One of best series to come out in the 1990's, Ai Tenshi Densetsu Wedding Peach ("Legendary Love Angel Wedding Peach") combines many traditional magical girl elements with those of more contemporary majoko shows such as Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon and Nurse Angel Lilika SOS to create a truly fantastic viewing experience. In addition to the various young shoujo elements, the creators have infused the show with more references than any other show this reviewer has ever seen (please refer to the references list while reading this article.) The story draws inspiration from the traditional Western wedding ceremony, the various etiquette elements that surround it, Biblical references of the story of the Devil being an Angel who was cast out of Heaven, and using command phrases that are partially in French, considered the "language of love" all over the world.
The story revolves around 12 year old Hanasaki Momoko and her two best friends, Tanima Yuri & Tamano Hinagiku. They become involved in the eternal battle between the Angel World and the Devil World, with the Human World being the battle ground.
The Angels' four most powerful magical talismans, the Sacred Something Four, were lost somewhere in the Human World long ago. When the Devils learn of this, they begin to search through the Human World for the talismans. The Angels' chief lieutenant, Angel Limone, chooses Momoko and her two friends to help defend the Human World from the Devils and to help him recover the Sacred Something Four. If they fail, the Devils will rule supreme, establishing a reign of hatred over all three worlds.
The story has various plot twists and turns, although it doesn't reach the real heart of the story until perhaps volume 3 - the first two volumes serve to introduce the characters and basic background.
All three girls have a major crush on the captain of the soccer team, Yanagiba Kazuya, and the competition between them to win his heart provides a unique approach to the usual romantic drama found in these types of shows. The lead goalee of the soccer team, Fuuma Yousuke, constantly teases Momoko, causing her endless grief - underneath all this, though, it is very apparent that they like each other, despite their own protests against it. All of these character interactions cause a great deal of comedy and drama in the story - my sister found herself laughing at some points and crying 10 seconds later!
One important point that makes this series very different from many of the current magical girl stories is that the three girls very rarely physically fight their opponents -instead, Angel Lily (Yuri) and Angel Daisy (Hinagiku) use their powers to immobilize the Devils they face so that Angel Wedding Peach (Momoko) can purify them with the "Power Of Love". Everything in the series revolves around the idea that the "power of love", if it is pure enough and one's belief in it is strong enough, is stronger than any other power or force, and that all life can coexist peacefully.
The series is designed for the hopeless romantic in everyone, and is very much a modern day version of Romeo & Juliet - in fact, then first ending song is called "Juliet of the 21st. Century".
There are various musical pieces in Wedding Peach that really stand out. Both openings and endings (four songs total) are terrific examples of J-pop at its best - all but one of them are sung by Furil, the group formed by the three seiyuu who do the voices of Momoko, Yuri, and Hinagiku. The instrumental pieces range from being inspired by the traditional "Here Comes The Bride" to various hard rock pieces (the latter used to signify the arrival of the Devils.)
The character designs for Wedding Peach were done by Tadano Kazuko, who also did the adaptation of the designs for the Sailor Moon anime and the Graduation OVA series. The art detail is very good, especially on the various clothes and outfits, both magical and otherwise, that the girls wear. In fact, the clothes designer for the series deserves endless admiration - the enormous variety of outfits that the girls wear lend a great deal of reality to their characters.
Their wedding dresses and "Fighter Angel" outfits after they transform are breathtaking. The scenery and backgrounds are all fairly detailed, unlike most magical girl shows of just a couple of years ago.
Naturally, the animation during the transformations that the girls go through is very good. One thing that makes Wedding Peach unique is that the girls must undergo a two-stage transformation. The first stage transforms them into beautiful wedding dresses - this is necessary for them to build up their "Waves Of Love" for the second stage. After the first stage is complete, they can "oironaoshi" (change clothes) into lightly armored body suits with short skirts, shoulder pads, and garters which allows them to move much more freely. It's interesting to notice that even the usual day-to-day activities that the girls go through are animated very nicely, too. Their hair moves in individual strands, their dresses move freely just as they would in real life, etc.
This series has one of the most beautiful, moving storylines ever written, and has the most beautiful ending I have ever seen. It proved popular enough for Studio KSS to continue the story of the Ai Tenshi in a four-part OVA series; the first OVA was released on 12/24/1996 (rather fitting, I think). The first OVA features a "power-up" for the Ai Tenshi - they have a final transformation to true Angels!
