Paradise Kiss

Title: Paradise Kiss aka ParaKiss
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios/Fuji TV
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 13 Oct 2005 – 29 Dec 2005

Synopsis: Hayasaka Yukari is an average high student in a prestigious high school who spends her life listening to her parents and going to school. One day, she comes across an unusual group of fashion design students, who just so happens to believe that she is the perfect model for their clothing line ‘Paradise Kiss’. Yukari initially refuses but soon join them due to their kind demeanor. Her decision later becomes a wake-up call of her own dreams in her life of whether to continue listening to her parents’ wishes or pursue her own ambitions.

The Highlights
Soundtrack: Amazingly groovy selection of unique music styles.
Osamu Kobayashi: Traits from BECK lifted to here… both the good and bad.
Premise: Teenage drama with a touch of unconventionality made right.
Fashion statement: For the fashionistas, by the fashionista Yazawa Ai herself.

With so many anime titles that simply entertain the viewers with cheap fan service and the typical through-the-roof shounen action, it’s no easy feat to find an anime suited for teenagers with a discerning taste. To put it simply, teenage-based anime don’t often emerge from the majority of conventional titles that are made mostly for testosterone-induced male viewers and those with an insatiable amount of guilty pleasure. The year 2005 saw the arrival of Paradise Kiss, an anime that grabs the word ‘convention’ by the throat and flings it over a cliff.

Those who have the habit of scanning through the names of those behind Paradise Kiss will be glad to know that the anime is based on the manga of the same name written none other by Yazawa Ai. Sounds familiar? It should, especially with the stellar success of her later romance/drama winner NANA. This show is a shout out for all fashion-breathing fans because Yazawa carefully uses the idea of fashion to drive the plot rather than drown it. The fashion world of Paradise Kiss is enlivened even more with the unconventional use of real-life still images for different aspects of the series.

Speaking of artwork, this is something one doesn’t see in many other series. Rather than beautifying the screen with CG effects and meaninglessly gorgeous backgrounds, the artwork basically focuses on the most important aspect of the series – the characters themselves. From a twitch of an eyebrow to the stress lines of despair, simple but significant body languages are magnified through artwork, more than words can describe. Intentional art deformities, synonymous with anime, unnecessarily blemish the earlier episodes though.

Another familiar name behind ParaKiss is director Osamu Kobayashi, who last worked on the exceptional BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. Those who have watched BECK should realize the similar trademarks carried forward in ParaKiss – the still moments, fade-through scene transitions and the occasional silent setting, just to name a few. His idiosyncratic approach to characterization works marvelously in ParaKiss, but those moments where you feel like something’s missing, which makes a number of moments feel awkward. It’s hard for me to explain; it’s something one can understand only by watching it.

Since ParaKiss epitomizes the idea of ‘unconventionality’, it comes as no surprise that not all viewers will take a liking to the series. For one, younger viewers will probably not like it due to some sexual content and mature theme. For the rest though, this is one anime that shows you that a different approach to the usually weak romance/drama theme can work wonders. To all fashionistas and music junkies out there, I want to holler out: ParaKiss is your ideal series.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: AC

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