Paradise Kiss

February 2, 2007

I felt that I was being ‘conned’ when I finished watching the anime Paradise Kiss. What do I mean? Initially, I didn’t intend to watch this series because somehow I wasn’t interested. Then I read some write-up about it and was a little curious. Yup, the way they wrote the review of the show was damn good so I had that perception that it must be so lah.
 
Unfortunately, just to summarize things, to me this series is boring and draggy at times. Sorry ParaKiss (the abbreviated name of the series) fans, but this was what I felt at the end. But I wouldn’t say that this anime is a bad anime nor is it not worth your time watching it. Personally, this kind of anime doesn’t appeal to me, thus I didn’t quite like it.
 
Plus, I would have given up watching the series half way if not for the short number of episodes. Yup, there are only 12 episodes in this half hour series. So I figured, hey since it’s so short and I’ve already got ‘1 foot in the grave’, might as well go all the way and finish it. And no, even though I said it’s boring, but I actually didn’t regret watching it.
 
I also read that this series was based on a manga (which anime wouldn’t these days) of the same name, which is quite popular. So much so that it is translated into several languages around the world like French, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Spanish, just to name a few. In addition, the anime and manga is supposed to be a sequel of Gokinjo Monogatari and I heard that there’re some characters from there making its appearance here in the anime. But since I didn’t watch that anime (just heard of it and saw a picture of it, but it didn’t attract me either), I wouldn’t know.
 
I would say that this series would quite suit teenage girls. That’s because that’s what this anime mainly is, teenage girl drama with romance. There are some comedy elements in the series, but it’s not the main driving force as this anime focuses more on the drama between the characters. You’ll notice those comical moments when the drawing of the characters facial features become ‘simple’ and their face becomes somewhat ’round’. Be a little warned, though. There are some sexual scenes albeit not many. Don’t worry, it won’t go as far as a hentai, but you’ll pretty much guess that the characters are ‘doing it’ from the way things look.
 
I suppose that this is the first anime I’ve watched which I can safely say deals with the theme of fashion. And no, Samurai 7 does not count. You know, those fashion sense and stuffs which make fashion enthusiasts, worshippers, geeks and the likes go ‘ooohh… waahhh…’ over some overly outrageous design and odd looking fabrics, all in the name of style. And since I’m not into it (a shirt is still a shirt which is a shirt by any other name), everything here seems pretty normal or ‘unexciting’.
 
So the storyline is like this. We’ve got this typical high school going girl, Yukari Hayasaka, who’s also your typical parent-listening girl. She’s always under constant pressure from her mom, Tomoko, to study study. Typical mom. But who’s parents wouldn’t want their child to excel in their studies. Because of that, Yukari starts questioning her way of life. Yeah, I guess every teenager who goes through that stage starts to think that they’re supposed to have fun and going out with their friends instead of burning the midnight oil.
 
Well, all that is about to change for Yukari. One day while she was walking on the streets, some blond guy, Arashi Nagase, who looks like a punk because of all that piercing ornaments on his face, caught a glimpse of Yukari and noticed how ‘perfect’ she was and decides to ‘go after’ her. Of course, who wouldn’t get freaked out if some guy with multiple facial piercings and wearing a dog collar starts to call you. And it doesn’t help either with Arashi’s tough and rough attitude. What’s Yukari’s reaction? She tried to run away from him of course.
 
Just then, Yukari bumped into a lady (seems overly dressed if you compare her with the rest of the crowd) Isabella Yamamoto, whom Arashi asked her not to let ‘that lady’ escape or slip away. Isabella then ‘captures’ Yukari, whom to her surprise found out that she’s Arashi’s acquaintance. Soon Yukari passed out
 
Once Yukari has regained consciousness, she find herself in some studio called the atelier. Yup, Arashi and Isabella brought her here. There she finds herself surrounded by the 2 and a pink haired girl, Miwako Sakurada. The trio explained that they’re fashion design students from Yaza Art School and they want Yukari to be their model for an upcoming competition to win the Grand Prize. Well, I suppose Yukari does look a little different from your average Japanese teenager. Long slender black hair and tall, smooth and fair skin. Hmm… No wonder Arashi sees her as a potential model.
 
