Reviewby Michelle Yu, Apr 14th 2011
Yukari lives the typical high school life, continually stressed by her mother's desperate desire for her to succeed as a student. One day, she meets a group of fashion design students who go by the name of Paradise Kiss and is scouted to be a model for their Yazawa School of Design fashion show. Yukari is emotionally lost at first, but as time goes by she becomes influenced by their determination to pursue their dreams. Yukari agrees to join the fashion show to explore her true potential and her growing attraction to George, the outrageous leader of Paradise Kiss.
Paradise Kiss is the anime adaptation of the manga of the same name created by Ai Yazawa. As the creator of such series as NANA and Gokinjo Monogatari (Neighborhood Story), it could be fair to say that most if not all of Yazawa's works are aimed towards young females. Having studied fashion earlier in her life, Yazawa has made fashion an important element in many of her works and none more so than Paradise Kiss. The plot is centred on the trials and tribulations of a girl named Yukari- a student in her final year of high school struggling with life in general only to be “rescued” somewhat by a blue-haired prince and his band of fashion-conscious friends who see modelling potential in her.
The butterfly is a recurring motif throughout Paradise Kiss. The butterfly in its most simple of terms is an insect. Although it does not generally send people running in fear or provoke acts of violence against itself, it is essentially a bug. In this series however, it is shown to be an object of beauty, and a symbol of evolution. Butterflies are seen not only in the opening sequence and in the fashion showcased in the series, but also in the main character- Yukari. She begins the series as a closed-minded teenager with a slightly abrasive personality but with the help of some new friends, embarks on a journey of self-discovery and growth.
The character Yukari is well-supported by wonderfully written characters in the arrogant “prince” George, the exquisite and multi-talented Isabella, the cutesy but likeable Miwako, and the punk-with-a-good-heart Arashi. Everyone is given some time in the spotlight, but the stories behind the supporting characters are the ones which in my opinion, drew the viewer in and made you feel a spectrum of emotion. They are larger than life- George drives a Jaguar and he's still in high school, and Miwako's cotton-candy-pink hair that seems to have a life of its own judging by all the different styles she sports throughout the series. Yet this eccentric bunch, with no superpowers as such, have wills of steel and are not afraid of putting in the hard work and long hours in the name of a common goal. The story's pacing was a bit strange at times, possibly something to do with the adaptation from manga-to-anime, but it did feel like sometimes things had been left out and other details had been dwelt upon for a little too long.
Yazawa's artistic style has been preserved in the adaptation from manga-to-anime, much to the relief of her loyal fans. Her women are beautiful and well-groomed, and her men can be too- however her best male characters are clearly the ones with a quirk or two. Such as Arashi with his ridiculous piercings- he's not a leading male by any stretch of the imagination but the way he has been brought to life through the nib of a pen makes him an indispensable part of the series. As with many things, the art and animation is not the greatest of all time but it has its charm.
The opening theme song “Lonely in Gorgeous” is by Tomoko Kawase- the same artist that performed the song “Hey My Friend” for the female-centric live-action film Kamikaze Girls. Although both songs are very different, “Lonely in Gorgeous” has an extremely catchy riff leading in. Even though I am not personally a big fan of Japanese pop music, it's difficult not to like this song and the way it seems to herald a new chapter in the story so well.
Despite having never read the original manga, in my opinion the series was easy-to-follow and entertaining enough. Realistic? No. But everyone dreams of running away from the everyday from time to time and this is but one indulgence in an array of possible guilty pleasures. I was even a little sad to see it end; it was like saying goodbye to new, quirky friends. That is not to say that the ending was unsatisfying. Without divulging too much, it was quite the opposite- a rare occurrence in anime of today.
© 2005 Yazawa Manga Seisakusho/Shodensha - Paradise Kiss Committee
Overall : B
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Entertaining and engaging characters and catchy opening theme song
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