Sailor Moon brought in the boom of fighting magical superheroines in the early 90s, but many forget this pink-haired heroine who debuted shortly after. She fights for love, she fights for justice, and she fights… in a wedding dress? Yes, it’s Wedding Peach.
Recently, we got a chance to talk with Nao Yazawa, the manga creator who brought this sparkly gal and her friends Angel Lily and Angel Daisy to the pages of girls’ manga magazines all over Japan.
Wedding Peach is the story of Momoko Hanasaki (her name literally means “blooming flower peach child”), a fairly normal middle school student who is in the newspaper club with her two best friends: the graceful and gorgeous Yuri Tanima (lit. “lily of the valley”) and the tomboyish girl with a soft side Hinagiku Tamano (her first name meaning “daisy”).
All three girls are head-over-heels for the soccer team captain Yanagiba. But, Momoko finds herself getting closer and closer to soccer team member Yosuke, despite them fighting all the time.
Momoko’s normal life is turned upside down when she is forced to accept her destiny and transform into Wedding Peach, an angel of love (once into wedding dress form, then a second time into battle garb). She is later joined by Yuri—who transforms into Angel Lily—and Hinagiku—who turns out to be Angel Daisy. Together, they must fight devils sent by the leader of the devils, Queen Raindevila (whose name is based off of “acid rain,” which kills fauna, and “devil”), who seeks to take over the Angel World and eradicate the “Love Wave,” an energy given off by those in love.
While girls of the 90s grew up with shows featuring strong female protagonists like Wedding Peach, Yazawa told me that as a child, most of the anime on TV was aimed at boys. While there were female-oriented shows on TV like Candy Candy and Heidi of the Alps, Yazawa watched shows like Mazinger Z and Babel II. Since her parents wouldn’t buy her manga, anime was what fueled her creativity as a child when she drew.
“I’ve always loved Shotaro Ishinomori and Go Nagai. I tried to emulate Shotaro Ishinomori’s style a lot when I was a child,” she explained, “Later on, I started to take a liking to Naoki Urasawa‘s art. I think there are traces of his art style that can be seen in my own.”
While Yazawa is known for her cute illustrations seen in the manga version of Wedding Peach, she actually started out as a manga artist drawing stories aimed at young boys. After submitting her work over and over again to publishers with no results, she finally got her chance when she forgot to put her return address in one of her samples and had to go directly to the publisher to get it back. When she arrived, one of the editorial department staffers told her that while the work she sent in that time wasn’t up to snuff, she should bring in her rough drafts for the staff to look at.
As a fourth-year in college faced with the necessity of job-hunting, Yazawa felt like this might be her last chance to become a manga artist. She felt she might have a bit of an edge by applying to Corocoro, a children’s magazine, instead of shonen magazines aimed at older youths because the number of applicants was lower. After the editor gave her the OK to make it into a manga while giving her advice all the while, her manga would be sent to be entered in the magazine’s newcomer competition. While her first and second submissions didn’t click, Yazawa won the 14th Fujiko Fujio Award (named after the duo that created world-famous manga Doraemon) in 1989 with her manga Genguro Mairu! (Genguro is Coming!), which later debuted in the twentieth issue of Shogakukan’s Bessatsu Corocoro Comic magazine.
Around the time Yazawa debuted in Corocoro, Pyonpyon—a female version of Corocoro aimed at a younger crowd than its big sister Ciao—began publication. As a new magazine, though, it lacked writers.
“When they told me ‘if you come to work over here, you can serialize your own manga,’ I said, ‘Well then, I’ll go over there!'”
After working at the magazine for around a year, Yazawa would get the call that would change her life. The Shogakukan staff called her into the company’s meeting room. Yazawa assumed she had done something wrong, but she was instead given the chance to write the manga for Wedding Peach, a new multi-media project created by Sukehiro Tomita, a man who served as a main writer on the Sailor Moon anime. Like Sailor Moon, this project would feature female leads who are actually magical girls, and would contain action. Because Yazawa had experience drawing action for Corocoro, the Shogakukan staff suggested to put Yazawa on the project.
“Wedding Peach was an opportunity that fell from heaven.”
Momoko and Yōsuke
The manga—which began in Shogakukan’s Ciao magazine for girls in 1994, one year before the anime—initially was based on Tomita’s scenarios. However, after the point in the anime where villain Pluie died, the scenarios stopped coming. With a basic outline of what was to come—the appearance of Ignis and Potamus, and the defeat of Raindevilla, to name a few events—Yazawa worked with her seasoned shojo editor to write the rest. Petora, the demon disguised as a strange faculty member at Momoko’s school, was a completely original anime character.
