Ai Yazawa is famous for her realistic and ‘adult’ style of writing. She probably became most known for her classic manga — “Paradise Kiss” (ParaKiss for short from Japanese Paradaisu Kisu) which brought her popularity. ParaKiss is a comic comprised of a 5-volume series. It was also made into anime and a feature film.
Paradise Kiss Full Synopsis
At the very beginning of the comic, we see the complexity of the story where teens struggle to find their identity and purpose in life. Yukari Hayasaka who later will be called Caroline is the main character of the story. A boy named Arashi follows stalks her. Yukari thinks he wants to cause her harm, so she starts running away and bumps into a transvestite, Isabella. As it turned out both Arashi and Isabella belong to a fashion atelier with the brand’s name — “Paradise Kiss” (ParaKiss) together with mysterious George Koizumi and pink-haired girl Miwako Sakurada. All of these teens go to an art school, and they offer Yukari to become their model for the academy’s annual fashion contest.
The story seems quite simplistic on the superficial level, but it is rather complex if one dives deeper into it. Yukari and other characters seem to be questioning the deeper meaning of life. Yukari — the main heroine is a diligent girl and goes out of her way to please her tough mother, but eventually, the girl concludes that she is not cut out for long studies — she barely survives her high school year. Yukari is a typical Japanese perfectionist A-minded high school student who has a crash with a boy named Hiroyuki, but she is bashful to reveal her feelings to him, and instead spends all her time cramming for her imminent college entrance exams to please her mother.
Yukari feels pent-up anger slowly building up in her, but she cannot pinpoint the reason for it, except the frustration for an unfulfilled life.
So that is when she encounters the ParaKiss guys who are desperately searching for a model. Yukari needs to make her mind up if becoming a model is what she really wants. She needs to study hard and does not seem to have time for ‘stupid fashion businesses. After visiting their studio, she angrily storms off but accidentally drops her personal ID. George picks her school ID without which she cannot do. She falls for him head over heels … She has a new crash with an extravagant stranger; however, she also is annoyed at him. George has a totally different life than she — he is free to live following the passions of his heart — creating beautiful and exotic dresses. Yukari feels irresistibly drawn to him after her second visit to the ParaKiss studio to pick up her school ID.
Yukari really meets the members of the ParaKiss this time — she sees that they seem to live out of their core, true desires of their hearts — they live making dresses, and that’s what makes them tick.
She finally finds her passion in life as well. Their aspiration becomes hers.
She agrees to become their fashion model — sabotaging her school success and her ‘peaceful’ relationship with her mother. Yukari’s school friends help her out by asking her pointed questions on what is happening to her and what she really wants from her life. However, Yukari has made her mind up to pursue a new ‘career’ in life — being a model for ParaKiss. Yukari metamorphoses from a girl into a young woman over a few months she is with her new friends.
The more time Yukari hanged up with her new buddies from ParaKiss studio, the more she admired them. On one hand, they did not give dating, friends, or sports as she did, but they were also hardworking as she was! Most importantly they were passionate about their enterprise in contrast to her school studies. She craved a life where she enjoyed every day of her life. Yukari was cramming for her university entrance exams, but she did not understand why she needed it. She did not care much about this field of expertise anyway. She did not find yet what she was truly passionate about until she met the ParaKiss guys. They really found what they like, and they excelled at it! Steve Jobs would have been proud of them.
The more Yukari hung out with them the more she felt infatuated with the handsome and enigmatic George. On one hand, he shows her signs of attention and compliments her a lot encouraging her to live out from her inner core and not just flow with the tide. At the same time, he flirts with other girls and does not call her back.
Does he love her? Or is he using her?
So, the focal point of the story is the relationship between Yukari and George. He is a true enigma and quite a complex hero — nobody seems to know what is on his mind. They seem to be attracted to each other at first but then their relationship becomes sour.
The possible reason for that is that they have different individual aspirations before they can finally settle down to enjoy each other. Their romance is full of ups and downs, sweetness, and bitterness as complex as any love relationship could be. They end up sleeping with each other pretty soon — however, sexual intimacy does not help to make George more transparent about himself. It is hard to say if George really loves Yukari — she is an ideal model for him to advertise his extravagant dresses. He seems to be interested in Yukari to grow in her volitional part of her personality, so he ‘pokes’ her around her rough edges and she tends to overact to his treatment. As a matter of fact, Yukari accuses George of ignoring her emotions.
My Thoughts on the Manga (spoiler warning)
Paradise Kiss is about the serious raw stuff of life — Ai Yazawa describes teens realistically as they deal with their sexuality, problems with school (and even school dropouts), emotional abuse, dysfunctional families to name a few. At the same time, there is enough humor balancing out the more serious stuff of life.
The most amazing thing about the book is its ending — George and Yukari end up breaking up. What is more amazing Yukari ends up deciding to marry her first love Hiroyuki! This ending of the story sounded more realistic than any other writer would pen. George decided to leave for Paris, so Yukari decided to take control of her own life. There is no mushy Hollywood movie ending when the hero comes back to his ex-love riding his horse.
So, the dashing George does not jump up into his Jaguar to ride to Yukari with the speed of light to say: “I am sorry, I love you! Will you marry me?!” None of that. We have a more realistic scenario of a girl coming back to her safer and more stable first crush — things like that happen a lot in real life.
Therefore, I would like to recommend this manga as a worthwhile read for both teens and adults. You will be surrounded by a world of young people in search of love and meaning. Perhaps your heart’s questions will be answered as you see their drama develop in front of your eyes.