But of course Yukari isn’t too fond of it all at first, rejecting their offer. Why not. She’s got to deal with school work and all those stuffs so she couldn’t be bothered with becoming some model. So a few heated argument between Yukari and Arashi before the former furiously left. In her haste, Yukari left behind her student ID book.
 
By the way, Miwako seems to call Yukari, Caroline. I was wondering how did Yukari ended having that name at first. Was it her English name? Then after some thinking, I noticed that it was from the portion of her ‘-kari’ name, which led to ‘Carrie’ and then to a full fledged ‘Caroline’. Yup, even Yukari seems to accept that nickname as the series progresses.
 
Anyway, the student ID book eventually fell into the hands of those fashion students’ leader, Jouji Koizumi. Yup, the clam, cool, handsome, eccentric, suave and talented fashion designer. He decides to return that book to Yukari and probably could persuade her to change her mind. Meanwhile, Yukari realized that her student ID book is missing and is dreading the fact that the book contains a picture of a classmate that she has a crush on, Hiroyuki Tokumori.
 
Later that day Yukari is approached by Jouji. Though she tries to avoid him but in the end had to follow him if she wants her student ID book back. So during their ‘excursion’, they went to Yaza art school and met some students there who’re surprised to see Jouji with a girl, and then Yukari gets a haircut from one of the school’s teacher, Kisanagi.
 
Then back to the atelier where they let Yukari try on a dress made by one of the designers. So after hearing their side of the story and other stuffs, Yukari comes out, revealing her dazzling self in that dress, after which she apologizes to everyone for what she had said earlier on. Jouji returns her book and asked that if she would be willing to become their model.
 
So it begins as the team tries to design their fashion label called Paradise Kiss before the deadline. While Jouji the leader would be the main designer, Isabella would choose the fabric. There’re hints in the early episodes which indicate that Isabella’s a guy. Yup, she actually is a boy. A cross-dresser. Just like those women who feel that they’re wrongly being borned in a man’s body. There’s an episode (episode 10) to see how Daisuke "Isabella" Yamamoto felt how comfortable she (I’ll refer to Isabella as a ‘her’ throughout my blog) was to dress as a woman when he was young. Yeah, and Jouji’s there too, giving her some advice as Jouji’s the only one who doesn’t view her as strange.
 
Thus once the design and fabric has been chosen, Arashi and Miwako would sew them together. And Miwako’s actually Arashi’s girlfriend. And true to her looks and size, she acts quite childlike and is also quite sweet and caring. Miwako has an elder sister, Mikako Kouda, who’s a professional designer for a clothing label, Happy Berry.
 
So I can pretty sum up the rest of the story something like this. As Yukari gets deeper and knows more about the fashion world, she begins to understand fashion designers from their point of view. You see, people like me have this bias stereotypical and premature perception of fashion designers and people like them, that they are crazy, weird and have too much time on their hand to do things like this. Like the cantonese saying ‘Seik pao tak han mou yeh zhou‘. And the term they use ‘creativity’ means nonsense to us. Bad me.
 
At the same time, as Yukari gets involved in the teams’ work, she begins to fall for Jouji but you know, it’s not like that they hit it off perfectly. At first she was torn between Jouji and Tokumori but in the end decides that she loves Jouji more. Not that she’s dumping Tokumori. Hey, it’s only a secret crush. Not that Tokumori knows it. Though, Yukari and Jouji both acknowledged that there’s some chemistry between them, there’ll be some little lover’s quarrel here and there, some tension here and there, some relationship testing here and there. Typical teenage girl drama. At least unlike most Hollywood couples who break off at first attempt, these 2 at least tried to give their relationship a second try.
 
Uh-huh. Like I mentioned, some kissing scenes between those 2 here and there, a little ecchi ones too. And there’s that ‘big one’ somewhere in episode 6 where Miwako heard it from outside their door, all those moaning and… well, you know lah. She got embarrassed of it and quickly went away. Yeah, saying something like ‘hentai-play’. Hey, in some earlier episode, Miwako was caught in the act, ‘doing it’ with Arashi on the atelier’s pool table with all that loud music blasting in the background. And another one somewhere in episode 8, but this time back in Arashi’s room. But I guess, to Yukari, being with Jouji is like being in ‘Paradise’. I see you’ve ‘experienced’ it.
 
