Seeing as I had no confidence in the summer season, I decided to invent a backlog of shows to watch from one of three different areas. Second on this list was Paradise Kiss a show that aired in the fall of 2005 on Noitamina, and was a show that I had previously dropped. I went back and marathoned it, and these are my thoughts on it.
Paradise Kiss was never a show I intended to drop initially. Over 3 years ago, I had begun to watch it because I saw the ending was “Do You Want To” by Franz Ferdinand. It didn’t matter what the show was even about, I was sold on a Glaswegian band being included as part of an anime production. After watching a few episodes, up to about when the protagonist Yukari really fell for George, my PC decided I shouldn’t watch anymore. By that, I mean the processor decided it wanted to become one with the motherboard in the melting to it sense of the phrase.
After building my own PC and getting everything back up and running (during which I missed a LoGH post, grrr), watching this show about a girl who was helping out as a fashion model in some downstairs bar didn’t seem so important. I just never went back and revisited it. So it wasn’t as though I had some dislike for it when I dropped it, the drop just kind of happened.
Onto the series itself now. Paradise Kiss did an excellent job in changing my opinion of it just from the final episode. It goes about things in a very nihilistic fashion, though the seeds had been sown in earlier episodes. It almost felt as though the creators wanted to make sure there was no way there could be a sequel. The fact that I cared so much about this requires going back to the beginning of the series.
The protagonist Yukari just goes through life in high school barely doing well enough to get by. Fate would intervene and she would meet a group of 4 students from a fashion school and made their own fashion label, Paradise Kiss. They befriend her and convince her to become their model for the big school fashion show. She falls for their leader George and effectively stops caring about trying to do well in school.
This was as far as I got last time, so it was interesting to find out that there were a couple of larger themes at play here. The first is the question of what goes into determining making one’s own decisions, which is key to the series through the climax. At one point, George tells Yukari that he doesn’t like people who do not make their own decisions. Yukari reacts by completely breaking away from her old life and dropping out of school and running away from home during exam time at school. She lives at the apartment of the rock star hopeful Arashi for a few days then moves in with George.
As she is doing this, there is a voice going on in her head that is weighing whether she is doing the right thing versus questioning how much her mother loves her since she had not attempted to contact her. As she lands a modeling job, her old classmate Tokumori continues to pursue her. They meet at a cafe where he tells her that it’s possible to make her own decisions after consulting with others. Ultimately, she decides to go back home and back to school, though after obviously pissing off her worried mother.
The ability to make one’s own decision plays a role in the conclusion as well, but it also plays in with the idea of trust. Tokumori was childhood friends with Arashi and Miwako, who are a couple. The latter pair are never able to break cleanly with their feelings about Tokumori since Arashi is never able to convince himself that Miwako isn’t cheating on him. At the same time, George’s friend from years ago, Kaori, returns from London to convince him to go abroad to become a designer. Yukari interprets a relationship between them that proves to be a hurdle too much to overcome.
Now onto the particular resolution, it felt rather abrupt but completely in line with the larger themes of the show. George is able to secure financial freedom to do what he wants to do with the help of his rich father. Wanting to design on his own terms, he goes off to America with Isabella, the last member of the group I’ve mentioned in this post, and breaks up Paradise Kiss. Everyone else goes their own ways with a flash forward to ten years in the future where Yukari’s successful modeling career is interrupted by her impending wedding to Tokumori and a trip to New York to see a show with costumes designed by George.
It felt like the ending was the right thing to happen for everyone involved, but it still seemed to feel as though everything was blown up for the sake of doing so. That no one seemed to really struggle also felt like a bit of a problem with the show. It’s nice that characters worked well together, but I still came away thinking that a couple of the characters could have been better developed. There was a considerable amount of time spent on building Miwako’s character, but it just felt shallow. Then there was Isabella, the transgender woman who got a third of an episode of back story with George as children, and that was about it.
That’s not to say there weren’t things I didn’t like it. I think my favorite moment came when Arashi referenced a magazine by saying the cover was in the 1st episode. There were other moments like a secretary in the office having a phone conversation that was the internal debate Yukari was having on her own. The boss of the modeling agency was also funny at the end of that same scene. I think many of the secondary characters were fun to watch as well.
Finally, just to wrap things up here since I’m over 1000 words, I mentioned at the top that this was a Noitamina series. It was the 2nd one that was part of the block in fact. I had a question going in as to whether this series would be part of Noitamina if it was made today. I have mixed feelings on that. The art style is rather unique, but that wasn’t enough to stop Ping Pong from airing. While the block does seem to be filled with sequels and whatever else Production I.G. or A-1 Pictures wants to sell, there are some shows that still capture the same spirit that have aired in recent years. Titles like Anohana, Kids on the Slope and Ping Pong are ideas shows without being crafted to make money. So yes, I do think it would still air on Noitamina today and I’m glad I watched this.
Next Week: A kid who really likes to cut hair, the girl who allows him to fulfill that fetish, and all the crazy people around them.