Judge Sandra Dozier dons her wedding battle gear to take on some surprising new developments in this series.
Don't look now, but there's a new girl in town…
Momoko Hanasaki is a good-hearted, if slightly daffy, girl who leads a double life. She's also known as Wedding Peach, the leader of a team of fighting Angels who protect the goddess Aphrodite and all the Angels in heaven against the evil of Lady Raine Devila and her minions, the Devils. Momoko and her friends Yuri and Hinagiku are the Love Angels, who fight in wedding dresses or bridal battle gear and wield special talismans called the Saint Something Four—from the old "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" wedding tradition. To date, the fourth angel has not been found, but they have found her talisman and expect her any day now.
The goal of the Love Angels is to protect Aprhodite and the heavens by securing the Saint Something Four and defeating any Devil they encounter with their Love Wave—a powerful manifestation of the love each Angel holds in her heart, which can purify Devils of their hate and fear. They are guided by Limone, a heavenly servant to Aphrodite, and quite a little teenage hottie himself. When not saving the world, Momoko is busy trying to figure out if she loves Yosuke, a classmate who calls her "Momopi," if only to annoy her, and with whom she shares a love/hate relationship. They're destined for each other, of course.
Volume six, Rivals, marks several exciting changes for the Wedding Peach series, and this is reflected in the packaging. ADV is offering this volume as both a boxed set, which includes episodes 28-33 and a bonus disc full of extras, and a stand-alone that offers episodes 28-33 by themselves. More on the extras later; let's get to the exciting changes, already!
• Episode 28
• Episode 29
• Episode 30
• Episode 31
• Episode 32
• Episode 33
This volume marks the halfway point for the series, and the storyline is beginning to change from a lighthearted and almost naïve romance comedy to a romantic drama with intrigue (the Angel/Devil war) and action (more powerful enemies to fight). Unless you've been paying close attention and perhaps overanalyzing an otherwise creampuff series, the true identity of Limone in Episode 32 should come as a big surprise, but this is not really what kicks off the change in tone.
The series loses some of its innocence when Igneous is killed. Even before being exposed to the Love Wave, he remained on earth, lingering with Takuro when he should have been hunting Love Angels. The departure of Igneous leaves Takuro shattered, not because he will lose his Devil-born powers, but because, as despicable as Igneous was, he encouraged Takuro to come out of his shell and made him stand on his own two feet. Igneous, who at times has been comical and brutal, transforms here, and when he finally expires, all alone but with love in his heart, it's a touching and sympathetic finale. His successor, Potamos, will take an even more complicated path, turning slowly not because of a love wave from an Angel but because of her continued exposure to humans and alter-identity as a student.
What happens next with the Angel/Devil war, the Fourth Love Angel, and how things develop now that Momoko and Limone have new and interesting relationships to deal with, is something to look forward to in future volumes.
Wedding Peach is a recent series, so both sound and audio transfer to DVD are excellent, with bright colors that pop on screen. While the animation has a sort of simplistic quality (except in reused sequences, such as when the girls change into wedding dress and battle gear outfits or activate their weapons), I find it works for this series as a counterpoint to the subject matter. When love literally conquers all, most viewers are already making a leap of faith that doesn't need further complication by overly glossy or busy visuals.
The Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack is clear and robust for both the Japanese and English soundtracks. I am partial to the English dub for Wedding Peach, partly because I think ADV did an excellent job of casting this series (especially for Yosuke and Yanagiba, two key male roles), but also for the way Momoko is portrayed. In the original Japanese I didn't like her much—she came off as too petulant and harsh in scenes when I thought she should be more understanding, more forgiving, or more…you know, like a Love Angel. I like Larissa Wolcott's interpretation of Momoko as someone who has a spitfire temper but who also has a deep well of love that is her first inclination in any situation. Unless backed against a wall, Momoko is a gentle, nurturing type who likes to share her kindness with others. I also would not miss a second of Potamos, who is played by Jenny Larson in a brassy, cracking voice that so perfectly fits this character, it blows the original performance (which is also very good) out of the water.
Extras in the box set are plentiful but contain warnings that they may spoil the latter half of the series. I watched every minute anyway, and I didn't have a problem with them. One new character, who appears in Volume Seven, is mentioned, and vague references to later events are made, but nothing in great detail that can't already be predicted or guessed at. My only advice is to watch the extras after watching all six episodes on Volume Six, or the revelation about Limone will be spoiled for you.
• "The Love Angel Task Force's Final Battle" is an extra episode that, judging by the plot and the appearance of characters in chibi form, is probably a stand-alone "omake" (extra) that is done outside of the current series storyline, for fun. At the very least, do not watch this episode until you have seen all of the episodes on the main disc, but you may even want to save this one until you get to see Volume Seven, since it features the fourth Love Angel, who hasn't been introduced yet. However, although it may be a little disorienting, nothing is spoiled here.
• "Message of Love from New FURIL" is a short (10-minute) featurette of interviews with the Japanese voice actors for Momoko, Daisy, Lilly, and the fourth Love Angel that was recorded at the end of the series run. All the girls are cute and have their publicity faces on in a big way, so there aren't any big secrets here.
• "Secret Talk with the Staff and Cast" is a bit more informal, starting with a roundtable discussion between the Japanese sound director and voice talent. Since no one is introduced at the beginning of the featurette, here's a quick run around the table: Clockwise, starting with the cool guy in glasses, is the voice talent for Captain Yanagiba (Shinichiro Miki), the sound director (name never given), and the voice talent for Yosuke (Yuji Ueda) and Jama-P (Miwa Matsumoto). The voice actor for Pluie (Kazuki Yao) also has a short segment, where he gives his thoughts about "Pluie Double R" from the extra episode, and the voice actress for Potamos (Kotono Mitsuishi) also says a short hello. This is probably where most of the spoiler detail comes in, although it is spoken of in such vague terms that it isn't really much of a problem.
• "English Voice Actor Interviews" is a beefy (40-minute) roundtable with the voice talent for Jama-P (Bill Wise), Lady Raine Devila (Lainie Frasier), Captain Yanagiba (Brian Jepson), and Potamos (Jenny Larson). This interview stays pretty tightly focused on the ins and outs of voice acting, with questions about how each actor got his/her start, what they do to get into character, and advice for anyone who wants to break into voice acting. Once nice part is getting to see their faces, something you don't get from a commentary track. This is a great segment for fans of ADV voice talent and anyone interested in the business of voice acting.
• Original Opening Sequence: the original Japanese opening with unaltered lettering.
• Clean Opening/Closing: I can't tell these apart from what comes with the main DVD, but these are basically clean sequences, without credits or subtitles.
It's nice to see a series like Wedding Peach, which could so easily bog down in formula plots, keep things fresh and entertaining. Instead of running out of steam, this series just keeps getting better.
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