Paradise Kiss

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sothis's avatar By sothis on Mar 5, 2007

Story

When I was 21 and a great deal more naive, I was in a relationship that I shouldn’t have been in, with a man who was not right for me. He was a player, spoke sweet nothings into my ear and set off multitudes of red flags in my mind; nevertheless, I couldn’t resist, and was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. It ended, of course, in a less than desirable manner, and I questioned myself for some time as to why I let myself become involved. If you are a woman, odds are you’ve had a similar kind of experience.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that watching Paradise Kiss resonated so strongly with me, and depending on your own experiences, may resonate equally as strongly for you.

The story follows a high school senior named Yukari, as she struggles to live up to her mother’s unrealistic expectations of her. Like a coat of armor without a soul, she lives her life from day to day, studying endlessly and working her way towards graduation; but something is missing from her life. After a chance encounter with Arashi, a pierced and eccentric art student, Yukari is thrust into the world of fashion design, and soon her shaky ambitions and dreams come crashing down around her. Faced with the option of becoming a model, our heroine must decide whether she will live the life her mother desires for her, or follow a new path.

First of all, the premise of Paradise Kiss is quite unique; how often have you seen an anime that focuses on the fashion design industry? Deeper than that, though, is a rich vein of character development that is unearthed from beginning to end. At the crux of the series is a relationship between the naive Yukari and the almost narcissistic George, who she can’t resist. He treats her badly, and she distrusts her own emotions, but yet they continue their dysfunctional dance. Other relationships are also showcased, and each contains similar melancholy themes. I’ll refrain from going into detail here, as I discuss this to some length in the characters section, below.

Paradise Kiss, like a handful of other series before it, portrays a very realistic look at adult relationships. In a typical anime, the climax of an entire 26 episodes is the moment when two characters, in a long term relationship, finally decide to kiss. I don’t know about you, but that’s a little too middle school for me. Paradise Kiss is also not shy about broaching the topic of sex, something which is rarely mentioned in non-hentai and non-ecchi anime. In general, seeing that the characters are acting like adults (as they are adults) makes the relationships and the emotions much more real and ultimately believable.

I personally loved the dynamics, flow, and content of the story. As a realistic drama, the relationships between the characters make Paradise Kiss definitely worth a viewing.


Animation

As a preliminary note, I have to say that I was sucked into Paradise Kiss from the first few minutes of episode one. As someone who wears cyberpunk/industrial-style clothing, Harajuku is one of my favorite places to visit and shop at when I go to Japan. Imagine my delight, then, with seeing real footage of places like La Foret (a large shopping mall that used to house a branch of Fotus, my favorite designer). Moment of delight #2 soon followed, when random animals were shown traversing the streets of Japan for no apparent reason (and revisited the screen, subsequently, during scene transitions and the occasional commercial break).

Similar to older Leiji Matsumoto anime, the character designs for Paradise Kiss are very different than the norm. Long, detailed faces accompany thin bodies and realistic movements. "Camera" angles are effective and help draw attention to the dialogue. For example, there is one scene where two of the characters are eating dinner, but all we see, visually, is bowls of food on the table and how they are being manipulated. There is plenty of chibi-styled animation, though unlike the usual chibis, the ones in Paradise Kiss look almost like something out of Charlie Brown.


Sound

Like the story and animation, the audio of Paradise Kiss oozes style. The intro song is incredibly catchy, a 80s-sounding dance track with poppy vocals. With a J-pop, metal, and punk flair, the songs in-series are also fantastic. Voice actors all did an excellent job, though Yukari’s seiyuu sounded a little old for her character.


Characters

With a varied cast of eccentric characters, it’s easy to become attached to the stars of Paradise Kiss.

The self-conscious and naive Yukari is the perfect, if not melancholy, complement to the self-centered, egotistical, and artistic George. Yukari has always felt like a failure because of her mother’s reactions, and finds solace in the notion of a new and more exciting life with George and the other members of Paradise Kiss. Her lack of self esteem is crushing at times, and has a strong effect on both her friendships and relationship with George; a relationship she knows she should end, but can’t bring herself to do it.

Themes of broken relationships, jealousy, and co-dependence extend beyond Yukari and George’s relationship; in fact, these themes are entwined in almost every relationship we see. George’s mother is portrayed as a mentally younger version of Yukari, who struggles with the same co-dependence and self consciousness. Miwako and Arashi, the two main secondary characters, share an equally as troubled relationship due to misunderstood motives and unwarranted accusations. Even the mature and level-headed Isabella has her own skeletons in the closet.

