Image Source: 映画『ピーチガール』 on Twitter

After beginning as a manga in 1997 and inspiring an anime in 2005, this series about a love triangle has come back as a live-action movie. Good news for fans: This adaptation of Miwa Ueda’s Peach Girl is just as heart-throbbing and touching as its source material.

The story of the Peach Girl live-action revolves around Momo (literally meaning “Peach,” hence the title), a high school girl who is often misunderstood by others due to her dark skin. In Japan, Japanese girls with darker skin are stereotyped as “gyaru” (a.k.a. “gal”), basically valley girls who care a lot about fashion and are famous for going to tanning parlors. Gyaru are also famous for being “loose,” leading to Momo’s classmates spreading weird rumors about her.

Despite her appearance, Momo (played by Mizuki Yamamoto) is pure, and is madly in love only with her friend Toji (Mackenyu). Her romantic efforts, however, are impeded by Kairi (Kei Inoo), a playboy who starts taking serious interest in her, and her classmate Sae (Mei Nagano), a narcissistic girl who tries to get in Momo’s way any chance she can get.

Sae is a character who comes up with ingenious schemes in order to break up Momo and Toji. She starts out doing fairly simple trickery, like falling on top of Toji at just the right timing so Momo misunderstands. However, later on, she actually tricks Momo into getting into a situation where she is kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and framed so it looks like she was cheating on her boyfriend. This girl is so evil that she doesn’t even seem like a high schooler—her levels of evil more reach the levels of a mob boss.

Image Source: 映画『ピーチガール』

The film focuses only briefly—around thirty minutes of its two-hour runtime—on Sae trying to ruin things between Momo and Toji. Because this part of the film is rushed so much, one scene (in which Momo threatens to take her own life if Toji doesn’t believe her about something Sae did) seems out of place, especially since there was really no misunderstanding between the two in the first place. At this point of the film, they aren’t even dating. There’s a lack of a reason for Momo to get desperate because Toji never says that he believes Sae’s lie in the first place.

And Sae, the mastermind herself, is underdeveloped. While she shows up for the first third of the movie to get in Momo’s way, she is visibly absent until the climax where she suddenly becomes a sympathetic character. And, all of a sudden, Momo is totally fine with her being her good friend, despite the fact that Sae basically hired one of her buddies to sexually assault Momo and rip her and her boyfriend apart. If Sae had a few more scenes in the middle of the film to establish her and Momo’s relationship as friends, maybe this would have made a little more sense.

And it’s really too bad she doesn’t have enough time, too, because it’s absolutely hilarious to hear the ominous music and sound effects used when she’s on screen, paired with a fabulously evil smile from actress Nagano.

Image Source: 映画『ピーチガール』 on Twitter

However, it’s understandable that Sae was put on the sidelines. Instead of focusing on Toji and Momo keeping their relationship together, the film instead mainly puts the spotlight on Momo and Kairi, who begin spending more and more time together when things get rocky with Toji. And honestly, I think that was mostly the right decision. Although it was disappointing not to see more time given to Sae, this is a romance movie, and it was pivotal to develop the main couple instead of taking on more than it can handle. While it does have many story arcs, all the story arcs in the film are covered with Momo and Kairi as the focus. They experience these events together, whether those be painful or happy, and seeing that makes the viewer emotionally invested in them.

We even get bits here and there without Momo just focusing on Kairi’s development as a character—giving us a look into his passion for sweets-making, as well as his family and relationships outside of his romantic one with Momo. Though Kairi is admittedly a bit annoying in the beginning with his over-confidence, it’s interesting to see how the character grows due to the events happening around him.

While actress Mizuki is a perfect fit for Momo in terms of acting, the character of Momo is supposed to be a dark-skinned “gal.” However, she just looks like a very light-skinned Japanese girl with a very, very slight tan.

Inoo’s performance as Kairi is wonderful, with a noticeable change in his acting when he’s being serious and when he’s playing around—two sides of Kairi that are very distinct. While his acting as playful Kairi might have been a bit babyish for my tastes, he still manages to work the role for most of the film, making his more emotional scenes genuinely touching.

Image Source: 映画『ピーチガール』 on Twitter

On the other hand, Mackenyu’s performance as Toji, while serviceable, starts to get a little hilarious when you notice that in the vast majority of scenes, he’s just opening his eyes wide open like a fish when reacting to things (like seen above). There just isn’t very much variation with his acting.

Overall, Peach Girl keeps the main elements from the source material intact for the most part, but changes it up just enough to make an enjoyable stand-alone film. If you’re in the mood for some romance with a bit of drama, Peach Girl might be the perfect fit for you.

The live-action Peach Girl film opened in Japan on May 20. There is no word on an English release. FUNimation has released the anime based on the manga—which was published by Tokyopop but is now out of print—in North America on home video.

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