3 Reasons To Watch: Paradise Kiss

#1 Teenage recklessness and growth

Yukari Hayasaka is a girl who works very hard to be normal. She is as straight-laced as they come, at least on the surface. In truth, Yukari has no clue what to do with her life. She studies hard, just to score consistently below-average. She acts prim and proper to impress her parents, who are distant and cold towards her. She wants to get into a good college, but has no ambitions or ideas for the future to work towards. What is she doing it all for?

PHOTO: Yukari pondering whether to accept the modeling job.

Her life then makes a dramatic shift, when she is one day approached by the members of Paradise Kiss. A student group from the local fashion design school, who believe that Yukari would be the perfect model for their upcoming show. Yukari initially rejects them; claiming that fashion is frivolous and she has more important things to do. Until she comes to understand their passion and decides to give it a try anyway.

Paradise Kiss is a story about discovering one’s own path as a teenager. About comprehending the expectations placed upon you by society and family, and weighing those expectations against your own desires. The anime tells this story through the lens of impassioned recklessness.

Some will resent Yukari for being a dumb and careless girl, but that’s the point. Upon realizing just how directionless her life is, Yukari throws everything to the wind and gambles on new passions. She is going to stop bothering with school, stop bothering with trying to appease other people, and make a career for herself in fashion. She makes rash decisions and questionable friends; some of whom may be more than just friends. Life is wild and exciting, yet also uncertain.

PHOTO: George and Yukari, about to get it on.

While Paradise Kiss has its empowering moments as Yukari strives towards independence, it also has her deal with the consequences. She faces toxic relationships, anxiety, her quality of living wavers up and down. She burns bridges that she later has to mend and comes to reassess some of her bolder decisions. It is through these ordeals that Yukari ends up growing as a person.

Things don’t always work out the way we expect or want them to. Rather than regret and mope about it, we can learn from those experiences and confidently make the next step instead.

#2 Unique style of character design

Being all about fashion, Paradise Kiss is also bold and artistic itself. Its artstyle is striking and frequently mixes animation with rotoscoping or outright photographs. There are entire segments that are just surreal, seemingly-random animations playing out over photos of everyday environments. While I enjoy such weirdness, it was actually the character design that stood out to me the most.

PHOTO: The Paradise Kiss team working in their office.

The female designs especially are gorgeous. Both in the clothes they wear, as well as in their refined looks. Despite being teenagers, the characters look very mature and elegant; an effect that is enhanced with make-up and confidence. At one point I briefly thought the story did a time-skip or something, as a post make-over Yukari looked significantly more mature than she did in her school uniform.

While this could be argued to be a common trait of josei (and some shoujo) manga, a design choice unique to Paradise Kiss is how pronounced lips are. This effect is noticeable on boys, but thick lipstick makes it especially visible on the women in the story. Though it makes characters like Miwako look strange at first, the look really grew on me over time. Especially when paired with the more extravagant outfits.

#3 Meaningful inclusivity

Lastly, I want to praise Paradise Kiss for the inclusive nature of its characters. Not just as background characters or minor roles, but as major characters that feature prominently throughout the story.

PHOTO: George looking adoringly at Yukari.

Fashion genius George Koizumi is confirmed to be bisexual early on in the story. Eccentric though undeniably brilliant, George isn’t always the best friend or lover, but he is a fascinating guy. He leads the Paradise Kiss team on their inspired projects. There is also Isabella, a trans woman and fellow member of Paradise Kiss. She is a beautiful lady, who frequently provides support and advice to her co-workers.

Representation is always nice, don’t get me wrong. George and Isabella’s status as main characters, however, means we really get to understand them in-depth. Especially Isabella, whose backstory and emotions are explored in great detail. Her identity is relevant to the story and does come up—even in comedic contexts at times—but never in ways that feel derogatory. The writing around Isabella feels very genuine.

More like this…

Artiswitch: Artsy anime meets eye-catching fashion.

Princess Jellyfish: Coming-of-age josei anime with LGBT+ themes.

Scum’s Wish: Character growth through tumultuous romances.

3 thoughts on “3 Reasons To Watch: Paradise Kiss

  1. I have said this elsewhere, but I remember finally realizing just how much built in toxic masculinity that I had when this series was super popular: I had read a review that spoiled the ending. spoiler { in the end after she sowed her wild oats she marries a boring guy; I was upset that she was not a virgin when she got married} That realization that the reason that I refused to read the manga nor watch the anime was for this stupid, toxic reason. And I thought of myself as a big over educated white cis liberal but I was instead another POS white male; that took a long time to accept it and start changing myself. I hope that I have gotten a little better in the fifteen to twenty years since then, but sometimes I doubt it.

  2. Hopefully now that prequel Neighborhood Story manga has been licensed, the Neighborhood Story anime will be made available somewhere to enjoy with ParaKiss.

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