If, like me, you know nothing about fashion but a lot about manga, then this could be the manga for you. Paradise Kiss features a brief glance into the fashion industry and cool clothes, while also accompanying it with wonderful art, moving plot, and great characters.
The manga follows senior high school girl Yukari Hayasaka, who is uncomfortable with her studies and her forthcoming exams. One day she is kidnapped by a quartet of students, all of whom are studying fashion design and are trying to set up their own fashion label: Paradise Kiss. The students include the leader George, an eccentric bisexual with blue hair and a love of haute couture; Isabella, a transgender woman with an unusual taste in make-up; Arashi, who is into punk fashion, complete with safety pin piercings; and his lover Miwako, who is into Lolita fashion and constantly refers to herself in the third person.
After taking Yukari to their underground “atelier”, the kidnappers tell her that they are taking part in a fashion show at their school and believe Yukari would make an ideal model. She resists, but eventually she joins, believing that modelling could result in a better life than taking exams which she is not interested in. Not surprisingly this eventually angers her mother who wants her to study.
As mentioned, the artwork is one of the main draws for this series. If you prefer your manga art to be on the more realistic side than you find Paradise Kiss to your liking. Also, Yazama does play with the conventions somewhat. There are several points during the series in which the characters refer to themselves being characters in a manga and what their roles are in it.
One thing I found of interest personally was the way it deals with the sexuality and gender of some of the characters. Most of the time George’s bisexuality and Isabella’s transgenderism only gets mentioned in passing, but there are some comments, such as Isabella saying of George: “He loves girls and boys the same. So philanthropic.” (Vol. 1, p. 181) Speaking as someone who actually is bisexual, I approve of that comment. If anyone is in need of some attention I am more than willing to make a charitable donation.
If I were to have any quibbles with it, it would be with nicknames. Miwako for unknown reasons nicknames Yukari “Caroline”. Isabella also joins in on the nickname so for about half the time Yukari is referred to by her real name and by her nickname. However, while it is a bit annoying at first, you get used to it eventually.
Paradise Kiss is wonderfully illustrated manga with a plot that slowly drags you in. The drama builds up perfectly and makes you hungry for more. Best read while wearing your most stunning outfit.