While other reviewers found the characters to be beyond redemption, I found the roles to be compelling and at times, heart-wrenching. The last episode of the series is a perfect wrap-up to the characters’ lives, providing a bittersweet ending for the characters who we have watched grow and change.


Overall

I found Paradise Kiss to be a wonderful blend of style, characters, and relationships. This definitely isn’t a happy-go-lucky series, and could be considered depressing. Nevertheless, I found its realistic look at relationships refreshing, and the character interactions emotionally engaging. Paradise Kiss probably isn’t for everybody, but I think it’s safe to say that if you watch a few episodes and find it interesting, it will probably be something you’ll enjoy, just like I did.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
vivafruit's avatar By vivafruit on Mar 27, 2007

Story

From the summaries I had read, I was expecting Paradise Kiss to basically be teenie-bopping wish fulfillment. Namely, the kind where an average chick somehow stumbles into an easy and comfortable lifestyle through little actual effort on her part, ala Princess Diaries.

Fortunately, this is not an air-headed, chauvinistic Cinderella story of some girl swept off her feet from poverty into economic dependence and financial stability. Rather, at its core, this is a simple but compelling coming-of-age story, in which a previously ambitionless and enervated girl finds a passion and a dream, and works to achieve this dream.

Many people (including myself) cringe at the term "coming-of-age," but thats really what Parakiss is all about. In the beginning, our protagonist is drifting without a purpose, lost in a world that she cares little about. The payoff, then, is watching her gradually strengthen and grow as she finds something that she IS interested in. In this way, Parakiss plays like a cooler, smoother Honey and Clover; although ParaKisss story isnt nearly as fulfilling or heart-wrenching as H+C, fans of one should almost certainly like the other.


Animation

The animation style is above all unique and creative. All things told, this is probably the most visually inventive show on television that I've seen this year. Granted, its not perfect; actual movement can sometimes be awkward, and for comedic moments, the show devolves into a "cartoony" look that may distract some. Still, this is more than made up for in the brilliant character design and the wonderful coloring.


Sound

The OP/ED are rock solid. The Franz Ferdinand song (which is actually fairly repetitive and dull in its full length version) works brilliantly in its shortened form, especially when combined with characters from the show in stylized chibi form dancing their heart out.

The rest of the music is pretty mediocre. Most of it consists of one line of notes repeated continuously with minimal variation, to the extent that the music grated on me a little even as I was watching the show. Still, for the most part it fits the mood the show is going for.


Characters

The animes cast is as diverse as it is compelling. Highlights include a cross-dresser, a bisexual, and a dude with safety pin pierces all over his face. However, by end of the show you love all of them. Despite their trendy, flamboyant appearances, none of these characters define themselves by their labels, but by their personalities, passions and ideas.

At the center of all of them is Yukari, our relatively normal and apathetic protagonist. For a while, she is used as a foil to the other characters in a similar way to how Saki was used in Genshiken, but this gradually changes. As Yukari becomes further entrenched into the world of fashion, she begins to grow wonderfully as a character.


Overall

In the world of the tragically hip, Western Cool and Eastern Cool are not only completely different from each other, but often mutually exclusive. Western Cool seems to focus on the sexual freedom, savvy materialism and loud music, while Eastern Cool is all about internal harmony, asceticism and the twanging koto.*

The reason I bring this up is that Paradise Kiss is perhaps the first anime I have seen that is totally, undeniably, Western Cool. Previous attempts at Western Cool in anime have been tempered somewhat with Eastern Cool (take Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop as examples), but not so with Paradise Kiss. Everything feels so authentically urban, so extremely worldly, that the show seems more American than Japanese. For example, the OP is the kind of slick, well-produced material that finds itself on the top 100 billboard all the time here in the States, while the ED actually is a chart topping song by British band Franz Ferdinand. The plot is similarly Western. This is no typical shoujo; while there is romance, this is largely secondary to the protagonist's introduction to the materialistic, hip, and independent world of fashion.

As a whole, this show is most notable for the fact that it's a complete embrace of Western thoughts and values in a country generally considered to be extremely conservative. Does this represent Japan's spiritual downfall into materialism, or its evolution into tolerance? I honestly have no fucking clue, but I do know one thing: Paradise Kiss is a very good show. The characters and plot are far deeper than the show's glossy surface would lead you to believe, and as a whole I'd recommend this to anyone even mildly receptive to shoujo.

* Yes, I do realize the irony in writing an anime review and pretending to know anything about what cool is.