Because thirty minutes is too much to stuff into one manga chapter, many points from the scenarios were cut, and to fit the demographic, more shojo-like elements were put in. At around the halfway point, the manga basically took on its own original story.
Although Wedding Peach is now considered as one of Yazawa’s representative works, she was a little taken back by the concept when she first saw the proposal, which had a plot by Tomita and character designs by Kazuko Tadano, also of Sailor Moon fame.
“I thought they had to be joking,” she laughed, “But the project was one where kids could hold admiration for the pretty dresses and adults could laugh at the premise.”
She compared the elements that make Wedding Peach interesting to Fist of the North Star, a violent over-the top manga and anime.
“Kids can say ‘Oh, that’s so cool!’ but adults can be like ‘Why did that character explode after he said ‘You’re already dead’!?’ It’s a joke. So, adults can laugh at things like ‘Wedding Change Bridal Change,’ but kids don’t know better, so we figured they’d probably think it would cool.”
Unfortunately, unlike Sailor Moon, Wedding Peach didn’t get as popular with the Japanese public. Because of this, even though toy-maker Tomy (now known as Takara Tomy) produced a plethora of goods, parents and kids often had a hard time finding the toys on store shelves. Yazawa found herself calling up Tomy to get her friends things like the official wedding dresses the company made. In South Korea, however, the property was surprisingly popular, and still is. The series is so popular that it was recently spoofed on South Korea’s version of Saturday Night Live (seen below).
While Sailor Moon has twentieth anniversary goods for adult women everywhere, including eyeliner, face powder, nail polish, and more, Wedding Peach has nothing… at least, in Japan. Makeup exists in South Korea from famous cosmetic brand Etude House, which despite having a Japanese branch, does not sell the Wedding Peach stick-on nails, lipstick, eyeshadow, and more in the anime’s country of origin.
“Actually, I got a message on Facebook from someone in South Korea saying they wanted to produce Wedding Peach goods but didn’t know where to ask for the rights, so I got them connected to the rights person at Shogakukan. I think the rights are a bit of a mess within Japan, though. After all, [animation studio] KSS is gone,” Yazawa reminisced, “I think there was some kind of half-assed project for the anime’s fifteenth anniversary, but I have no idea what happened there.” (Editor’s note: it was a T-shirt from Cospa).
Yazawa told me that personally, she thinks that because the majority of the fanbase of Wedding Peach has grown up to be in their mid-20s and early 30s, introducing make-up for the series in Japan as anniversary products wouldn’t be a bad idea. Heck, some of the items in the series already are make-up. Angel Lily’s “Lily Lip Liner,” for example was actually turned into a toy for children back in the day, but it wasn’t lipstick; it was a crayon.
“They probably thought that kids would get it all over their faces if they made it real lip liner,” she laughed.
While there wasn’t a huge fan base in Japan, Yazawa does remember the adult male fans that would come to the Ciao events really meant for little kids.
“To go to the event, you had to apply with a postcard, and readers would be invited to participate for free. So, when you filled out the postcard you had to write the kid’s name and the guardian’s name. But even so, they came. Despite this, the adult fans were lined up starting at 4 or 5 a.m. They were about college or working age, and they came to every event. And when there were events for FURIL, the voice actress unit for the show, they went to those too.”
Momoko and Jama-P (left) and Angel Lily in her bridal form (right)
While she gets many different questions from fans through her Twitter and Facebook accounts, which she operates in both English and Japanese, she told me that besides “When’s there going to be a new Wedding Peach anime?” American fans tend to ask her what she thinks about the show possibly teaching girls that wedding is the main goal in life for women.
“I’m not getting involved with that issue!” She laughed.
The Wedding Peach project didn’t begin with the concept of weddings, but instead, began as just a magical girl project with three girls that used “Three Sacred Treasures” to fight evil. However, Tomita couldn’t come up with what those items—that would eventually be turned into toys—would be. That was when he saw an ad on a train for a women’s magazine that had the words “Something Four.”
The Something Four is a term used to refer to a traditional rhyme about the items that will grant a bride good luck: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Japan didn’t know about this rhyme until it was brought to the attention of the public during Princess Diana’s wedding ceremony, where her wedding garb followed these rules. Tomita decided that these four items would be the perfect fit for the magical girls. There was just one problem: he only had three.
“Tomita-san had originally planned to just have the three Angels, but well, we had four items, and we had to make the story of Yosuke actually being a Devil and having Momoko and him being torn apart. Yuri and Hinagiku have known Yosuke up until that point and they know about the relationship between him and Momoko, so it would be really weird if they just try to rip him and Momoko apart the moment they know he’s a Devil,” she told me, “So, we needed someone to come in and say “No, you can’t do this!,” and so a new character was created to fulfill this role. And that was Salvia.”
