Title: Paradise Kiss
Japanese Title: Paradaisu Kisu
Author: Ai Yazawa
Licensed: Yes (Tokyopop)
Release Date: May 14, 2002 (US)
Paradise Kiss is about a struggling high school student named Hikari, she attends one of the most intellectual high schools in Japan. This leaves her with very little time to do anything but school work. One day she comes across a group of high school students who study fashion design, they have their own amateur clothing label known as “Paradise Kiss”. The group was looking for a model to wear their outfit in their school’s competition and they forcefully select Hikari. Hikari had never met such odd people before and as a result of their paths crossing not only will she experience her first love, but her time with them results in her discovery of her true self.
As a result of the manga being so fashion oriented it has a lot of amazing outfits that are definitely interesting to look at, I personally loved them. The drawing style…you’ll either love it or hate it. I remember when I first opened the first volume of this manga that I immediately put it back down after I saw how it was drawn. It put me off at first because it didn’t look like manga, I didn’t take the time to examine the panels. But then a year later I picked it up again and REALLY appreciated Ai’s original way of drawing. It has really captured me, she puts a lot of thought and detail into every outfit the characters wear and each panel is filled with detail. Each outfit is REALLY weird but you can’t help thinking that it looks nice in Ai’s drawings.
The plot of this manga feels like reality in the sense that the characters are forced to make decisions, and with every decision they make they lose something they didn’t want to…in order to keep something else precious. I know this SOUNDS very typical of a shoujo manga but you’ll have to see for yourself what I mean. This type of romance manga is for those who have a more mature view of shoujo. Ai protrays how deeply Hikari and George love one another very well, it doesn’t feel like a silly high school crush at all.
I’ve also seen the anime and as a side note I’ll say that the anime stayed close to the original manga yet…I didn’t enjoy seeing these wonderful characters on TV. Something about the characters looked more elegant and beautiful to me in the manga. Also there was one easily overlooked (but important to me) change at the end of the anime that I was upset with. Sometimes a plot (shoujo especially) is just appreciated best in its original manga form and just because it’s a GREAT manga doesn’t mean it’s a great anime even if the directors copy the manga word for word with top notch animation.
I guess this suggestion is pretty obvious but Ai’s other work Nana is probably the most similar reading to Paradise Kiss. Ai creates a completely different story but with the same level of maturity that is seen in Paradise Kiss. Although I hear that Nana gets “darker” then Paradise Kiss, I’m only a few volumes into Nana currently so I can’t comment too much on personal experience so far.