I’m not one for romance, or “shoujo” manga. I’ve tried many types, but none of them really stuck with me. To be honest, it’s probably just that there isn’t enough going on for me to keep my attention; it’s so centralized on the two characters getting together that any other plot, if any, pales in comparison. Especially since, a lot of the time, it’s the tease of the two of them getting together that drives the manga, rather than the actual act of them getting together. It’s something that honestly just doesn’t attract my attention.
In the case of Paradise Kiss, by Ai Yazawa, something shifts in the whole formula that makes it enjoyable, and a breath of fresh air at the same time. In Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss, the main character, Yukari is driven by her parents to do really well in school; basically, to eschew all other forms of social obligation and focus on schoolwork and passing the university entrance exams. However, parallel to Yukari’s studious path, are a group of high schoolers in a prestigious fashion school. And in comes George, the head of those fashion students, and quite obviously the main romantic lead for Yukari as he whisks her away from her studies.
While the plot seems fairly typical, the execution is very different. In the first volume of the manga, the main two characters get together around halfway through it. There’s no dangling the carrot in front of the reader to keep them going. In fact, they actually make the typical teasing completely and utterly over the top, as it fits the main male character. The characters are all fun to read, and they each have their own story going on that makes each page, each chapter, more and more interesting as you flit from story to story; either reading about Yukari’s decision between living her dream or living her parents’ dreams, about Yukari’s relationship with George, or even about the relationship between two of the other main characters in the manga as they hit a road bump in their relationship.
But truly, what makes this manga unique is the fact that it’s quite self-aware. It knows it’s a romance manga, and it plays that up as much as it can. Quite often, the main characters break the fourth wall by saying that it is the party scene chapter, much to Yukari’s confusion. It all adds to this sort of exoticness of these fashion students, while making it a lot of fun to read. The “teasing” that the writer gives the reader is completely and utterly over the top, to the point where it’s obvious that the main male character is really just taunting and leading the main female character along, much to her displeasure.
The fact that they don’t take two and a half books to get together is also quite appealing about this particular book. It’s such a non-event that I actually nearly missed it; in one scene, they weren’t together, and in the next scene, they were. It was nice, not having to worry over it.
Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss is one of the best-written manga I’ve read in a while, to be completely honest. The humor that it uses is quite creative, and I can’t help but fall in love with this manga. It’s something that I would recommend to everyone, no matter whether they like romantic manga or not.
I give this five out of five ridiculous dresses.