The storm brewing outside of the mall was relaxing. Silver clouds beaming with a backdrop of lightning, each flash silent to the chattering food court. I loved the way that the rain pelted away at its large, endless windows. There is a corner I always slip away to during lunch, across the street from where I worked. It's where I often get a head start on material that needed to be brought back home and looked over. It made me sad that this old mall was actually dying and less people come here every day. Around the usual time, a lone man would open up a coffee shop next to where I sat. It's an odd place decorated with a mix of posters from James Dean to the Shape of Water and various anime sorts (must send you a picture sometime, it's quite something to look at). Alternative Rock, videogame, and anime music scores often coil about and slither from the shelf above his head. That day, Lonely in Gorgeous by Tommy February 6 was playing and stayed with me to the end of my shift. I decided to sit the gloomy weekend out and re-examine Paradise Kiss with a bit of lingering deliberation. It had such a positive impact on my teenage youth. I would have disliked to have found out that pure nostalgia was the reason behind my regard towards it in current times.
The show certainly had aged but not necessarily in a bad way. As suspected, there was a hint of nostalgia but that didn't impede on any fresh assessments. In fact, I almost forgot that this show was something my friends and I were inspired by at some point and I ended up enjoying it more for that.
Paradise Kiss is a manga series written and illustrated by Ai Yazawa. I had first heard about Ai Yazawa after doing some research into various art styles. Neighborhood Story left a fundamental impression on me from the start. With its creative illustrations that pushed the boundaries of fashionable capacity at the time. It was designed in more realistic tones than other work with similar aesthetics. Especially those in the Magical Girl genres and subgenres. What stood out was how the artwork was able to apply itself whimsically but also complement the central focus in storytelling. That even a visual, upbeat concept like fashion and the general delve into creative vocation had the complexities of failure and struggle.
I recall all the pomp and frivolous trails of romantic sentimentalities and even the conventional daily prospect of life. However, it's recently that I find Yukari Hayasaka (A.K.A Caroline) such an endearing character that my youth had misjudged as whiny and unpleasant. In hindsight, she's actually quite believable and somewhat relatable. Putting aside the tropes of a romantic genre, how often did shows venture into the stages of relationships— with thought provoking mediums and real life consequences?
Yukari is young and still finding herself but it doesn't just stop as an abstraction and concluded through vague symbolism or metaphorical principles. She faces real world decision making and their effects.
As the show progresses we see Yukari struggling with school work, exploring an interest that presents her with opportunity and work ethics. Of course, this collides with her youth. School, class peers; the contrast of a normal upbringing with that of early pursuits and callings. The decisions that she makes feel absolutely present.
On one hand, she neglects school to focus on life-experiences that help her grow as a person. This offers her a rare advantage into something she notably has aptitude in. An aptitude she couldn't have discovered without the encounter with the ParaKiss club. Here, her first impressions are stereotypical and misjudging. She spends much of her life as a model student that's focused on study and academic achievement to even be bothered by a group that prioritizes creative interest. Once she establishes the determination and passion they have for their work, she begins to develop in personality and open-mindedness. Eventually, she finds acceptance and understanding and it's this very affirmation in the storytelling that moved me when I was younger. When the company and routine you've always kept can no longer inspire you in life, you grow and gravitate toward something new. There's nothing wrong with looking outside your circle or being curious about doing so. Even when it's uncomfortable at first because change is massive and important and frightening. Which is what I ended up appreciating about this show. In a strange way, Paradise Kiss felt like a long absent companion.
Each character journeys through their own revelations and identities within the club. Where Yukari finds faults and uncertainty in the path she's been taking. Ultimately choosing education to have something to fall back on, as a process that works for her. In opposition of Jōji Koizumi (A.K.A George), where the process of branching out is in full certainty and clarity. It also sets the audience up to find more familiarity between Yukari's inexperience in life or George's exposure to it at an early age. Personally, I found this duality of perspectives an uncommon and fruitful one that I hadn't seen since Whisper of the Heart. I ended up enjoying the evolution of their feelings, flourishing into a mutual respect for one another. So much so, that they took a vital step in the direction of their goals and in educational necessity. The anime also illustrated all the bases of it's primary lesson, so that one could find connection with one or multiple characters. You have Yukari looking for purpose and self-discovery, George that's already well versed in life and introspection and knows what he wants from his future. Miwako, learning to separate herself from her sister's shadow and growing into her own independent character. Miwako's development does a wonderful job of creating an atmosphere of positive shortcomings. She recognizes that she indeed has talent but next to her sister, it's a talent that currently had limitations. In resolve, she's okay with this because she understands her abilities need growth. Arashi, coming to the awareness that his secondary passion was more promising than the current one he had placed all of his confidence and time in. Grasping where his strengths and weaknesses were as a person. As well as tackling communication issues and trust with some of the people in his life. Isabella is by far the most compelling of the party without being preachy or utilized as an intermediary. Isabella is a transgender woman and this information is reserved until it was necessary to bring to the forefront of the story. Giving the character a dignity best articulated in confidence and in a positive form of handling. Isabella isn't the subject of sexual tropes and her femininity is never set to a quip. Additionally, she turns out to be the inspiration for our talented haute couture designer.
I love this group of quirky individuals! A more satisfying Breakfast Club, with tons of social architecture and emotional spheres from fleeting dreams to effective realities. There was a time in my life when everything was an adventure of unearthing. Lapping at my heels with a cool sensation and it's true; diving makes the water deep. Paradise Kiss reminds me of the silly and artless, gutsy and bold, cringe and stubborn, challenging and placid, easy and difficult times as a young adult.
Ai Yazawa herself, with her interesting artwork, guided some of my old friends and myself into bursts of imaginative brainstorming. The same way fashion enthusiasts come across gratifying magazines, we came across her work and more!
When the show had concluded I got a sense of fulfilment for a second time. A reminder that the very chapters in our story that once helped us find our footing, sometimes need a bit of dusting off. This anime will always have a special place in my heart and a special place in a black French-bob with teal tips; age sixteen.
Is there an anime that takes you back? Did it have an impact on you or left any sort of everlasting impression? Let me know!