But Salvia could have actually had a completely different name and identity had it not been for the persistence of Tomita. Tomita really liked the name Salvia, but because of the way the name sounds in Japanese and the lack of recognizability of the flower, others on the team suggested they change Angel Salvia into Angel Violet, with her civilian name being Sumire; literally Japanese for “Violet.” But Tomita liked the name so much that he wanted to even have her civilian form name be Scarlet as well. But because everyone else on the Love Angel team had civilian form names, Tomita did some research and found out that the flower salvia splendens is also called “scarlet sage,” leading him to naming the character Scarlet in her human form. And not just any Scarlet—Scarlet O’Hara.
“He said that if we converted the name O’Hara into kanji characters, she could be half-Japanese! Gone With the Wind was a big hit with Tomita-san’s generation. So he was like, ‘Her name is Scarlet O’Hara. Let’s make her personality just like Scarlet O’Hara, too!,'” she laughed, “Hinagiku is masculine as well, but she’s more of a ‘boy’ than a ‘man.’ I think they wanted a character that was like a woman in Takarazuka theater. Tomita-san wanted a strong, independent woman, so he said, ‘Then we should make her American! And you know, Scarlet O’Hara is American.'”
Scarlet’s role, Yazawa told me, was to be the one who explains the story of the Angel World. By having a character who actively was involved in the Angel World’s past, there would be no need for other characters to just stand around talking about what happened. But although Scarlet was created as a strong and independent woman, if you look back on her backstory, she’s actually quite sympathetic.
“Scarlet is a lonely girl who finally reunited with her comrades from her past life Angel Lily and Daisy, who were with her in the Angel World, but they don’t remember their past lives,” she explained, “And to add to it all, Momoko is the daughter of Seles, the persons she respected more than anyone, and so she thinks she has to protect her at any cost since she couldn’t protect Seles. But that same girl she’s trying to protect went and fell in love with a Devil, so yeah, she gets pissed!”
From left to right: Angel Lily, Limone, Angel Salvia
After Wedding Peach garnered popularity in Germany, Yazawa got invited to appear as a guest at an anime event there years after she finished writing the manga. By the time she was invited, she wasn’t an artist for publishing company Shogakukan anymore, so she had to go alone without an editor or interpreter to help her out. There was just one little problem: Yazawa didn’t know English.
“During my time there when I was traveling from point A to point B, they gave me an attendant who was studying Japanese in college. After all, I couldn’t ride on the train alone,” she laughed, “So they helped me with things like the trains and lodging, and it wasn’t that bad. But I realized that there was no way I’d ever be able to have an interpreter with me all the time, so I decided that I should try to at least be able to speak basic English.”
Yazawa began to make connections within the international community, leading to her contributions in Christopher Hart’s Manga Mania Magical Girls and Friends: How to Draw the Super-Popular Action Fantasy Characters of Manga how-to-draw book in 2006. One of her connections invited her to participate in an anime exhibit in Frankfurt. This time, however, she wouldn’t just be answering questions at a panel—she would be teaching her craft at workshops.
Back in Japan, one of her connections asked her if she would do a workshop in English for students in Japan. This led Yazawa to teaching at the Manga School Nakano International, where she’s been helping international visitors with interest in drawing manga for over four years. She teaches not only how to draw the images themselves, but also things like panel structure.
“I can only speak Japanese and English, so I usually get students from the United States, Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. But there was one time where a kid came and their parents interpreted for them.”
During busy periods, Yazawa’s school gets students every day. This, obviously, makes it difficult for her to make time to draw.
“I want to draw manga again, but right now, I’m not in a position that I can because I’m completely freelance. I don’t think I’d make a shojo manga again, but if someone commissioned me, I’d do it. I kind of want some monetary motivation to get me to draw shojo manga, though,” she laughed, “But working as a teacher at the school is interesting, and no one else is doing it… I think it’s very exciting to have people from outside of Japan who understand Japanese manga and have the ability to make something a little bit different become creators.”
If you’d like to take one of her courses while you’re in Tokyo, you can check the Manga School Nakano International’s official website for rates and more information. If you can’t cross the ocean, the school has online lessons as well that can be completed no matter where you are in the world.
The entirety of the Wedding Peach anime and its home video anime sequel Wedding Peach DX were released on DVD in North America by ADV Films, but have not been relicensed by any publisher. The Wedding Peach manga penned by Yazawa was published in North America by VIZ Media, but is now out of print. You can check some of Yazawa’s other manga on Amazon’s Kindle Store in English.
Update (5/26/2017): The publisher of the Wedding Peach manga in North America is VIZ Media, not Tokyopop, and the article has been updated to reflect this.