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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yukari is a typical high school student on the fast track to attending a university, but her boring life leaves much to be desired; that is, until a motley crew of fashion design students ask her to model their new clothing line: Paradise Kiss! Now, Yukari must choose if she will reject the life her mother has laid out for her, and start making choices on her own for the first time. While taking her first steps into adulthood, Yukari also begins to realize that with freedom comes responsibility; a life in the fashion industry isn't an easy one, especially for someone unsure of her own intentions…
My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.