Paradise Kiss is a 5 volume Josei manga series by Ai Yazawa (of Nana fame) that ran in Zipper magazine from 2000 to 2004. It's a sequel of sorts to her previous work Gokinjo Monogatari, with several characters from it making appearances and being relatives of the cast, but it can be read as stand-alone and has in fact been published in countries where Gokinjo has not been released.
It tells the story of Yukari Hayasaka, a high school senior whose life revolves solely around her studies and her upcoming university entrance exams. That is, until she meets punk rocker Arashi and stylish lady Isabella, who accost her and ask her to model the dress they're working on for the upcoming fashion show of their arts high school. They proceed to
kidnap take her to the Atelier, where she meets sweet and lovely Miwako and charismatic and handsome George, fashion designer extraordinaire in the making. Together, they form the Paradise Kiss ensemble. This chance encounter shakes her dull and monotonous life, and thrusts her into a self-discovery journey and a passionate and rocky romance with George.
The series was adapted into a 12 episode anime series in 2005, which proved an excellent excuse for Yazawa to design a heap of all new outfits for the characters (Note that it lacks the manga's habit of having the characters share their knowing insights with the reader). A live-action film was released in June 2011.
This manga provides examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Poor Hiro. Yukari had a crush on him for a long time, until she met George and fell for him on the spot. That was after Miwako chose Arashi over him. Subverted in that Yukari still likes and respects him, and in the end she actually ends up marrying him and not George.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Isabella, towards George. She seems to have accepted that it's not going to happen.
- Author Appeal: Ai Yazawa wanted to be a fashion designer before she became a mangaka, and it shows.
- Beautiful All Along: Downplayed since the only makeover Yukari gets is trimming her bangs, and even before that she was a real beauty, she was just too busy studying to notice.
- Big Fancy House: Isabella lives in a big fancy mansion and George lives in a big fancy appartment.
- Bishie Sparkle: it earns stylist Seiji Kisaragi the nickname "Sparkling Alien".
- Bowdlerize: The anime tries to present the breakup between Yukari and George as something really sad and unfortunate, while from the manga it's obvious that it was one of the best decisions she's ever made, as she would've ended up like his mother if they stayed together. It also seriously downplays Hiro's role in the story, to the point where they don't even show that Yukari married him in the end which is pretty important to the story; even a scene with him straightening Arashi out about Miwako's feelings for him was changed to Arashi singing some song about how sorry he is for his treatment of her.
- Brainless Beauty: George's mother. He despises her for it.
- Cool Car: George's E-Type Jag
- Cooldown Hug: hilariously played with in Yukari's first meeting of Isabella and Arashi.
- Costume Porn: Loads and fancy and creative outfits are bound to happen in a story about fashion designers.
- The Cutie: Mikako manages to look ridiculously cute (and about a third her real age) and pull it off. Miwako follows in her footsteps.
- Dancing Theme: The ED, to a song by Franz Ferdinand of all people.
- Distant Finale: From the manga we learn that George designs costumes for Broadway, Yukari is a successful model and actress, engaged to Hiro, who is a doctor. Arashi and Miwako have a baby, Erika, and they're still good friends with Yukari and Hiro. Isabella is not mentioned, but presumably she's still working with George. It's only alluded to in the anime.
- Education Mama: Yukari's mother Yasuko is indeed serious about her studies.
- Embarrassing First Name: George doesn't like to be called Jouji, his real name. Isabella is mortified if her birth name, Daisuke, is brought up.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Such is the power of Miwako's ultra-concentrated Moe!
- Expy: Miwako is a clone of her sister, Mikako, main character of the original series. Interestingly, she is aware of it, and she doesn't find it amusing. George is based on Brian Slade, alluded to in the series as Brian is George's idol.
- Fashion Designer: Most of the main cast is designing a dress together.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Isabella loves making apple bunnies.
- Generation Xerox : in this manga, eccentric alternative subculture fashion styles seem to be hereditary.
- Giant Poofy Sleeves: the big school festival dress of doom has a serious case of bigger sleeves.
- Homoerotic Subtext: George and Seiji - in the manga it's heavily implied that they're actually in a relationship.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: George dresses up Yukari in the clothes he's designed (and has done the same for Isabella, a beloved platonic friend).
- Insufferable Genius: George is fashion designer extraordinaire!...in the making.
- Imagine Spot: In one instance, Yukari pictures a Love Triangle as a Duel to the Death between two boys ( Tokumori and Arashi, respectively) as a Goemon and Lupin III pastiche, for the love of Miwako as a schoolgirl in Sailor Fuku. She notes it's only natural that Arashi won, after all, he had a gun.
- Justified Title: Paradise Kiss is the brand name George uses on his clothing designs.
- The Masochism Tango: George and Yukari's romance is passionate and rocky.
- Medium Awareness: The characters are contantly aware that they are "characters" in the manga, but this is left out in the anime.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Arashi forces himself on his girlfriend Miwako, but later exhibits huge guilt about it.
- Next Sunday A.D.: judging from a passing mention of Yukari being born in the Heisei era (which means sometime during 1989 or after) the events are set in 2007 or later.
- Nosebleed: Seiji makes Yukari nosebleed with the sheer force of his bishieness.
- Only Sane Man:
- The contrast between Yukari's boringly ordinary self and the sheer eccentricity of the vast majority of the cast is played both for laughs and completely seriously as she starts questioning her outlook on life.
- A more subtle example is Arashi, who finds himself playing this role quite often when his team mates engage in their crazy absurd antics, making certain revelation about his past particularly shocking.
- Pimped-Out Dress: That dress Paradise Kiss is working is certainly elaborate and it's a big plot point.
- Product Placement: There's a few Franz Ferdinand posters scattered around the place.
- The Quiet One: Isabella is far from chatty, but her standard reaction to mostly everything (a warm, unruffled smile) makes her come across as mature and dignified instead of cold or aloof.
- Rape as Drama: Arashi and Miwako's first time. In the manga, it is deconstructed as Arashi does come to aknowledge how horrible it is and feels like crap about it.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Hiro may be seen as this in the beginning, but it gets subverted in the end where he is engaged to Yukari.
- Serious Business: George's talent as a fashion designer is regarded as an exceptional artistic gift, so much it sometimes gets a little blown out of proportion. Then again, it's justified since it concerns his future life and career. Then he goes and decides not to make a living of it, since that would imply catering to some kind of audience and he doesn't want to compromise his purely artistic, non-commercial view of fashion design. He still decides to try haute couture in the end, and ends up designing costumes for Broadway shows.
- Teen Pregnancy: George's mom is still in her thirties. She had George when she was still very young.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: You can just feel how much Ai Yazawa enjoyed herself while designing the loads and loads of outfits.
- Younger Than They Look: Isabella, due to both her clothing and some physical traits (her long-fingered, extremely knobbly hands, for example). George is a milder case, but he probably looks more like a twenty-something than eighteen. This is lampshaded in the manga, where one scene of George and Isabella being exceptionally melodramatic has captions reminding the readers that they're still in high school.