I feel like a very lucky person. A while back, I wrote a post about how I want to watch Nana again (legally) and I can because it’s on Hi-Dive now. So I can come back to it or purchase the series when I have the money to do so. But before doing that at some point in the future, I wanted to watch something else from Ai Yazawa. I feel like you might know what that work is. (Hint, look at the title again.) Produced by Studio Madhouse with the belated Osamu Kobayashi as director who has a distinctive style that no one else has matched. RIP. He was a very good indie style that made Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad so unique and the 4th episode of Gurren Lagann something that other people don’t like because it was different. But regardless of that later part, he was a perfect fit to lead Paradise Kiss’s visual style.
(Spoiler warning: I am going to spoil pretty much all of this show. Just know that I like it and then watch it on YouTube because that is where you can watch it dubbed still. At least I think so. Some of the most realistic writing for teenagers that I’ve ever seen combined with the indie style of Kobayashi to make it special and interesting.)
As a teenager, or at any stage of your life, have you had doubts about the direction that your life was taking? I feel like we all have moments and incidents like that because it’s such a relatable feeling that every human being has gone through. That is also the life of Yukari Hayasaka in Paradise Kiss. While going to a prestigious high school that her parents made her go to and following their wishes, she is just drifting through life with no clear purpose. Well, that was true until one day, she was approached by a guy dressed up as a rock star. Yukari just happens to be tall and gorgeous, so she was asked to become a model for a unique design group’s fair entry. Their name? Paradise Kiss.
While Yukari, who is named Caroline by the designers at Parakiss who are the very kind of bubbly Miwako, the straight man part time rockstar Arashi, the transgirl Isabella, and the ever attached to finish but detached to everything else George. These are four really cool and unique people that somehow work together from George’s point of view to create art in the form of fashion. The Yukari who followed the straight and narrow that had a crush on the pure boy Hiroyuki was gone for now as she finds herself crushing on George who is more in love with his own fashion then anything else. Yukari actually runs away from her abusive mother and overachieving younger brother at home to live with him for a week or two.
Paradise Kiss is a piece of Yukari and other’s growing up and finding their place, but it’s a bit more than that too. This is also the story of a lot of people and trying to break through the cycles brought in by their parents. Or at least Yukari breaking out of it while George stays in it. Yukari does find something that she loves, fashion. She notices that she is perfect for being a model because of her mother’s genes. George is an expert at seduction (somehow) and a bad boy, so there is an attraction there. At the same time, she is bratty exactly like her mom is too because one learns from their parents so there is that growth period of Yukari breaking that chain.
Meanwhile, there is George who is still living and thriving in the chain that his father was apart of. He cares for Yukari and his other girlfriends because they are the people he chose to fit into the clothes he designs. Yukari getting past her long lasting lust over George is another part of her story in Parakiss. Especially since Yukari has blatantly seen how George’s father treats one of his wives by pushing them to the side and doing nothing else with them and their relationship is strange. While Yukari will be attracted to George for the rest of her life, she still broke away from the toxicity of being with him to marry someone else. Good for her. The ending is positive but melancholic because of that fact.
I love all of this, because Parakiss has some of the most realistic writing for teenagers and their angst that I’ve seen. I do think other series are at this level, but this is so good. These aren’t the standard sort of pure high school kids that might kiss or confess to each other at the end of the series. This is a series of rebellious teenagers who live different lives, actually sleep with each other to show how awkward and strange sex is, and have a lot of interests to them. There are a lot of good layers with how these characters are written and find themselves and it’s honestly amazing.
With that realistic style comes the very indi sort of direction by Osamu Kobuyashi. I’m just going to say it now, the animation in this show is not good at all. It’s lacking, focusing on shots that hang around for a long time when the characters are off screen, or a character will talk and then the camera doesn’t even cut back to the next character speaking. It’s very quirky with very slow and deliberate movements that gives the characters a lot of weight and realism. There is such a good style here with the opening scenes and ending having a lot of chaotic FLCL energy. Paradise Kiss is not flawless, but full of grunge and dirt that is perfect for this good show.
So yeah, I can’t recommend it enough. Absolutely solid watch.