I just watched Paradise Kiss. The epic tale of a high school girl who is influenced and dragged around by some people who make clothes in a basement. Or something. Read on for a stream of thoughts! These are rough ones, just first impressions I suppose, not quite a full on review.
Paradise Kiss is a Josei about a third year high school student who studies hard but has no real goal. One day she runs into a some weirdos who make clothes in a basement by fate and is convinced to become their model. From there the story unfolds as a complex romance character drama, and also the story of our heroine Yukari struggling through a series of new emotions and trying to realize what her path is. At first this show seemed like a terrible tale of a high school girl being mislead and dragged into something she was unsure of, but she gains resolve over the course of the series and goes through an arc of self realization and figuring out where her desires lie.
Her love interest George is the kind of mystery princey type. He’s kind of a dick but he’s humanized and fleshed out. The focus on the series is fashion. The group make the collective, Paradise Kiss, and the overall goal is this kind of fashion show where they have to make a dress for Yukari. Along the way she develops a quick interest in George who really messes with her. He really plays her heart strings and the two get moving fast. This show is snap snap, in 12 episodes it crams a lot of content. The romance between Yukari and George is very interesting, in that it’s not normal for anime. There are a lot of layers to both of them, it’s not a nice and gleaming romance.
There is also a tension with the punk kid Arashi, his girlfriend Miwako and Yukari’s old crush Hiro. A sort of childhood friends gotta pick one, type deal. One of the issues I had with the show is their “fight” lasts only a few minutes and is thrown in super quick. Their relationship is well explained but there are elements to Arashi, such as his band, which are not seen nearly enough. Still Arashi and Miwako make such a good and contrasting couple they could’ve had their own spin off and it’d be just as interesting, well almost as interesting. There is also Isabella to complete the group, another interesting character, especially with her history with George. She is transgender, something not revealed until super late into the show but it’s made clear as day from the first episode. Small hints.
The cast was decent in this show, there is a lot of development and some rather human elements to the romance. George’s Mom kind of comes off as a plot device to help Yukari to a realization, and Hiro is the nice guy who gets the shaft, but the main characters are strong. Yukari goes through so much emotionally, she changes so fast as well and makes a lot of decisions in the span of only a few days. It’s a nice story of discovering one’s passions, she finds her own independence along the way after being dragged around for the first little while. Some elements fall into play a little too easy such as her happening to pass out and walking up in the secret clothes basement, which was kind of creepy, but we later learn she has issues with fainting when she starts to eat and sleep less before the model show. “Pennyroyal Tea” was playing in my head everytime they said anemic, to be fair there are photos of a striped blue Mustang in this show. Oh ya did I mention? The art.
The art & direction of Paradise Kiss is what got me through it all. This show opens with scenes of photographs mixed with animation. Throughout the show there are these cool stylistic choices of live action photos like George’s car. Similar to Nana their is importance placed on several objects such as the car, the pink door and the sheer amount of butterflies. For the eye catches there will sometimes be photos of a candy jar or that classic Mustang, the same kind Kurt Cobain donned in the Smells Like Teen Spirit music video. The artstyle is fantastic with a realistic look and high detail. Every character has a lot to them, like Arashi’s punk piercings, and all the involved outfits. I particularly liked Yukari’s twin tail and stripped sweater with a touch of midriff look. The characters burst into chibi mode here and there but manage to keep on model a fair amount of the time. It just looks good, especially all the detail to the fashion elements.
The directing is very interesting, composed of a lot of static and face shots. The most fasinating part of Paradise Kiss however is the almost complete lack of OST. Aside from a song here and there or a guitar chord there is nothing but silence and atmosphere here. This makes the show really bring you into the world and make the viewer better fall into the settings. It’s an interesting move. This coupled with the flower wipe transitions and cool OP & ED songs make for an overall very great production and presentation. Voice acting is also solid but Isabella sounds a little bit too old.
One moment that sold me on the show was when Yukari meets Arashi. First she is aggressive but upon seeing his piercings and general punk demeanor her tone completely shifts and she starts to speed walk away. I thought the way she changed so quickly and reacted was a rather human moment, then she proceeds to run into Isabella, faint, and wake up in a basement surrounded by people she doesn’t know and just be kind of okay with it. Oh. Another time she passes out, is driven to George’s house, and wakes up on his bed with her shirt open. She’s like…oh okay.
There was a clever fake out where it looks like George is going to kiss Yukari but instead covers her mouth with a handkerchief. You’re like WHAT, then you find he’s just trying to wipe her lipstick off. Ah…okay. There is also a moment when, upon meeting her for the first time, Miwako takes Yukari in the washroom to help her change. She’s like oh nice bra, and caresses it. Not even sexually, just like oh that’s a cool design. I don’t know why but that moment kind of stood out to me as a, they just did that without making it into a fan servicey yuri moment, type thing. This show does have great class and maturity actually.
Overall Paradise Kiss was a neat show. It has a lot of interesting choices, as well as complex relationships and a strong theme. There are flaws, like the lightning pace and the overall rushed conclusion, however I found it to be an engaging watch. The direction and detailed art made it work best for me, I liked the designs and atmosphere it created. Paradise Kiss is taken from Ai Yazawa’s manga, she also did Nana. Her touch is very present here in the romance elements and also the fashion. She is very interested in punk rock and seems to have a particular fascination with Sid Vicious. More so in Nana, but Arashi is the punk character here. He has an Iggy Pop & The Stooges poster on his ceiling as well. So…that’s cool. Ya.