Paradise Kiss (パラダイス・キス) is a 12-episode romantic drama from 2005 by Studio Madhouse based on the manga by Ai Yazawa.
Yukari is a typical high-school student who listens to her parents and attends school everyday. As she starts to question her way of life, she encounters a group of fashion design students who has a clothing label known as “Paradise Kiss”. The group needs to find a model to showcase their designs in an up-coming fashion show and decides to pick Yukari. Initially, Yukari was reluctant to be associated with this seemingly eccentric group, but eventually, she realizes that they are really nice people. Furthermore, their passion and enthusiasm to follow their ideals and dreams make Yukari realize that she has not been enjoying her life and this motivated her to pursue her own dreams.
Paradise Kiss first and foremost is a story for the weirdo’s, and I mean that in the best way possible. The kids who make up the ParaKiss studio are about as eclectic a group as you can get with a punk rocker, a goth lolita, a bisexual playboy and Isabella 1, the types of people who most shows may use as a secondary character of little focus but who rarely see any kind of major importance yet alone development. Here they are the stars even if Yukari is technically the “lead” with how Yukari reacts to them and how they change her worldview being a major component of the story.
As fitting2 a show about fashion the animation is pretty gorgeous too. The original manga is actually fairly rough in its character designs with a lot of the artwork being much more sketch like than most series, so adaptating it to look good required some serious focus from Madhouse which they pull off with aplomb finding designs that both channel the original’s while improving on them greatly. The end credits in particular stand out for how they capture the essence of the kind of world these kids live in which requires special attention.3
The ending can charitably be called abrupt, and unlike many shows such as last weeks Bloom into You this has everything to do with the manga since its almost the mangas ending exactly. It works though it leaves you wishing for even one or two more episodes to flesh out how some character development happens a little better. Additionally Yukari herself is more often a nuisance of a protagonist than an interesting one, spending a lot of time freaking out over things which again, she’s really just there to be the window into the world of the eccentric kids who are the real stars here so spending so much time with her grates at points.
Weeb Level: 3/10- Most of the tropes at play here deal with sub-genres of fashion in Japan, i.e. goth lolita and such, and you can get through most of it without too much intricate knowledge of them.
Fanservice: 4/10- There are several underwear shots of people when they’re changing clothes plus the characters are sexually active/becoming sexually active. Nothing explicit is ever shown on screen, though it is heavily implied in at least a couple places.
Quality: 7/10- A “forgotten” classic of the early aughts its sadly not as remembered nowadays as much as it once was. Absolutely worth seeking out for the counter-culture and/or fashion inclined.
Where to watch: Simple, you can’t. Originally released by Geneon4 and briefly saved by Funimation buying their catalog the license expired back in 2011 and now sits unavailable in the US. The DVDs are available second-hand which is the only legal way to find it now.