Content Warning: cishet male gaze, hyperviolence, sexual tentacles, racism against fantasy races.
What’s it about? Former princess Sally helps Frau, a harefolk girl, in the forest while on a journey in search of Mikoto, the Peach Boy. The sheltered princess quickly learns demihumans aren’t quite welcome among the humans as they are arrested by Hawthorn Grattor, a royal knight of Rimdarl. The three forge a strange sense of camaraderie as a pair of ogres descend upon the walled city.
How do I talk about this show? At its surface, Peach Boy Riverside plays on the classic folktale of Momotaro and gives it an edgy new “what-if” continuation. It plays on the assumption that the peach hero is a sword-wielding wunderkind, adept at committing genocide against a race of horned monsters known as ogres, and it assumes such demons are naturally the root of all evil.
Peach Boy Riverside seems to hint that there is some undercurrent of literary criticism to that canon. That is to say, this is nothing new about fresh takes on Momotaro—plenty of stories have done versions. Some of your favorite anime have likely even parodied this story as one-shot filler episodes. So among the many different retellings, it’s nothing new to argue: “what if Momotaro was a douchebag for massacring a bunch of ogres?”
But Peach Boy Riverside doesn’t quite go there and instead presents an uneasy set of mixed signals in its art direction, narrative and characters. There’s tension through much of the first episode as we establish “humans hate demihumans,” “ogres bad,” and “Sally might also be homicidal.” With the villagers constantly warning Sally of how dangerous Frau is, it feels like this should all amount to something: either Frau turning out to be an homage to Monty Python or that perhaps the humans were the baddies all along, but none of this quite happens.
The humans learn that Frau might not be all that bad, but there’s no heartfelt moment of recognition that they should stop being racist. Instead they’re left to reflect on their biases after being saved by Frau’s powerful kick and a kind word of thanks for their hospitality. Sally assumes the villagers will now be better about the whole discriminating against “demihumans” thing, but who really knows?
What we do learn, however, is that the core cast do at least seem rather solid with each other. Hawthorn appears to be a good guy overall, but he’s kind of an any-man at this point. There’s nothing to complain about him, but nothing to necessarily laud. He’s just there to move the story along. He is, however, in the credits sequence, so I’m guessing he’s cool enough to be a main character SOMEHOW.
Sally is the “princess with a mysterious past.” She seems nice enough, but the show treats her as fanservice fodder for much of the first episode. Her breasts jiggle and contort, making them the most animated part of her character. She spies an octopus in a street market and has flashbacks to being violated by tentacles. The children make sure to point to her for the audience’s sake and say: “Check out the knockers on her!” (it’s okay, the kids are obliterated a few minutes later.) She’s not even trying to be all that sexy, but her natural state seems to be “boob joke” or “edgelord.”
Yes, tits aside, whenever we’re not staring directly at her chest, the camera instead focuses on Sally’s face to show off she is absolutely “not your regular princess.” She’s got flashbacks, a burning peach in her right eye and the superhuman ability to kill ogres with a knife. I mean, sure. OK. I liked Seras Victoria from Hellsing too.
Frau, on the other hand, is a sweetheart. A powerful bunny girl who is friendshaped. She can kick an ogre to death. Heck, she’s voiced by M.A.O. Best girl. 10/10.
For all that the show focuses on fluid dynamics through Sally’s boobs, I do appreciate that Frau is distinctly unsexualized. She’s a weird girl with minimal, unexaggerated features, save for her huge weird head. She is perhaps the most expressive member of the cast and her cartoony appearance is used well. I’ll note carrots aren’t actually all that good for rabbits, but her love for them is cute too.
If there was a reason why to watch this show, it’s probably her at this point.
Frau’s cute features and Sally’s relative pleasant demeanor (when not killing ogres) presents a conflicting tone for the show overall. For the first half of the episode, there’s violence, but it’s pretty clean, nothing gory. Yet the second half quickly shifts for the bloodier as children are blasted into smithereens, limbs are ripped off and people are turned into red mist.
What is this show trying to do? Well, whatever it is, it’s kind of a cacophony. A double length premier or a more consistent tone to the first episode may have helped congeal everything better, but it’s all kind of a mess right now. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the anime is apparently airing out of order since it makes more sense that way or something.
I’d say check a few more episodes out to see how it goes if you want, but I’m also aware this is the first day of the new season. You could very well hold out for something better.