Today’s review is about Ai Yazawa’s manga “Paradise Kiss”. I bet many of you know her because of this or because of her famous series “Nana”, which is still unfinished (in fact I haven’t started it yet). ParaKiss is a 5 volume series that we can label as a josei, a mature opera. Starting from the first pages, you can tell this is meant to be a complex story that tries to show the confusion and decisions of teens who graduate and what they are gonna do in their future. The main heroine is a student, Yukari Hayasaka (also called Caroline). One day she is scouted by a boy she thinks is going to hurt her, Arashi, and a transvestite, Isabella. It later turns out they are part of a group called “Paradise Kiss” along with the enigmatic George Koizumi and the funny Miwako Sakurada. These people are from a art’s school, and they want Yukari to be the model for the dress they are going to produce for the annual contest of the academy.
The story may seem simple, but it’s more than that. Yukari, as well as the other protagonists, has doubts about the life she is leading. She is a studious girl because her mother is tough, but she doesn’t seem convinced that studying is the right road for her. Thanks to the ParaKiss people, she will realize what her road may be, and she will persist and try to excel at her chosen career path. The same will happen with the others.
The main story is obviously the one between Yukari and George. He is a complex character with a unique personality one can never truly tell. He and Yukari are drawn to each other but it seems that what they have is too complicated to be lived now. That is probably because they have individual goals they have to achieve before they can be comfortable together. It is such a bittersweet romance that I couldn’t understand completely, but perhaps that was the intention of the artist. It was like George used sex as an excuse not to talk about things, and was fascinated by Yukari because she was the girl he probably had in mind that would be able to pull of his extravagant dresses. He wanted Yukari to be strong willed, yet he provoked her and in most occasions he ignored her feelings (but she exaggerated as well).
*BEWARE, YOU MAY BE SPOILED IF YOU KEEP READING*
After I started reading, I noticed the manga was a “tragedy”. Once I read the end, which didn’t seem like the end because I thought there would be a small ray of hope for closure on the main couple’s part, I realized I was fooling myself. Not only they did not end up together, but she also was about to get married to her first crush (who is also a minor character). WAH! I was surprised! I don’t know if it’s a good kind of surprise or not. In a way, it is realistic more than the fake illusion many writers like to give to readers that somebody is going to end up with someone else because otherwise, who buys their work would be utterly disappointed. It is admirable that the artist decided to go against usual trends, and let just the main heroine be and live her life. George left for Paris after all. We don’t know if he ever came back even for a short visit, but that is not important. Because his own story ended with himself working on himself, while Yukari also gave opportunities to other people such as Hiro whom she liked and that developed feelings for her at some point. In a way, it serves George well to have lost Yukari, because despite their story was amusing, it didn’t look healthy to me. There were always secrets, and misunderstandings. George was too wrapped up in himself to take care of somebody else other than his mother, at least when he was 18 years old. He could be justified because he is young, but also not. The story could have ended when they were 18 and restart if they ever met again and opened up their hearts for real. It could be sort of rushed ending as well, though. Because the artist just showed us in the last pages that Yukari chose to stay with her high school sweetheart instead of creating another ending with George returning and whatnot and trying to work things out. But I tend to believe she didn’t choose the last thing I mentioned because she wanted a realistic ending…
By the way, it was an amazing series. It was funny, smart, and original. It made me think a lot.