Hanasaki Momoko - Love Angel Wedding Peach
"Wedding Beautiful Flower"
"Wedding Change - Oironaoshi" ("oironaoshi" means change clothes, specifically for the bride to change clothes and freshen her make-up between the wedding ceremony and the reception)
"Angel Amour Peach" ("amour" means "love")
"Lovely Operation Tempete" (said when Peach purifies opponent using bouquet) ("tempete" means "tempest" in French)
"Saint Miroir Bridal Flash" ("miroir" is French for "mirror")
"Wedding Bridal Verse" (said by Momoko before using the Sacred Crystal)
"Saint Crystal, Love For You" (after Momoko recovers the Sacred Something Old)
Tanima Yuri - Love Angel Lily
"Wedding Graceful Flower"
"Wedding Change - Oironaoshi"
"Angel Prescience Lily"
"Saint Lipliner Lily Rainbow"
"Otome no Bridal Veil" ("Bridal Veil of the Maiden", said by Lily before using the Sacred Strahl)
"Saint Strahl Star Dust" (after Yuri recovers the Sacred Something Blue) ("strahl" means "straw")
Tamano Hinagiku - Love Angel Daisy
"Wedding Attractive Flower"
"Wedding Change - Oironaoshi"
"Angel Courage Daisy"
"Saint Pendule Daisy Blizzard" ("pendule" is French for "watch")
"Ai no Memorial Candle" ("Memorial Candle of Love", said by Daisy before using the Sacred Tornade)
"Saint Tornade Dreaming" (after Hinagiku recovers the Sacred Something Borrowed)
("tornade" means "wind" or maybe "tornado")
Scarlet O'Hara - Love Angel Salvia
"Wedding Excellent Flower"
"Wedding Change - Oironaoshi"
"Angel Passionate Salvia"
"Saint Pure Sword - Bridal Fire"
"If you find anyone getting married - kill them!"
"If you find anyone in love - kill them!" --- Queen ReinDevilla to her minions ("Rein Devilla" is French for "Queen Devil")
Pistil & Etamin - name of the Angels who originally were married using the Sacred Something Four (I'm pretty sure "Etamin" means "Stamen")
Yanagiba Kazuya - captain of Hanazono Gakuen's soccer team, and source of unrequitted love for endless streams of girls
Fuuma Yosuke - goalee of Hanazono Gakuen's soccer team, and primary source of both pain and joy for Momoko
Jama-Pi - originally Pluii's pet, but later purified by Angel Wedding Peach, and becomes Momoko's mascot
Pluii - 1st. minion lieutenant sent by Queen ReinDevilla to recover the Sacred Something Four from the Human World
Aqualda - 2nd. minion lieutenant sent to aid Plurii
Blitz, Noise, and Cloud - the three minions of Sandara, who was instructed to dispatch the Ai Tenshi and recover the Sacred Something Four after Plurii and Aqualda had both failed. Their powers are related to their names: Blitz = light, Noise = sound, and Cloud = air
Igunisu - lieutenant minion sent in the middle episodes after the Ai Tenshi have retrieved the Sacred Something Four; establishes a bond with Hinagiku's childhood male friend Takuro, who literally "makes a deal with the devil"
Potamos - VERY cute lieutenant minion sent to aid Igunisu; she seems immediately taken by Yosuke, for some reason, and claims his DNA is calling to her ...
Sakura (Celeste is her real name) - Momoko's mother, who died (supposedly) when she was very young; what really happened, though?
Aphrodite (Goddess of Love & Beauty) - ruler of the Angel World, and the one who instructs the girls as to their destiny
Angel Limone - chief lieutenant of the Angel World's defenses, and protector of the Ai Tenshi; he also informs the girls on how to use their talismans
Momoko's father is a photographer. He mainly does layouts of weddings for a bridal journal. All three girls are part of the school's newspaper club, and rely on Momoko to borrow her father's equipment from time to time (her father doesn't mind, though, and actually encourages her to be a photographer)
If you are curious as to why Jama-Pi always seems to appear to be in the stomach area rather than the chest area when he has possesses someone, it's because the Japanese traditionally believed that a person's heart was in their stomach (the center of their "spirit", not their physical heart).
The speech that Wedding Peach always makes to the Devils she faces says basically that they have done something to make her very upset (literally, "you've made my mood crooked")
"Momo" means "peach", "-ko" means "little", so Momoko's name actually means "Little Peach"
"Hana" means "flower", and "saki" means "destiny", so Momoko's full name becomes "Little Peach Blossom of Destiny" - which is very fitting
"Yuri" means "Lily", and "Tanima" means "Valley", so Yuri's name is "Lily of the Valley"
"Hinagiku" means "Daisy", and "Tama" means "Rare", so Hinagiku's name is "Daisy of Rarity"
"Sakura" means "cherry blossom" (Momoko's mother's name)
"Salvia" is a red flower, exactly as shown in the series
The name of the school is "Sei Hanazono Gakuen" which translates as "Saint Flower Garden Academy"
The Sacred Something Four are the actual representations of the four items that a bride is supposed to carry down the aisle with her: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue. This comes from an old saying, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a penny in your shoe". The specific symbolic references for these items are brought forth explicitly in the final episode. Traditionally, their symbolism is:
Something Old - for continuance
Something New - for the future
Something Borrowed - for good luck (good luck rubs off!)
Something Blue - for fertility (also the color associated with the Virgin Mary)
A Penny In Your Shoe - for fortune & prosperity
The "-Pi" suffix is often used by young girls among friends, and also when refering to their boyfriends - this explains why Momoko gets so annoyed when Yousuke teasingly calls her "Momo-Pi" all the time