Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa is a series that feels as if it were written for me. Having gone to fashion school myself and spending the majority of my years in high school focusing more on my career than studying for tests, I completely relate to Yukari (aka Caroline, aka Carrie). In the beginning, Yukari is a shy student with little confidence and direction, but everything changes for her when she meets Arashi, Miwako, Isabella and George (students at Yaza Arts, a fashion institute). Arashi bumps into Yukari on the street and asks her to be a model for their fashion show. At first, Yukari has many reservations about modeling, but once she visits their atelier she sees how serious the group is about producing and selling Paradise Kiss label clothing. She waits several days to give them her final answer, but she ultimately decides to lie to her mother, skip out on cram school, and help out at the atelier as much as she possibly can. Infatuated by the brands designer, George, and driven by a a newfound career passion, Yukari’s character becomes way more dynamic. Throughout the series she continues to grow and push her sense of free will to the limit.
Yukari immerses herself in the world of fashion. She becomes best friends with Miwako, who is constantly comparing herself and trying to measure up to her older sister, the designer of Happy Berry clothing. Miwako helps Yukari with girly things like picking out clothing and acting as a makeup artist as well as offering her comfort in times of need, and a place to stay when things get rough. Yukari also ditches her childhood crush on a fellow student in high school and gets involved in a twisted and confusing romance with the irresistible George. It’s questionable whether George’s antics are helping or hindering Yukari’s development, but it’s a storyline you’ll be clinging to until the very last word.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the series is how self aware the characters are, and their constant habit of breaking the fourth wall. The majority of Yukari’s communication of her innermost thoughts to the reader is primarily through monologues, while the other characters will turn their heads to the read and blatantly express a thought, apologize for jumping around, or clarify which type of chapter this will be. Also, it would be impossible to fully express my love of this series without mentioning the amazing artwork. Each character is drawn flawlessly! They’re just the right mix of cute, chic, and youthful. Obviously their clothes are to die for (as this is a tale about fashion), and the atelier looks like my high school dream hangout. Throughout the series I felt connected and invested in each character’s life. I will forever be grateful to Betty Felon who enlightened me with her recommendation (for those who don’t know, she’s pretty fashionable herself ^_^). Paradise Kiss is without a doubt my favorite manga series, and I would go so far as to say that it is also one of my favorite series I’ve ever read in any form of literature.
You can pick up all three volumes of Paradise Kiss on Amazon, or at a bookstore near you that sells manga! If you decide to indulge yourself and read the series, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Yukari and the Yaza Arts kids!