Plus, Tokumori, who’s noticing Yukari’s absence from class, seems to fall for her bit by bit. Just when the guy of her dreams starts to notice her, she decides to go for another one. Well, I guess, Tokumori’s too late, huh. Some blue haired guy has just swept Yukari off her feet and she’s not coming back or even looking back at you, pal. But Tokumori is quite understanding, no doubt in the end he has feelings for her, he understood the situation and I guess let Yukari be with the one she truly loves.
 
Also, Tokumori seems to be childhood friends with Arashi and Miwako a long time ago. Yup, looks like Tokumori was in love with Miwako that time but Arashi forbid her from seeing him. In addition, Miwako got ‘separated’ from Tokumori when she moved in with her elder sister, and they haven’t seen each other since. And this fateful meeting with Yukari seems to bring them all back together. In the end, those 3 manage to become close friends once again, spending time together.
 
What else is there. Hmmm… More drama between the characters, the uncertainty and obstacles they face, things like that. For instance, when Tomoko found out that Yukari’s being involved in modelling rather than her studies, she became furious and slapped her. Oh course, to Yukari it may seem unfair as she thought her mom would at least be happy to hear that she’s happy and enjoying what she has achieved so far. And because of that, their relation strained a little as Yukari ran away from home and decided to live at Jouji’s place.
 
However, Jouji’s not the kind to take advantage of the situation as he told her to go home as he doesn’t want to be responsible for Yukari’s exam failure or if her parents disowned her. Since Yukari has no where to go, I guess she’ll still be sleeping at Jouji’s place. But as they say, time does heal wounds. In the end the both Yukari and Tomoko manage to kiss and make up as the former decides to come home after feeling that Jouji seems to be more interested in having sex with her rather than prioritizing his life. I guess eventually all men are the same. And Tomoko would allow Yukari to become a model with just 1 condition, that is to pass her exams. But most probably I felt why Tomoko is proud of her daughter was because Yukari became famous and successful. Hehehe.
 
Also like how Yukari will meet other people in this line such as when Miwako brings Yukari for a job interview at Happy Berry. And even though she didn’t get that job, she was offered some job as a model for a Zipper magazine by Mikako. Or how Yukari decides to do more modelling but can’t seem to find even a part time job for it. Then Miwako decides to refer her to one of her friend’s modelling agency, Kozue Shimamoto. Also, it is here that Yukari meets Jouji’s mom, Yukino.
 
Yukino may seem too young to be Jouji’s mother. Yeah, some problem and affair back then with Jouji’s father, Nikaido, whom Yukino blames for runing her life, and the fact that she regrets giving birth to Jouji. Seems that Jouji doesn’t have a good relation with his mom and doesn’t like her. That’s because she’s always just sitting aroung complaining and doing nothing really significant to change her life. In a way, you could say Jouji became quite independant and mature thinking because of this kind of upbringing.
 
And I think Yukari’s really getting the feel of what it’s like of being a model. Or rather she’s got that ‘model syndrome’. What do I mean? Yeah, there’s one time where Yukari fainted while walking out of school. When she regains her consciousness in hospital she found out that she passed out was because due to lack of nutrient. She’s got quite a good body already, why is she skipping nutrients? Well, it’s not like she’s really want to become thinner than a stick, just that she’s so busy with her work and exams that she has hardly time to eat. But that’s still no excuse, though.
 
The deadline’s near and the team is rushing to complete the dress. Yup, Miwako and Isabella are using their class time to make the accessories for the dress, only to be found out by their teacher, Hamada, whom confiscates it shortly. Oh oh. What have they gotten into. After all that hard work and with so little time left, can anything be done to save the day? Well, I guess colouring those white roses into blue ones to match the dress would do the trick, huh.
 
The big day of the competition arrives (even Tokumori and Nikaido’s there). Yukari gets into the stunning blue dress and tells Jouji that he won’t regret for choosing her as their model and she can bring the audience to paradise. The crowd cheers as Yukari walks on the catwalk strutting her stuff as the audience watched in awe and amazement. Once Yukari comes back to the back stage, Jouji gives her a big hug.
 
But unfortunately, Jouji’s team got 2nd place overall, much to Yukari’s disappointment, who thinks that they should’ve won. Yeah, it was a close one, having losing out by just 5 points. No wonder Yukari’s quite sore. Anyway, the gang still celebrate for a job well done back at the atelier. So some talk of realization here and there like how Jouji thinks why he didn’t win was because of his lack of talent, that Yukari should stop complaining. Plus, because the competition is over, the team is ‘disbanded’.
 
