Paradise Kiss, Vol. 1

By Ai Yazawa. Released in Japan by Shodensha, serialized in the magazine Zipper. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc.

I had already done a review/overview of this series for a Manga Movable Feast a while back, but now we have Vertical’s new re-release with larger trim and a new translation, so it’s time to give it another look. Which I honestly don’t mind, as this is such a terrific series. I won’t be talking too much about the technical details – the larger size makes the asides much easier to read, I do note. As for the translation, it’s definitely different, and there are pluses and minuses to both. I do prefer Arashi not sounding like Johnny Rotten, though.

The cover and chapter pictures, by the way, might give away a bit of the plot: Yukari becomes a model. But then, most of you probably guessed that as it’s the premise. Yazawa has an eye for fashion and posing, and it all comes to the fore here, with many long, lingering shots of outfits and fabric, and even the rudimentary drudgery of sewing beads is made to look glamorous. Paradise Kiss is a colorful, vibrant place. By contrast, Yukari’s life is as stark and black and white as the manga itself – we barely get to know anyone besides Hiroyuki at her school, and her attention is so quickly distracted by George and company that her diligence to study is in doubt. (Notably, the entire PK group urge her to keep studying, and constantly ask if she has to hit the books. They’re all good students, and don’t want to be seen as the reason she isn’t. It’s Yukari’s own fault that she winds up blowing everything off all the time.)

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – I really like Hiroyuki, and I’m glad to see how he interacts with Yukari and the others. The sequence where Yukari drags him to meet Miwako is painful but very well done – and Yukari, as many ‘well-intentioned’ folks seem to do, immediately realizes she’s made a mistake. That said, it worked out well in the end, even if what we mostly get from the story of Miwako. Arashi and Hiroyuki is of things left unfinished – by forcing a choice onto Miwako, Arashi has unwittingly left everything more open-ended than it should be. This will come back to haunt him in future volumes…

A word of warning to those who hate it – this manga is rife with metatextuality. The non-Yukari cast constantly talk about chapters, page placement, etc., reinforcing the fact that Yukari is not only entering the fashionista world of Paradise Kiss, but the manga ‘world’ as well. There are also several references to Yazawa’s shoujo manga Gokinjo Monogatari, which starred Miwako’s older sister, Mikako. Mikako makes a cameo, and a few other characters also show up. Don’t worry if you’ve never read the (unlicensed) prequel; the references actually serve to better flesh out the characters, and show that this isn’t just a story that began once Yukari entered the scene.

Did I forget to mention George? I did. Hi, George. I’ll have more to say about him in my next review. In the meantime, Paradise Kiss has attractive, vibrant characters, gorgeous and striking art, and a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. I’m incr3edibly happy that it’s back in print.

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