Japanese Title: Paradise Kiss
Related: Neighbourhood Stories (loose prequel)
Similar: Princess Jellyfish
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 12 episodes
- Better second half.
- Strong finish.
- Perfect match of art to theme.
- First act needs an overhaul.
- Rushed in key moments.
- Deceptive opening scenes for each episode.
You know you are in for a weird one when the anime opens to still images of the real world with an animated Godzilla wearing sunglasses in the background. Wait, no, this odd sequence and the ones for each episode have nothing to do with anything. Why start with something irrelevant and deceptive? Paradise Kiss is still on the weirder side, but this theme of starting poorly permeates the series.
Yukari is a hard-working student under pressure from her parents to be the best. She doesn’t care; she just wants to get away from it all. Opportunity strikes when some bleached guy with a safety pin for a lip piercing drags her into his fashion group. Apparently, she’d be perfect for their final project on the runway. Parental pressure and a desire for independence clash as Yukari finds her own goals in life.
Reading this start on paper, sounds solid, right? What could be wrong with it? Well, let’s go right to the first scene when she meets the blond guy. Their interaction as strangers goes beyond suspension. The idea was to show how ‘screw the social norms’ and persistent he is by having him stalk some poor girl to be his “model.” They overdid it. He’s so exuberant, so demanding that he doesn’t feel like a person. Asking a stranger on the street to be your model is beyond social norms already, especially in Japan, so there’s no need to yell it. To show his persistence, a simple forcing of his number onto her after insisting she’s the perfect model a couple of times would suffice. The version they went with is a case of trying too hard to show his character.
The same applies to meeting George, the love interest. He’s a douche from the start and has this forced confrontation with Yukari. Again, the idea was to show that he believes she should be independent and not allow her parents to dictate her life, just as his parents have no say in his life. Unfortunately, what we see is a writer who doesn’t know how to have characters with little connection clash. Once the characters have a proper connection, the confrontations are great because they have a platform to leap from. Before that, it feels like, “Er…these two need them to fight…er…let’s just have them get upset over something trivial. Next scene, I’ll get them back to normal anyway.”
The bad starts don’t end there. Yukari falls for George at near first sight, despite his douchiness. I’ve said this many times in my romance reviews, but falling for the douche is perfectly fine. However, to sustain the relationship beyond just wanting to jump his bone, you need something more. Now, – and here’s the baffling part – Paradise Kiss does give that something more, but only after they’ve moved beyond the honeymoon. Argh! It’s supposed to be the key that moves it from honeymoon to long-term relationship! Without this key, every honeymoon period ends in breakup. We see hints of this to spark the initial attraction, but it needs to escalate to become the key to long term. Damn it, Paradise Kiss, why is all your goodness in the second half without any of it present in the first half? This structuring frustrates me more than it should.
There are other such examples of ‘bad start but is much better later’ – almost every character introduction, conflict with Yukari’s mother, Yukari’s crush on a classmate, etc. – but I need to mention the good before this review is over. George’s good qualities, under the doucheterior, are great. His fashion skill is exemplary, – highly desirable to a model – he knows what to make that will please her, and he never holds her back like her mother does. He embodies the independence she craves. (Of course, we see all of this an act late!) The relationship moves at a faster than usual pace, which is refreshing in anime, and doesn’t stall through contrivances. As alluded to earlier, the second half is much better, for the story no longer needs to set up conflict or characters, leading to natural drama.
Possibly my favourite part of Paradise Kiss is the final scene, the epilogue that shows us where the characters end up. I hate to sound so childish, but it’s a very ‘grown up’ ending. It isn’t glitzy or glamorous, contrary to the fashion theme. It’s real. This ending left me satisfied despite all preceding faults and made me appreciate Paradise Kiss more over the days that followed.
As I told the dear reader that requested this review, I almost dropped Paradise Kiss. I was going to give it three episodes to grab me, which it would have failed to do. The request, however, forced me to watch to the end, for which I am glad.
Art – High
The glamorous art fits the fashion and the animation is good, but the camera really needs to back up. Just back up! There’s no need to have every shot be up the subject’s nose.
Sound – Medium
I like the OP. It’s catchy – groovy, even. Though the voice work is good, the script lacks lines to create early connections between characters, replacing them with characters stating the obvious on moral lessons.
Story – Medium
A girl with no direction save for the next exam has her life changed when an eccentric fashion group drags her into being their model for a fashion show. Starting weak and ending strong, Paradise Kiss is a bit of a mess in structure, but an interesting anime nonetheless.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Try it. If you like fashion or stories about characters seeking independence too early in life, Paradise Kiss has you covered.
Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)