up and in a dramatic moment, volunteers to answer a question in class, walks to the front of the room and flashes the hand signal to Momo in front of everybody. How romantic.
The most recent story arch is very twisted and melodramatic. Momo and Sae go in to pose for a model search magazine. At the photo shoot, Sae stumbles into Goro, a.k.a. the Gigolo (Gi-go-ro), the hottest male model in Japan. When he walks, he emits pheromones that knock out all the girls in sight. He pities Sae in her 2-dimensional state and believes her when she tells stories about how she was abused by Momo. Goro decides to date Sae out of pity and to help his image. He shows up at school and everyone is shocked that stupid Sae is being asked for by the Gigolo. Sae triumphantly returns to 3-dimensions and begins scheming once more. Meanwhile, Toji and Momo are happy as can be together. Momo's birthday is coming up and Toji wants to make it special. Sae helps him buy a birthday present for Momo, an expensive perfume that's shaped like a peach. At the small, intimate birthday dinner, everything is perfect and Momo even likes the gift Toji picked out. Then the bad things begin. Sae calls up Momo, says that Goro dumped her because he only wanted to get with Momo through Sae, and Sae's in tears. Momo tells Toji she has to go make sure Sae's alright, so he stays at home while Momo goes to meet Sae. Sae gives Momo a drugged beverage which effectively knocks her out. Then Goro pulls over and picks up Momo and takes her to a hotel. Sae told Goro that Momo was a complete bitch who wants to sleep with him and Sae wants Goro to oblige Momo so that she'll leave her alone. Goro is confused by Momo's drugged state, but if that's what she wants...
Meanwhile, Sae has already picked up an exact duplicate of Momo's outfit and puts it on, as well as some of Momo's new perfume, in order to make a visit to Toji. She goes into his house (his parents are gone for the weekend), turns of the lights before he can see her, and leads him to the bedroom where she starts forcing herself on him. Thinking she's Momo, Toji is at first reluctant, but gives into it and gets naked and almost does the nasty with Sae until her cell-phone rings and Toji recognizes that it's not Momo's ring. He is furious at finding Sae there and gets out of her what happened to Momo (painting Goro as the bad person and not her, of course). Toji and Sae (although she's a bad helper) call up all the hotels in the city looking for Goro. Nurse Misao and Kiley (who was getting a ride from her at the time) run into the desperate Toji and help out.
Momo wakes up in the hotel room, naked, and Goro is drinking a beer dressed only in a bath-towel. She sees a condom in the trash and figures that she's been raped. As far as we can tell, she has been.
As things play out, Nurse Misao comforts Momo who is afraid of rejection from Toji, but Toji's supportive as well. Kiley helps plan revenge -- He knows a kinky sex house where they can take Sae and have her taught a lesson without doing much harm. Somehow, they get Sae to go to the house, where she is abducted by a 400-pound, bondage-freak sado-masochist. Whoops! Kiley's friend gave her the wrong address to wherever it was she actually expected to go! Looks as if poor Sae is about to be "used" by this sex freak.
|PEACH GIRL: CHARACTER DOSSIER
Would be a normal high school girl -- except her skin tans way too easily, a cultural faux-pas in Japan. But she is very conscious about her appearance. She is a great swimmer and often finds herself at odds with her friends and love life. Momo's first kiss was with Kiley.
Momo's shallow friend who strives to be the best by putting others down and making whatever, and whoever, someone wants, her own. She has perfect ivory skin, but has a fragile ego and a sick habit of making people's lives miserable.
Because his name is so long, people shorten Tojigamori's last name to Toji. Toji is really into sports and he is very inexperienced when it comes to love. But he is caring and will help those in need. Toji's first kiss was with Sae.
Nicknamed ‘the pumpkin' by Momo, Kiley always has a way of just appearing out of nowhere at the darndest times. He is witty and fun to be around. But, though he acts like a pervert most of the time, he never means to hurt anyone's feelings.
Your average school nurse who knows just how to treat her patients. One visit to her and you'll be right as rain in no time. Plus, this lady sure knows how to party and acts just like Kiley.
The hottest male model in Japan. The guy all girls want to be with. Just don't venture too close to him, because he has a scent that will knock you out.
Peach Club: The Official Peach Girl Homepage
The Official Monthly Betsu-fure Homepage
As Sweet as a Peach: Peach Girl HQ
peach girl's site
Peach Girl - By Miwa Ueda
A Peach Flavoured Kiss
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