What can there be that is more pure of heart, than a young lady’s longings for her eventual wedding day? A maiden’s hope for walking the aisle with a beloved groom, and reciting vows sanctioned by ringing church bells, still inspires, and I believe humanity as a whole more fortunate that we have AN ENTIRE ANIME, a full 51 episodes, themed around these innocent wedding dreams.
Just as shonen fighting anime answer to a boy’s desires for strength, manliness, and leadership, shojo magical girls present girls with glamorous images of the beauties they wish to become when they reach womanhood. Often, the items they use to transform and attack are even cosmetics. The 1995-1996 series Wedding Peach has some of that, but the budding, beautiful love lives of the girls before and after they transform, and of classmates and family, is a sustained and welcome focus.
Momoko Hanasaki, Yuri Tanima, and Hinagiku Tamano are good friends attending the junior high St. Hanazono School, and together comprise the club responsible for the school newspaper. Momoko is the clumsy and ditsy one, rounded out by the more ladylike Yuri and sportive Hinagiku, and true to title, they all start the anime moved by a major crush. Problem is they, and almost all the female student body, has a crush on the same guy!
In a just-clinical case of hypergamy, the girls line the field during every soccer team match or practice, so to get a glimpse of blond, athletic, cool-yet-kind captain Kazuya Yanagiba. Without really realizing it, the main girls end up front-paging Yanagiba on nearly every issue of the paper. They even have the familiar ”pact” not to try to “get ahead” of the others, but with compliance only a benefit to the other two parties, violations are frequent. Other guys are of no interest, or just a plain bother, like goalie Yousuke Fuuma! He loves to tease Momoko, pet named “Momopi”, whenever he gets the chance.
Life in this developing romantic comedy gets complicated when a war between the Angel World and Demon World spills over into the Human World. One day, the demon Pluie, sent by Demon ruler Raindevila to find the Saint Something Four—on learning what these magical items were after a few episodes, my reaction was, Really, it’s THAT?—suddenly attacks Momoko and her friends, but the angel Limone arrives just in time to awaken Momoko’s latent powers as the Love Angel, Wedding Peach! Soon, Yuri awakens as Angel Lily and Hinaguku as Angel Daisy. These are some pretty transformations, but while Wedding Peach can use her Lovely Operation Tempete to drive devils out of possessed beings in this form, the outfits are as constraining as real wedding dresses, and so most of the time a second henshin is required to a more standard magical girl look in a leotard. Conventions are followed expertly, and there‘s also something cutely unique in their confrontation ritual: when the Love Angels are all together, they’ll often share a toast with milk.
Romance fans will love this series. In anime geared toward younger audiences, it’s common for villains to want to rid the world of love, yet in Wedding Peach, the focus is squarely on love between couples, such that the antagonists seem to me the legion forces seeking to drive the sexes apart, personalized. In one episode, the devils try make all the girls fat so guys will not find them attractive... well well now (meanwhile, the second ending, “Virgin Love”, appears a roundaboutly worded encouragement for girls to “wait” until their wedding, a practice known to strengthen marriages). Queen Raindevila’s credo, “If you meet someone who loves another, then you must kill them. If you meet someone in love, then you must kill them,” always gave me a shudder. At one point, her minion Igneous makes a Faust-like pact with Takuro Amano, a top student but scrawny and unpopular with the girls, giving him a better shot at his crush, Momoko, if he will serve them. Watching when the controversy over Joker was at its zenith, I noticed this was addressing the other side of the incel problem: the lonely, left out of the romance game, may turn to evil if an improvement to his fortunes is promised.
The Love Angels, on the other hand, serve as guardians of the couples deepening their love at St. Hanazono and in the surrounding community. And some of them, even if only featured for a single episode, are just adorable! One gripe that many have with certain romantic anime, whether shojo or harem, is that, after all those episodes, the characters never end up in declared relationships, and it looks as if they’re content with everything being unsettled indefinitely, and that does not, I repeat not, happen here! Everyone ends up with someone (yeah, someone even ends up with Yanagiba, can you believe it?), so if you’re the sort who wants all the drama sorted out when the anime concludes, this is really your series.
Following the main series, there’s a 4-episode OVA, Wedding Peach DX, set two years after the main action; the threat to the human world is not as serious, the stakes no longer so high. What’s deluxe about it? There is mild fanservice added in, and the opening is well done, but it‘s lamentable that a taste of continuation was given, without a full second season.
And one note further: No, St. Hanazono isn’t a real saint (checked the list of Japanese martyrs), but as I mentioned before, I did find it interesting how the devils often use possession in this anime, and offer deals to unscrupulous humans. Despite seeing numerous anime with nuns and Catholic schools, in hundreds of series viewed, I think this is the first time someone‘s audibly said “Catholic”, and, as an expletive, “Jesus”. Given the popularity of Christian-inspired chapel weddings in Japan, this all accords well with the matrimonial theme.