Paradise Kiss Reviews Online.
This one was a genuine surprise. My first impressions upon reading the back of the package was: “Follow your dreams in style” — a drama about fashion and modelling? No way! That’d be really boring. How wrong was I… Based on the manga of the same name, Paradise Kiss has style, likeable characters, a decent story, good J-Pop and Brit-Pop songs to open and close, and stand-up-and-take-notice visuals that held my attention from the get-go. Yes, it was about fashion and modelling, but it was also about following one’s dreams, being true to oneself, and overcoming challenges and adversity. Yukari is a high school student at a high profile school under sufferance. She isn’t doing well with her studies, but is trying to satisfy her mother’s wishes of getting a good education. Sounds fairly typical to begin with. She then, by chance, is scouted by some fashion design students and asked to model for their upcoming fashion show.
The fashion design students are a mixed bag – a punk with piercings, a loli girl who is more mature than she appears, and the enigmatic yet very talented leader of the group, George. Very quickly Yukari gets swept into the whirlwind that is fashion modelling and design, and decides that modelling is her dream. She finds out that it is not all glamour and involves a lot of hard work. She doesn’t shirk from this challenge as she feels it is her calling. What appears to be on the surface a rather superficial story is quite meaningful, to me at least, as Yukari finally realises that it is hard work and effort that yields rewards — but not always as one might expect things to turn out. To be candid, I really enjoyed this one. The characters had a sense of depth and sincerity that stood out; and the story was well-paced and didn’t drag. The characters also changed and developed as the story progresses, with some very interesting twists found out later on — they are certainly not one-dimensional. One thing to note, though, is that some parts of the story are rather mature (the comment from the OFLC sums it up succinctly) as there are romantic bits and mature situations. Probably not one for young kids but, then again, I doubt they’d get the story in the first place.
On the visual side, this is where things stood out. Presented in a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format, the show was a pleasure to watch. The detail of the settings were almost photo-realistic, and gave the whole story a sense of reality I have seldom found in anime. Character designs worked well and reflected the traits and expectations of each character. Yukari, for example, didn’t appear overly remarkable at first but shone when she was primped up for the modelling sequences. George was invariably elegant and stylish in his presentation. The only obvious oddity I found was the CG use on some of the clothes where the character moves, so does the clothing pattern but not always following the direction of the clothes. This is hard to describe, but you should notice it when you see it. Whether this is a short-cut or not remains to be seen, but when you get caught up in the story it doesn’t matter as much.
Audio tracks included both Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese and English dialogue. As usual for me, I stuck with the original Japanese dialogue and, again, liked what I heard. The choice of the voices certainly met my expectations of the characters where, for example, Yukari had a “typical” teenager’s voice that verged on haughty and arrogant at times. George’s voice was always smooth — yet not slimy. The voice acting just fitted well and helped lift the whole presentation. Music in the show was unremarkable with a grungy metal for the most part, but the opening and ending tracks had the right punch to get one in the mood for the whole show. This was one of the rare shows that I always watched right through the start and end credits simply because the songs were that good. The fact that the end credits were a SD surreal laugh helped too as characters danced with a maniacal car roaring round.
Extras were a fairly good mix, including interviews and discussions with the voice actors; promo videos; clean opening and closing; still character sketches and clothing designs; as well as other Madman trailers. The voice actor round-table was particularly interesting as it involved the original Japanese actors giving their impressions of the show and characters.
Bottom line: this will surprise you if you glanced at it briefly in the store, as it did me. This is another title I would have otherwise left on the shelf as I usually think fashion and modelling is wussy. I guess as a reviewer, I am having a lot of my preconceptions changed by some of the titles being passed my way — for which I am increasingly appreciative. Likeable and developing characters, pleasant visual presentation, solid dialogue with good opening and closing themes, underpinned by a damn good storyline makes this one a definite recommendation with a solid 4 stars.