Bunny Girls, Tentacles and Fruit-based Superpowers Collide in Peach Boy Riverside
This article is a part of AniTAY’s Summer 2021 Early Impressions series, where our authors offer their initial thoughts on the new, prominent, and exciting anime from this season!
Perhaps by deliberate design, or at least by odd production choices, Peach Boy Riverside is a difficult show to pigeonhole. Much like ONE’s One Punch Man, it first manifested as a web manga — written and drawn by Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid’s Coolkyousinnjya — later re-drawn for wider publication by manga artist Johanne. The anime adapts this second version, while also remixing the order of events. Tearing a leaf from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s book, Peach Boy’s episodes are broadcast in anachronic order.
Director Shigeru Ueda does not believe in creating anime-only endings for adaptations of ongoing manga (guess he’s more of a Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood fan, then), so has chosen to reorder the material so that it will have a satisfactory (but non-chronological) climax, while also deliberately re-focusing on well-endowed, improbably thigh-gapped, pretty, perky, blonde young female character Sally. His reasons for doing this in a commercial anime aimed at adolescent males clearly defy any logical explanation.
Episode 1 (chronologically episode 2) drops us in media res, with Princess Saltherine (Sally) Aldarake journeying to search for Mikoto Kibitsu, who we soon come to learn is a sociopath with an accomplished sideline in yandere girl impressions. Quite why Sally is searching for this unhinged fruitloop is unclear, presumably because they excised the beginning of the story.
I don’t really mind starting with episode 2, because it introduces the number one reason for watching this very odd show — Frau, the unspeakably adorable, inexplicably sailor-suit-garbed bunny person. By feeding the hungry Frau carrots, it seems Sally has made a friend/stalker for life, as Frau begins to accompany her, no questions asked, due to “carrot debt”. Good thing she did though, as Frau appears to possess mad oni-chicken-murder-skillz that she demonstrates to save a village of racist jackasses refusing to acknowledge her incredible bunny-adorability.
In this medieval-adjacent world, there exists at least three main races — common or garden human beings who mainly live in villages or walled towns, a feared/oppressed underclass of demihumans (of which Frau is the only one we’ve met so far), and demonic oni — who appear to be any kind of human-like person or animal, as long as they possess horns/magic powers. In addition to the bizarre oni-chicken, we meet an oni-walrus, an oni-girl with serious ophthalmic health difficulties, and a bunch of other generic anime bad guys with poor skincare and battle scars.
It’s difficult to comment on the overall plot, because the first two episodes (chronologically 2 and 3) are then followed, discombobulatingly, by a third episode which is set some point later in the story, introducing a new status quo that, although calling back to the events of the previous episode, leaves us in the dark about details in between. The upcoming episode 4 looks to be the chronological episode 1, so at least we won’t have to wait too long to see the beginning of the story.
So far I haven’t found this unusual approach too hard to follow, though the show itself makes absolutely no attempt to explain its strange structure, so viewers unaware of the meta-informational milieu surrounding Peach Boy Riverside may be confused.
Tonally, Peach Boy Riverside is all over the damn place. Perhaps this is a feature of the original work, but one moment it’s all cutesy-time with Frau nom-nom-nomming some yummy carrots, then Sally’s having bizarre PTSD tentacle-hentai flashbacks in response to seeing an octopus, and then random soldiers are having random body parts lopped off by a giant walrus. It’s certainly unpredictable, though on a couple of occasions I had to pause and rewind because what the hell just happened?
One downside of the anachronic airing order is that the show expects its viewers to be familiar with the Japanese Momotaro (literally: Peach Boy) legend. The narrator even aborts his exposition at one point to announce: “You know the story”. Uh… well, I don’t. I get that it seems to have something to do with some kid eating a superpowered peach, then going around murdering demons (oni). It looks like the premise here is that more than one person ate these mysterious fruits, and they have become glowy-eyed bloodthirsty berserkers prone to drenching their surroundings in blood.
No other medium but anime could have adapted this manga, I imagine, submerged as it is in time-honoured anime tropes. Sally’s clothes cling to her like wafer-thin latex, her legs especially shiny, her breasts incredibly (and utterly improbably) well-defined, with extra animation effort for the jiggle physics. We have a tiny little loli girl who wants every male character to lift up and carry her, who also declares on first meeting an adult male character “is this love?”. We have an untrustworthy priest guy in best Kirei Kotomine-style who is completely unable to hide his Evil Smirk. And we have bad guy characters who fire off hugely destructive energy beams that raze entire cities, but our badass good guys somehow have mysterious antigravity abilities that bend said annihilation rays around their bodies, leaving them utterly unharmed. Oh, and there’s a random fist-fighting nun. Yep. Anime.
Look, this is never going to win any Anime of the Year awards, but it does look pretty, it’s got a great Yandere-face game, Frau is the cutest mascot character of 2021 so far, and I’ve certainly not been bored by it. I expect I’ll keep watching to see if it all fits together properly in the end, though I’m unsure if it will leave a lasting impression more potent than “bunny girl good, tentacles why?”
Peach Boy Riverside
Based on the manga by: Coolkyousinnjya and Johanne
Director: Shigeru Ueda
Studio: Asahi Production
Streaming on: Crunchyroll
Episodes watched: 3