7.5/10 story
8/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
xxjacobxx3's avatar By xxjacobxx3 on Dec 12, 2010

story:

This anime is unique. It has a certain type of feel to it, that you should be able to recognize after 2 or 3 episodes. The story is about a small group of people that join together to design, craft/make, and model clothing. I personaly dont like that sort of thing, but that, of course, doesnt make the entire anime. There are other aspects within the characters lives that are focused on too. This is generally an adventure-romantic anime. (adventure in this case meaining... trying to get out into the world to make a living, while going down a more risky path. Risky = musician, inventor, etc = people that chance a living. if they dont make it big then a lot of time wasted)).

Animation:

The animation was fine for the anime. Great looking characters, and no scene where i thought they should have put more effort into it to smoot it out. Its not an action anime.

Sound:

One thing i noticed about this anime, was that there isnt that much music or sounds or w/e, which adds to its uniqueness. When i play a game i like to hear the effects so that i can better focus. Well... thats what this anime is like. You can focus more on the depth of the feelings than on the "moody" music environment.

Characters:

I think, that although most of the characters are outstandingly stupid or annoying, it is realistic. The main girl gets mad at the guy and still loves him etc. then goes back and forth thinking she likes another guy... George is such a flirt with women... You dont know what he is thinking. I think he is a lot more simple though than that, but you cant pin him down... which is part of his character. He is probably simple minded, yet, since he doesnt express it very well, you dont want to assume anything... since if you do, he can just talk his way out of it.

Recommendation:

If you want to watch certain realistic environments or personalities I reccommend it. It isnt perfectly realistic (just a lot more than other anime). If you hate watching idiots who dont learn their lessons (know it, and dont seem to care), please walk away. I see too much of that shit in real life. I watch anime to get away (distract me temporarily, to settle my stress (rest)) from a lot of that junk. I rated it a 3/4 though, since, for what it is, it is well done, and there are probably a good chunk of people out there that can relate to it.

7.5/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
kaoriblaza's avatar By kaoriblaza on Jul 9, 2010

I found out too late that this was 17+, but the storyline was excellent, so again, I was forced by my annoying "GOTTA FINISH ALL ANIMES I START WATCHING" bug in my head to finish -_-

Even so, this anime was pleasing, I guess. It was VERY realistic. None of the events that occured were spoonfuls of some fantasy world at all. Actually, this was the most realistically painful anime I've ever watched! When I watched it, I felt like it was an actual story just put into animation!

I must warn you if you are the sensitive type, this anime's manga was written by Ai Yazawa, who is a genious with storylines and drama, but believes in lessons rather than the characters' happiness in the end.[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ai_Yazawa][/url]

I actually am the sensitive type, so...

In the end I might have ended up causing a house flood... T_T

But the lesson is very impactful, and this is a realistic anime, with a genious behind its manga, so I have no regrets for using the 6 hours of watching this anime, and you won't either. :)

(My apologies if it is longer... it's been quite a while since I've watched the anime)

9/10 story
10/10 animation
8/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
Vague's avatar By Vague on Jan 6, 2012

But…but why?

Those were my thoughts at the end of this series. Overall it was really good. Interesting story, characters and animation. I’m upset because it didn’t end the way I wanted it to…this tends to happen way too often.

Story- 7/10

Fashion isn’t really my thing, but I do enjoy a good story of a strong willed person leaving everything they know to follow their dreams. Yukari is a typical, hard-working student who finds herself caught up in the world of fashion and modeling. This short series is about her decision to quit school and become a model, with the help of her very colorful (literally) friends. The story really isn’t all that dramatic and was a little slow at times, but overall pretty good. The plot is pretty easy to guess from the beginning, but honestly I was pretty surprised by the ending. Should have seen it coming but didn’t.

Animation- 6.5/10

Not my most favorite style, but pretty well suited for the series.

Sound- 7/10

“Do You Want To”- Franz Ferdinand. Who would have thought it would fit an anime so well?

Characters- 8/10

Best part of the whole thing. Each character was interesting, even boring Yukari. Typically I would be turned off by the whole over-the-top fashion designer thing, but I liked the characters and their quirky clothes and even quirkier personalities.

*Spoilers*

Overall- 7/10

As I mentioned before, I like the show but I hated the ending. This may just be my secret girly side ranting here but I don’t understand why it had to end the way it did. I really hate when series build up a relationship every episode and dump it right at the very end. I realize that Yukari had to learn to be more independent and such and that George had himself to think about too, yada yada, but I just don’t see how there was no way it could have worked out between them. And then throwing out the information that Yukari was going to marry some other guy…in the last three minutes of the series! Not cool. This time I could have definitely done without the closure…at least I could have made up a better ending in my head that way.

Another time, another review.

7/10 story
6.5/10 animation
7/10 sound
8/10 characters
7/10 overall