「決意と別れ」 (Ketsui to Wakare)
“Resolutions and Goodbyes”
In the finale for Peach Boy Riverside, we come to the conclusion that ogres are made of human hatred, and because of this, Sally’s quest to solve racism has one major roadblock; ending hate would begin and conclude with ending ogres. The main question Sally would have to ask herself in this last episode is exactly how close she can get to equality by shedding as little blood as possible.
It figures that the anime wouldn’t end at a satisfying point with Sally merely coming to the conclusion of killing the ogres that disagree with her. I can tell why it was tempting to end the broadcast like this because one of the last scenes is Sally thinking she solved racism because she was able to gather a table where elves, reptiles, and humans can behave and converse. But she still has barely any understanding or grasp of who she is, why she has her eye, and if she can have her cake and eat it too by deciding that she’ll just murder anyone who interferes with her quest to unify all races.
This is also a point in the story where only Sally is allowed to develop in any meaningful way. Sumeragi talked himself out of a fight once again by blathering his way out of Mikoto’s line of vision. Hatsuki is treated as nothing by both the tree ogre and Sally’s fists. Frau, Winnie, and Hawthorn only get a smidge of interaction with anyone in this episode. If you think of this as just another episode halfway through the series, it’s far more reasonable and less rage-inducing than having to see this as the finale that ties everything together and lets you know how far all of the characters have come since we began.
You know those cursed YouTube remixes where they take popular songs and completely rearrange the instruments or lyrics to the point where they sound unlistenable? Like playing “Feel Good Inc.” with the instruments at 5 bpm or “All-Star” but in alphabetical order? That’s the same experience as watching Peach Boy Riverside, an anime that would make perfect sense if the director didn’t think it’d be more artistic to place the events out-of-sequence.
It’s a textbook example of why the Pulp Fiction treatment is difficult to do with a TV show. Whereas you can sit down and have a movie shown out-of-sequence because the story is a one-and-done experience, you need a certain kind of story to make it work with a TV show. The show would have to be structured around its timeline to make it all the more satisfying to learn about these details. The payoff comes from watching a past or future moment that grants significance to the point they stopped at.
With Haruhi Suzumiya, it worked nicely because you didn’t need to know the exact details of where you were at. What you’re looking at will shed light on what happened in the past because one episode’s ending will complement the other even if it’s going far into the past or future.
With this anime, you need the details now because the details of what you’re being shown are operating off of information that it assumes you would’ve known by now. An episode will end, but instead of being excited to learn about what just happened, you’re fearful that you’re being redirected into an entirely different event that will make you put what you just learned on the backburner until 4 episodes from now. It’s not a show that’s tailored towards the out-of-sequence order in a natural flowing progression; it’s a show that’s forced into an out-of-sequence order.
It doesn’t make it impactful that you learn about important details later on when you needed the details earlier to either endear yourself with a character, empathize with where they’re coming from, and understand their abilities. Where it feels purposefully incoherent because details you were supposed to have earlier on were withheld for dramatic effect.
You could rewatch it if you really want to experience a better pay-off for what you just watched, but why would you want to? Any kind of investment you could’ve had is circumvented by how dull the overall story is. Cool-kyou Shinja excels when the story is a low-stakes slice-of-life about couples, dragons, or paizuri. But when you try to make this author create a serious story about the moral dilemma of defining good and evil in a world where equality is constantly undermined, every character feels like they’re in an entirely different story.
While Sally embodies the passionate warrior for equality you’d find with a lighter shonen adventure, everyone else is operating as if they’re trapped in the Akame ga Kill universe where it’s kill-or-be-killed in an unjust world. Everyone’s just a walking stick figure that’s either blindly devoted to bringing peace or hellbent on murdering whoever interferes with their own selfish ambitions. And even then, Sally ends up defaulting to the idea that those who oppose her idea of peace can die, making her only slightly more of a pacifist than Mikoto “Kill ‘em All” Kibitsu.
Peach Boy Riverside could have been a middle-of-the-road anime that explored prejudice and intolerance in fantasy settings. But any meaningful discourse that can come from the series is quickly drowned out by the mistakes made by airing the anime out-of-sequence. While the decision was made so that the anime ends right on the point where Sally sees a couple of humans and demihumans behaving in front of her, it sacrifices coherence to do so. If you want to rewatch this series in chronological order, more power to you. But I didn’t have enough interest in the show as a whole to piece the timeline back together as the story intended.