Paradise Kiss is a five-volume josei series by Ai Yazawa that originally ran in Zipper, a Japanese fashion magazine. It’s the story of Yukari Hayasaka, a stressed-out high school student who has always done what was expected of her and has never had a dream of her own. This changes when she meets the members of Paradise Kiss, a group of fashion design students who ask her to model their creation for a school festival. Initially predisposed to think them freaks, she’s soon won over by their determination and realizes how good it feels to be part of something creative.
While Yukari decides to pursue a career in modeling rather than follow the path set forth by her demanding mother, she also falls in love with George, the unpredictable and difficult-to-understand leader of Paradise Kiss. Their romance is a tumultuous one, but they support each other, too, with Yukari helping to make the festival a success and George challenging Yukari to stop blaming others for her problems and show some initiative of her own. But what will happen when the pursuit of their dreams threatens to take them in different directions?
The story’s richly drawn characters, with merits and flaws aplenty, have been commented on by several reviewers.
“I did like the fact that [Yukari] had more realistic flaws than what you see in other manga: she starts off prejudiced to the bohemian-esque lifestyle of George and the other Yazawa Art school students, but really, she just wants an escape from the world that’s trapped her in this small box and narrow-minded way of living.”
From Melinda Beasi:
“All of the story’s characters are very real people and very much human, with all that entails. They are mostly nice, a little bit broken, occasionally cruel or selfish, but also capable of real love and kindness… The supporting players are no less rich, which is particularly impressive in a series this short… What makes these characters feel so real, despite their lesser “screen time,” is that every time they appear, bits of their offscreen lives are carried along with them. They do not exist simply as people for the main couple to interact with, but very obviously have their own full lives, with their own dreams and ambitions, some of which are only hinted at in the story itself.”
A manga about fashion requires oustanding art. Thankfully, Ai Yazawa’s style is well-suited to answering that demand.
From Johanna Draper Carlson:
“The unique art is well able to capture all these varied styles accurately. The approach ranges from elegant and detailed to sparse manga shorthand concentrating on emotion. The gorgeous fashion images, inspired by classic magazine illustration styles and evoking an era of elegance, are woven throughout the story.”
“Let’s start with the obvious points: the art in Paradise Kiss is superb. If the story doesn’t suck you in, the art will. Ai Yazawa has an elegant, sophisticated pop style and she pays meticulous attention to detail. As expected, the outfits in this fashion manga are very chic and stylish, and the fashion designs from the characters range from elegant to downright odd to Elegant Gothic Lolita. The character designs are excellent. I thought the designs of the major characters really matched their personalities, and considering their personalities, this ends as quite a feat.”
From Johanna Draper Carlson:
“What is the difference between love and obsession? How can you love someone you hate and hate someone you love? Is love a good thing if you become so consumed by it that you make yourself sick? … In the bigger picture, how much of who we are is who we pretend to be?”
If this series sounds appealing to you, you’re welcome to join in on the Manga Moveable Feast! Our feature on Paradise Kiss will run through next Sunday, August 1. All you need to do is e-mail me a link to your contribution (or the review itself, which I can post here on your behalf). You may also wish to join the Google Group for updates, conversation, and an opportunity to vote on nominees for future feasts!