However, it’s not really over yet as Jouji gets a call from his old friend, Kaori Aso. Yup, she’s a former student at Yaza Art School and she was the previous winner of the Grand Prize. Though she’s studying in London, she came back to watch Jouji in action for the competition. You’ll pretty much guess that Kaori too had some feelings for Jouji but she knows that he isn’t the kind who would make a woman happy and decides not to pursue him.
 
So Jouji left the atelier to meet her, with Yukari getting suspicious and a little jealous. Some talk here and there between Jouji and Kaori, not anything that I can remember of. But Kaori didn’t stay long. Soon after that chat, off she went. And to cut things short, after some few moments from the characters in the last episode to tie things up, some love tension between Jouji and Yukari.
 
Jouji decides to go to Paris to further his studies after graduation. Since he would be lonely there, he wants Yukari to come along with him. Unfortunately, Yukari’s got her own modeling job to and doesn’t want to ruin her career just like that (yup, though she flunked her final exams, but it seems her mom approved of her modelling job with that picture of Yukari in that blue dress displayed in her house). Jouji understood and agreed and they both parted ways. Soon, after the farewell party they throw for Jouji, he’s on a ship to Paris with Isabella tagging along. I guess that girl will always be beside Jouji no matter what.
 
In the meantime, Jouji left Yukari a key, which is Jouji’s entire wardrobe collection. Wow. It’s a realy huge collection as Yukari breaks down and cries. Is she happy to receive such a gift or sad that Jouji’s going away? While Tokumori managed to pursue his studies to become some doctor, Arashi and Miwako went to work in some fashion design company. If I can remember clearly, it may be Mikako’s Happy Berry. Fast forward 10 years later, Yukari’s a successful model and is going to get married when she received tickets to a play where Jouji designs the costumes for it. Though Yukari mentions that the play was going to be a comedy, somehow she’ll cry. Yeah, this last part few minutes was the only part throughout the entire series which moved my heart.
 
Overall, like I’ve said, I wasn’t attracted much by the storyline. I felt that it was draggy most of the time. But I guess rather than having outrageous and exagerrated violence or comedy, this one departs from those norms. And the ending isn’t your usual fairytale ending, though I would’ve like Jouji and Yukari to be together in the end (even though Jouji seemed cold at times to Yukari), but I suppose it’s one of those ‘life goes on’ and moving on when you have to. Yup, life doesn’t always turn out what you want to dream it to be.
 
The drawing seems to mix both 2-D animation and real sceneries with it, making the series of having that ‘3-D’ effect. At first the drawing may seem ‘unrefined’ but you’ll get used to this ‘uniqueness’. Then I find the scene changer a little weird. Though there’s one where a bunch of flowers goes right across the screem, which seems pretty okay, but the one with ugly looking stuffed animal dolls sent a little shiver down my spine. Yeah, I felt that I was watching some horror movie. And I think in the begining of the first episodes, there’re are some of these ‘ugly creatures’ popping up here and there among the surreal background, though I’m not really sure what it all means.
 
As for the music, unfortunately to me, there isn’t any memorable soundtrack to remember by. Maybe it’s not so important if it’s a drama genre. It’s the words of what the characters are gonna say, which may be the ‘music’. Okay, so I’m talking crap here. The opening theme, Lonely In Gorgeous, even though I didn’t quite like it, but it did manage to make me move my feet a little when the tune is being played.
 
But the ending theme took me by surprise a little when I first heard it. That’s because the ending theme, Do You Want To, is sung by that Scottish band, Franz Ferdinand! An anime series using a famous international band’s song for their ending credits? I could be so lucky… lucky lucky lucky…  And the ending credits show the characters in that chibi form with some psychedellic colours here and there.
 
So what have we learn from all this? Well, one thing’s for sure. Fashion designers and the likes are humans too. Just because they think and do things differently, doesn’t mean they’re weirdos or crazy. Though I still don’t really appreciate or am too fond of the fashion world. Hmmm… Maybe if I could design my own clothing label, I wonder how much my design would suck (I didn’t do good during art classes). But then again, maybe somebody from the fashion world would see the ‘potential’ in it and view it as a ‘treasure’. But then again, maybe. Just maybe. Nah, better not.