One of the series I really missed out on reviewing last year was “Paradise Kiss.” The series was picked up and re-released by Funimation.
“Paradise Kiss” portrays the excitement and danger of the fashion industry in Japan with striking, and sometimes depressing, realism.
It begins with a spiky-haired rock band guy catching a glimpse of Yukari, a beautiful high school girl. Scared off by his “pick-up lines,” the girl runs into a transvestite and faints. Next thing she knows, she wakes up to find herself in Paradise Kiss, the bar turned into a fashion studio. The employees include the transvestite, the punk rocker, a cute pink-haired girl and a tall, gray-haired man named George.
They are all interested in keeping Yukari around to model their new clothing brand, ParaKiss. However, Yukari is more interested in George, the elusive ladie’s man who wants to keep Yukari around for more than just modeling. Her best friend in school, Hiroyuki Tokumori, soon worries about her absence from school. Only time will tell when Yukari truly finds her own sense of happiness.
This romance story is clearly intended for more mature audiences. Right from the bat in episode two, viewers will catch a glimpse of a hot make-out session between two employees at the fashion studio. This is just a foreshadowing of some of the steamier moments to come in the series.
“Paradise Kiss” isn’t just about sex. It encompasses a tedious romantic entanglement in Yukari’s life, in probably one of her most stressful moments in the school year. George is clearly using the schoolgirl, but at the same time, he opens up a new world of possibilities for Yukari. Although the manga tends to portray him more as a jerk, the anime is more even-handed in its portrayal of this handsome prince with an obsession for young romance.
The complexity of romance in “Paradise Kiss” is what makes it unforgettable. Sure, there are moments when the characters are obnoxious. However, all these unique voice actors give complicated performances, making “Paradise Kiss” one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. The two lead characters especially expose the unnerving possessiveness of rich men in Japan, while at the same time revealing the seductiveness of the Japanese fashion world.
Some critics are bound to disagree with me. Yet, the unsettling drama portrayed in “Paradise Kiss” is a powerful glimpse of all the problems and new possibilities of a post-modern Japan.
Image courtesy of funimation.com