*Paradise Kiss Books 1-5 — Recommended

Review by Ed Sizemore

***This review contains spoilers***

Yukari Hayasaka was a typical high school student until she was scouted by the student group “Paradise Kiss” to be their model for the Yazawa School for the Arts (Yaza Arts) senior fashion show. Meeting these four friends has Yukari questioning everything about her life. The series follows these five people through their final year of high school.

Paradise Kiss Book 1 cover
Paradise Kiss Book 1
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At its heart, Paradise Kiss is a coming-of-age story for Yukari. The catalyst for her metamorphosis is the community formed by four Yaza Arts students. It’s the first time she sees people who are creating their own future. Yukari has always just followed the path outlined for her by her mother. The members of Paradise Kiss support and accept each other unconditionally. Their passion makes Yukari reexamine her own life.

Paradise Kiss is a meticulously crafted series. Unfortunately, it’s rare in manga to have a series where the author has mapped out the entire story from beginning to end. It’s not only the plot; the relationships are well-thought-out, too. It’s a great pleasure to see the events and relationships unfold and evolve naturally. It makes for a satisfying read with a real sense of finality.

The series has the feeling of a fairy tale. Not the light, frothy ones that get told today, but the original ones that blended a sense of reality and fantasy to create compelling, yet reassuring, stories. Realism is seen in the way George’s and Yuraki’s relationship progresses and ends. It’s further seen in the fact that Paradise Kiss doesn’t become an overnight fashion hit. The lack of a Hollywood perfect ending is part of what makes this a satisfying read.

The fantasy element is seen in the safety net that Yazawa gives her characters. Each one is attractive, talented, and from well-off families. You never worry about their futures. It’s easy to see that the members of Paradise Kiss will each succeed in the fashion industry in some way. They may not all be top name designers, but their talents will ensure they will always have a job. Yukari falls into being a fashion model and instantly finds success. Even if any of the people should fail, their families have enough money to ensure they will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Yazawa’s art is nothing short of amazing. She knows how to draw beautiful people and dazzling clothes. The characters all have an incredible sense of fashion. Yazawa is also able to portray a wide range of styles, and she fills this manga with incredible eye candy. Beyond just being a outstanding draftswoman, Yazawa is also an excellent visual storyteller. She has nice clean page layouts that are as well-designed as the character’s clothes.

Paradise Kiss is an engaging and satisfying series. Yazawa has crafted a manga that is subtle and mature in both storytelling and visuals. These characters come across more as college seniors instead of high school seniors. It’s a shame that the series is currently out of print. It’s a very accessible series for people unfamiliar with manga in general and more specifically the women’s manga genre. Paradise Kiss would be enjoyed by anyone who loves well-created stories.

This review was posted as part of the Paradise Kiss Manga Moveable Feast. Johanna previously reviewed the series as well. Ai Yazawa’s current series, if you’d like to read more of her work, is Nana.

Similar Posts: Vertical Brings Paradise Kiss Back Into Print § *Paradise Kiss — Recommended Series § Penguin Revolution Book 1 § St. Dragon Girl Books 1-3 § *V.B. Rose Book 7 — Recommended

10 Comments

  1. [...] Paradise Kiss Books 1-5 — Recommended – Ed Sizemore (Manga Worth Reading) [...]

  2. James Schee

    Good review Ed! I’ve only read one volume of this, really loved it as it had a good mixture of drama and comedy. Plus characters that I honestly found really bizarre but fascinating. I was hit by a money crunch at the time after reading the first volume, so never got to pick up the rest. Its out of print now I think, but maybe I’ll find them at a used book store or con some day.

  3. [...] Ed Sizemore at Manga Worth Reading has posted his thoughtful take on the series, which includes this observation on the role of realism in the story: [...]

  4. Wow, this series takes me back, I read this so long ago! But it’s a series I love a lot, and have a great time re-reading every once in a while. Even though I enjoy Nana a lot, this is my favorite of the two series by far.

  5. [...] Manga Moveable Feast continues with reviews and views on Paradise Kiss from Sean Gaffney, Ed Sizemore, and Lori [...]

  6. I think that, even though their families are “rich,” many of them are trying to break free from that. If I remember right, George says something about not wanting his dad to pay for more school. He’s also perfectly willing to give up his dream to support his mother and himself if necessary. The fact that his dad supports him in the end shouldn’t take away from the fact that he was willing to grow from that. And there isn’t any indication that his dad supports him when he goes to Paris, just that he’ll continue to support the mother.
    I also don’t think Arashi’s family was particularly rich, but I don’t recall what his family did….

    “The lack of a Hollywood perfect ending is part of what makes this a satisfying read.”
    I agree there, though. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s…real.

  7. Kris,

    I’m sure George’s father is paying for his studying abroad. I don’t know if he says it, or implies it, but George is also included in the will.

    Arashi’s father is a rock star, it’s never stated explicitly in the manga. When Arashi goes home there is a poster of a rock star and a little arrow next to it stating it’s Arashi’s father.

  8. Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry, I totally forgot they said Arashi’s father was in a band too. I don’t think I thought he was incredibly famous, though.

  9. [...] I’ve waited a month to read this latest installment, because I knew it would be the last for a while. Volume 21 catches us up to the Japanese releases, and due to creator Yazawa’s illness and recovery time, the series is currently on hold. (In the meantime, there’s always rereading the series from the beginning or enjoying her previous manga Paradise Kiss.) [...]

  10. [...] One of the best series Tokyopop ever published, Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa (Nana), is coming back into print from Vertical, who’s expanding into shojo manga titles. (Ed Sizemore also liked it.) [...]

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