Paradise Kiss (パラダイス・キス) by Ai Yazawa
With the first volume of Vertical’s beautiful new edition having gone on sale in September, it was an easy choice on what to highlight this time around.
Paradise Kiss combines high fashion, mature romance, and a bittersweet coming-of-age tale. Central to this is a cast that has more flaws than perfections; people who readily get swept up in their ideas, their passions, and their emotions. Paradise Kiss is all about relationships. Friends. Co-workers. Families. Lovers. And even yourself. How those relationships start is also something that at times is quite out of control as are the long-term effects you might not even be aware of.
Yukari starts the story at a very different place than she ends it. She has great grades, looks, and a bright future ahead of her but she has no passion. When she literally runs into Arashi on the street, she has no idea she is about to meet a group of people who will profoundly change her path in life. She is swept away by these fashion students’ dreams so much so that she wants to make it her dream, too.
As Yukari begins this journey for what she wants in life, she also begins her first real romance with the mysterious leader of the group George. His much more worldly point of view is irresistible, but the complexities at his core are very hard for Yukari to truly know.
Ai Yazawa’s elongated stylization is never more relevant than in a world of models, runways, and clothing. The work put into the fashions that everyone wears in the day-to-day as well as those they are create for Yukari to model are full of details. As always, Ms. Yazawa is a master of faces and expression throughout the ups and downs, the laughs and the tears.
I love that Paradise Kiss highlights a piece of Yukari’s life with all the thoughtfulness of how we are both powerful and powerless when it comes to our future and the paths of others. Paradise Kiss is brilliant in how it it shows what it is to step out in the world on your own.