“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde.
Due to these being larger collections of the original series, this Vertical edition forms the concluding part of Paradise Kiss, a manga following schoolgirl Yukari Hayasaka who finds herself becoming a model for a quartet of fashion students: haute couture exponent George, transgender make-up lover Isabella, lolita Miwako, and punk Arashi.
The end of the second volume saw Yukari and George’s relationship becoming increasingly romantic as the group prepared for a fashion show at their school. Meanwhile the others faced trouble when some of the items they were working on for the show were confiscated by their teacher when they were discovered skipping from class.
As we move onto the third volume of the book, the fashion show finally arrives, Yukari continues to come into conflict with her mother who wants her to study more, and George seriously considers an offer to study in London, which would mean disbanding the group.
As before, there are plenty of things that make this manga great. The most obvious one is the art. The outfits worn by the characters are all great, but the most spectacular one is the dress that Yukari walks down the catwalk in during the fashion show, complete with specially dyed blue roses. It is absolutely breathtaking. When you first look at it (see p. 89) there is so much to take in. Firstly there is the scale and grandeur of the outfit, and then you move onto the detail: the way it shines, the ruffs on the inside of the dress, the roses dangling from the dress, as well as around the neck and on top of the model’s head. Then you see Yukari close-up, and the way the character’s natural beauty reflects that of the outfit. It is truly brilliant, and praise should go to Ai Yazama’s artistic efforts.
There is also the way the book deals with sexuality. In the book we see the beginnings of Isabella’s love of the feminine, which was helped to be sparked by George. Then there is also the relationship between Miwako and Arashi which is under much tension, but is helped along by an old friend and Yukari’s school-friend Hiroyuki.
There were plenty of emotions that arose when reading Paradise Kiss. There was passion, amazement, joy, and a bit of sadness. In terms of the ending, I am not sure what to make of it exactly. I would argue that for a josei it is typically realistic. Maybe it is for the best as it does stir some feelings. I am just unsure as to whether those were the feelings I wanted.
Paradise Kiss is a wonderful manga because it makes you feel, see, and experience such a wide variety of things, whether just for the clothes, or the plot and the characters wearing those garments.