Paradise Kiss is one of the select few manga series I’ve anticipated with each release. This was mainly because the series was about fashion design students. The bond they shared for their craft was also similar to my own experience with my friends. This helped to add to my enjoyment.
Ai Yazawa, the manga author and artist responsible, has always managed to create characters that have believable relationships that can be related to by their target audience (shojo). Prior to the premiering episode, there was already plenty of promotional hype surrounding her previous series, Nana, which spawned a successful anime adaptation and feature-length live-action movie. Unfortunately, it was confirmed that the adaptation would be twelve episodes, not the twenty six I would have hoped for. I was concerned that given the wealth of material (five volumes), could Madhouse, the animation studio responsible, contain everything faithfully in such a short period.
The production was clean and contemporary, in keeping with its manga counterpart. The studio employed this odd (but amusing) technique of deforming each character during an awkward moment, which I felt helped to enhance the quirkiness of the series. The character design was attractive, which is to be expected from a shojo series. The colour palette was soft and the terrain was detailed, likely referenced from real places. It was nice to see that the studio took the time to place an emphasis on the clothing produced and didn’t rush over it. The soundtrack was not especially noteworthy, but the ending song, “Do You Want To“, by the British band Franz Ferdinand, was an unexpected but welcomed surprise. It really wrapped up each episode well and I liked how the music would begin just before the episode transitioned to the ending credits. I rarely watch the opening and ending sequences after the first viewing, but I willingly chose to listen through the ending sequence for Paradise Kiss. Regarding my concern with the length of the series, Madhouse managed to pull this off reasonably well, even though I still believe a twenty six episode series may have been better suited to flesh out the characters. The plot was fairly coherent and had development, but nothing really happened, so to speak.
The two main characters, Yukari (occasionally nicknamed Caroline) and Joji (frequently nicknamed George) are both somehow dislikable in their own way. Yukari, in keeping with the stereotype of a fashion model, was needy and a tad spoilt. I could overlook this by taking into account her circumstances of frustration and realisation of who she is and who she aspires to become, but I couldn’t say that I took a genuine liking to her character throughout the series. In the same vein, George is egocentric and totally convicted in his own ability. This is where the crux of the relationship lied, George was a talented fashion designer who possessed this arrogant charm that reeled Yukari in. It was the untouchable allure of his character that fueled Yukari’s attraction of lust and fascination. In this respect, their relationship was the result of something far more complex than many of the other romances shown in anime and manga. The remaining cast were far more likable, such as Arashi and his girlfriend Miwako, who complimented George and Yukari’s turbulent relationship. It was just nice to watch their relationship and helped to balance the general mood. The drag-queen, Isabella, was also an interesting character. His relationship with George was touched upon, but due to the length of the anime adaptation, his character was never properly explored. Moreover, the love triangle between Yukari, George and Hiro was barely shown in the anime adaptation, which was unfortunate.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed watching this series, even though my review may suggest otherwise. The anime adaptation didn’t manage to capture everything, but the series was not necessarily any worse because of this. It was nice to watch something original and approached differently (something I embrace positively). I guess, ultimately, if you aren’t interested in fashion design, or even anything arty, this may lose its appeal (although, it’s certainly not necessary to enjoy this series, given the wide and large fan-base). So, bearing this in mind, and taking into account my own interest in fashion design, I’ve given this series a generous (and slightly biased) rating of 4/5.