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Favorite Episode
Every now and then, I still think about one of the last episodes, where George dresses up Yukari in a fur-lined kimono for their New Year pilgrimage to the temple. At the temple they run into their friends and discover that Arashi and Hiroyuki had made up, much to Miwako's happiness. Later, when George and Yukari are alone in his car, he mentions their differences and how they just keep pushing each other away. Yukari stubbornly responds that they can do something about their differences. Then, while they are watching the sunrise, George tells Yukari that he will go to France and asks her to go with him. Yukari is astounded; perhaps then she realizes that George truly loves her. But then she finds some resolve in herself to say no and stay in Japan instead because her dreams of modeling are taking off.

Paradise Kiss
Synopsis | Review

I first learned about Paradise Kiss several years ago when I saw an ad for it on the back (front) of a TokyoPop manga. But the ad consisted of Arashi and Miwako. Arashi is one of the side characters who has a lot of face piercings, and Miwako always wears frilly, little-girl clothes. When I saw the ad, I thought that Arashi and Miwako were the leading characters in this series. The artwork also looked too... um... edgy for my taste. I thought Paradise Kiss was all about some punk and some girly girl falling in love with each other. And it's true, Arashi and Miwako are a couple. However, they're not the main characters of this story.

Then my sister discovered Paradise Kiss, watched it, and imperiously ordered me to watch it. I eventually did, after she assured me over and over (and over and over and over) that there's a great romantic story in it. And I have found that I judged a book by its cover yet again.

Paradise Kiss was written by Ai Yazawa, the same mangaka who created Kagen no Tsuki and Gokinjo Monogatari. Actually, ParaKiss is considered as a sequel of sorts to Gokinjo Monogatari. Some characters from the latter appear in the former. Also, Miwako is the younger sister of the main character in Gokinjo Monogatari.

The ParaKiss manga has 5 volumes. It was subsequently turned into a 12-episode anime, which is remarkably faithful to the storyline.

Synopsis
Yukari Hayasaka is a student at a relatively prestigious high school, where she is actually struggling because she's not very smart. She worked hard to get into the high school because her mother wants her to.

One day, Yukari is crossing the street when she is spotted by Arashi. At first glance, Arashi is scary. I mean, he scared me when I saw him for the first time with his spiky hair and all his piercings. Yukari instinctively fled when he approached her, but she is caught by his friend, Isabella. And Isabella scared Yukari as much as Arashi did, because she is tall, dresses in old-fashioned, feminine clothes, and has unusual make-up. Notably, Isabella is transgender.

Arashi and Isabella take Yukari to their atelier, where they are joined by Arashi's girlfriend, Miwako. They ask her to model for Paradise Kiss, which is a clothing line that they help develop. Yukari declines and inadvertently insults their passion for designing clothes and for being in an art school. Arashi is deeply offended by this.

After Yukari leaves, George is introduced. George is the creator of Paradise Kiss and is one of the top students at the art school. He was selected to compete in an upcoming fashion show, and Arashi, Isabella, and Miwako are assisting him. The main reason why Arashi approached Yukari in the first place is because he thought she would make a great model for George's entry in the fashion show.

George sees Yukari's ID, which she accidentally dropped on her way out. He agrees that she is the perfect model for the fashion show and tracks her down. By subtly teasing her and piquing her interest, he eventually convinces her to model for Paradise Kiss. But that's not the only reason why Yukari decided to model: she is tired of leading a life whose main objective is to please her mother, and she wants to find out what she truly wants to do.

As Yukari becomes more and more involved with George and his crew, the more she realizes that she doesn't like the life that she's been leading. Her classmate that she has a crush on, Hiroyuki Tokumori, becomes concerned about her school performance. She fights with her mother and then runs away from home. But at the same time, Yukari experiences what it's like to follow her newfound dream of modeling. She also experiences how passionate and destructive it can be to fall in love with George.

Review
What makes Paradise Kiss great is that the main characters are seriously flawed. Yukari is very insecure of herself and of her relationship with George. Meanwhile, George refuses to meet Yukari's needs and is set on protecting himself from being hurt by always testing her. But both of them are drop-dead gorgeous. It is clear that they love each other, but their personalities strain their relationship. This is one of the few stories I know where it is the personalities of the characters that end the relationship, instead of external circumstances... like sudden girlfriend appearances, love triangles, one person moving away... okay, fine, George did move away and that did signal the end of his relationship with Yukari, and Yukari eventually marries Hiroyuki. However, Yazawa-sensei did a great job of showing that even if George stayed or if Yukari went with him, their relationship probably wouldn't work out anyway because of their personalities.

The drama in this anime makes it geared for more mature viewers, although there is comedy to break the tension every now and then. I also love how there are unconventional additions to the anime, such as fantastic creatures crawling through real-life urban scenes.

The artwork is amazing. I love how the atelier was rendered, and over time, I got used to Arashi and Miwako's graphics as well. Even if Yazawa-sensei's artwork isn't your type, you can easily look past it and immerse yourself in the storyline.

The opening and closing sequences are great. I always watch ParaKiss' opening sequence, even though I've seen it several times before. Every now and then, I watch the closing sequence because it has caricatures of the series' characters.

The opening song is "Lonely in Gorgeous," which is now one of my favorite anime songs. The closing song is "Do You Want To." It is more irreverent than "Lonely in Gorgeous," and it often gets stuck in my head @_@.

Paradise Kiss is a must-see if you are looking for shoujo anime along the lines of Hana Yori Dango, you are tired of the magical girls and the gooshy storylines, and you want to see good drama that is not overly dramatic.

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