Right from the beginning, something kind of bugged me about Peach Boy Riverside. After the initial couple of episodes, I noticed it started jumping around in time pretty drastically, skipping over the aftermath of pretty large cliff-hangers and not seeming to address them at all. Then I realised that we were starting to jump backwards in time with no real explanation and realised I had to start digging into this.
I couldn’t understand why the show thought it needed to take this strange, nonlinear approach to its storytelling, especially when it felt like it was to its own detriment after the initial six episodes.
In the end, curiosity got the better of me and I had to go back and flick through the first few chapters of the original manga to see if it was paced in the same weird way as the anime. Given the entire basis of this post; you’ll probably be totally unsurprised to learn that the manga is structured in a traditional, linear fashion. Imagine that eh.
And you know what else? The story is so much easier to follow as a result. What a shock… It’s almost as if chopping up and changing the development of a story not written to be told that way can be confusing and off-putting. Especially with the approach Peach Boy Riverside has taken to adapting the source material. Or at least what little I read of it.
Non-traditional story structure can be used to tell some really cool stories. Be it for stylistic reasons, like your Pulp Fiction. Or to create a narrative punch like with Memento. I guess it’s probably unfair of me to compare this anime to a couple of cinematic masterpieces. But the point remains that those two stories were created to be told in non-traditional ways. This series: not to much.
The only reason the studio had to mix things around like they did was to give their show the best possible chance to come out of the gates swinging. Which I get, because the first two episodes of the anime really did have a massive impact on me and were primarily why I decided to keep up with watching the series after my 3 Episode Rule entry on it.
You’d think, after being able to start big and having grabbed the attention of the community amongst the tidal wave of new shows during the beginning of a new anime season, that they’d go back to the beginning with episode three and just let the story play out in a totally linear fashion as it does in the manga. But that’s not the choice the show decided to make.
The third episode jumps forward in time rather than going back, skipping past the rather major cliff-hanger the second episode left itself on. Introducing a ton of new elements and characters, leaving the main group we’ve met before now to kind of sit in the background, having one of them participate in a fighting tournament with another newly introduced supporting character; the result of which never actually gets shown. Almost like it was never important in the first place.
Then this episode ends on another cliff-hanger. Forcing Sally, the main character, into making a choice between two major characters to either ally with and work to broker peace between Humanity and the Oni or to simply destroy them all. It feel’s very Mass Effect in it’s stark black and white approach.
And yet, come the forth episode, that’s when we jump back to the very beginning and actually cover the beginning chapters of the manga in flashback. Which maybe wouldn’t have bothered me too much, except when we come back in episode five; the whole choice Sally was supposed to be making is gone and we’re suddenly in a different village telling a different story with Vampires.
Given the events of this episode and the one that follows it, I feel like we’re in events that take place between episodes 2 and 3. Seeing as how a character hanging around with Mikoto in 3 is only meeting him for the first time in 6. As far as I can tell, as of the time I’m writing this post; the chronological order of the episodes is 4, 1, 2, 5, 6, 3.
And all I have to ask is why?
The main reasons I can come up with for telling a story like this would be to provide mystery. In that the characters are trying to figure out something that happened to them, but can’t remember the events for some reason. Or it’s being done to mask some kind of major reveal, like how a movie based on a novel would move things around to avoid revealing the face of the villain. Whose identity is much easier to mask when you’ve only got the written word.
I don’t really see a reason for Peach Boy Riverside to do this, other than to give itself an action packed first episode. But then, if the manga started off slow, then that sounds like a problem it managed to overcome on its own. I mean it remains popular enough to have an anime adaption.
Several times we meet characters out of order, and undercut cliff-hangers by not following them up till several episodes later. By which time, the momentum build up from that story thread has kind of fizzled out, forgotten in the minds at least of idiots like me.
Right now, the only real mystery are what’s going on with Sally and Frau and their powers. And those really don’t seem like something worth mixing the timeline around for considering it’s kind of obvious what their actual deals are if you think about it. But it’s the thought that I might be wrong that keeps me wanting to come back for more.
As much as I think the scrambled timeline in this anime is ridiculous and unnecessary, I am still enjoying it for the most part. It’s got some good characters. Frau specifically is just heads and tails above everyone else as the best character in the series so far for me. At first I just thought they were going to be the cute mascot character, but after the events of episode five I released there was much more to them. Which made me all the more invested to see where they went.
Outside of Frau, we have our typical fantasy anime trappings, where humanity are all portrayed as the worst group of xenophobic assholes as a general rule. And the nice characters are all the exception. Where it keeps my interest it the duality of both sides of this conflict. While Sally and Mikoto are being portrayed as the traditional heroic roles for the story, they both have this sadistic, violent side to them.
And on the other side, we are seeing both evil and misunderstood Oni. These shades of grey on both sides are creating enough intrigue that the messed up timeline is more of an inconvenient pain in the arse rather than a deal breaker.
Even though the show it trying pretty hard to make us think this Armin Arlert looking mother fucker is going to be the major villain of the series, I do have enough faith in the show that it could pull some twists and turns on me and have a strong conclusion… that is if I can remember what parts of the story are supposed to be important as I recover from my narrative whiplash leaping through the timeline