Paradise Kiss is somehow sadly overlooked in favor of its lengthier, more famous sibling, NANA, when someone talks about good josei manga. The omnibus edition which Vertical published between 2012 and 2013 boosted a little bit its visibility. It’s a remarkable series made of first quality materials. Care to take a look?
1. Chiffon: love relationships
It’s expectedly at the center of it all. With teens full of hormones, fumbling to find their way in life, things are sure to be messy. Paradise Kiss doesn’t try to hide or idealize the ugly sides of romance. It perhaps doesn’t make them obvious from day 1 and doesn’t actually use the terms ‘abusive relationship’ and ‘rape’, yet the signs are there and they are presented under negative light both through images and words . Jealousy is shown with a green nasty face and at full speed gives a decisive blow.
George is manipulating Yukari psychologically, trying to make her independent, and though that isn’t bad per se, he clearly doesn’t give enough emotional support to her. George is honest and straightforward especially when it comes to work-related stuff to a point though that he is simply blunt. He always expects from her to call, to voice her feelings, to share what happens in her life without returning the favors. When a woman shows up whom George cherishes so much to go out of his way to see and talk to her, whom apparently trusts even more than Yukari, the latter has reached her limits displaying quite a bad behavior and they end up having rough sex with malignant emotions. After that they drift apart and Yukari knows just being physically together isn’t enough. Arashi is way worse than George. His bad self-image in comparison to what image he has
for his friend and rival in love, Hiroyuki, inflict a lot of pain on Miwako, who is both naive and good-willed, so she can’t see that Arashi’s behavior isn’t her fault at all. From very early in the story one notices how Arashi will escort Miwako where she needed to go whenever he had the chance. He never seems to take in consideration his lover’s feelings and although he deep down knows where he goes wrong, he doesn’t do much to fix the problem. The climax of their story is when Arashi breaks Miwako’s cellphone in a jealousy feat after searching her sms without her consent. Hiroyuki talks some sense in him and thus things change for the better.
Trying to force a bond between you and your partner is doomed to fail. You can’t possess another individual because (s)he isn’t a thing but a separate entity with its own will and world. This is also apparent in the case of George’s mother who, as many other foolish women, thought that getting pregnant would tie her love interest down, but instead she just ruined her life with her own hands; a baby isn’t a miracle machine that changes men and erases any problem the couple may have. A baby is a great responsibility, that requires lots of care, not a panacea. She is depicted as quite miserable and continuously scolded by her son and friend about her nagging over her failed choices.
Another theme that the series touches quite decently is polyamory . We don’t see such a couple but a person who loves two people almost equally and that’s none other than Miwako. She isn’t called names like ‘indecisive’ or ‘whore’ for these feelings of hers; Yukari listens to her with sympathy and never questions her feelings as impossible or shameful. Because they are neither: polyamorous people aren’t immoral, promiscuous or sexmaniacs. It’s rather society and the concepts of love and sex we have in mind rather than how well we communicate and what we agree with our partner that has made us think we can’t love more than one person, while in reality we do that every day when it comes to friends and relatives. Yukari only says “It’s not okay… you can’t help it”. In the end, Miwako decides to restrict herself to Arashi because it wouldn’t work otherwise with Arashi. And all that have to do with societal conventions. It’s also interesting how Hiro hasn’t stopped loving Miwako even after he’s married to Yukari and it isn’t portrayed as ‘cheating’.
The pinnacle of talking about love though comes from the series’ subtle comment on friendship compared to romantic love. People of the opposite sex can very well be friends; in some cases the only thing they can be is friends, since it’s one thing to be accepting towards another person’s flaws and a whole other thing having to live and bear with them. There’s also the issue of sexual compatibility which isn’t an easily dismissable subject, because sex is an important part of a sexual relationship -duh! I know, but some folks think of sex as something lesser and not worthy considering when being in love with somebody. There is no such thing as 100% compatibility, but people shouldn’t suppress their needs as much as possible. Other times there are lovers who fail at being friends and thus the relationship wrecks.
George and Yukari couldn’t trust and genuinely respect each other much, which is a big part of their problem. Those two became friends after the broke up. That is perhaps they greatest thing of them all: your life moves on even after you have lost a person you thought you couldn’t live without. Things don’t need to end super-dramatically or in an ugly manner. People learn something from one another and can continue caring for a person with whom their roads in life crossed and influenced each other without that being interpreted as not being able to get over something already in the past. The next lover doesn’t need necessarily to get jealous over the ex. I find really sweet how Yukari’s husband isn’t bothered by her wearing a dress George made.
Talking about the ending, ain’t it inspiring that women can actually feel awesome about themselves even without romances? Yukari’s carrier starts soaring after her break up and she loves what she does. George did give her a push to try standing on her own two feet, but it’s her own decision to stick with her work , choose not following him and end things. Love after all doesn’t equal sacrifice. Although it might mean making some compromises, that’s not the same with throwing away your life for another person. We even hear George reprimanding Isabella about this opinion of hers. When a relationship harms you, you should exit it.
And that’s what Yukari wisely did. The manga shows how George actually slut shames her when he says that he hasn’t slept with Kaori, because “she’s not that kind of girl”. Yukari is shown being offended and very logically so because he actually implied that she as his lover is less of a human being somehow. I find it significant that not only in the end she is able to let go what wasn’t very good for her but also the fact that she realized she wasn’t appreciated as a person and in her mind that wasn’t excusable.
George finds his teacher in Kaori who is very straightforward with him and puts him in his place when he talks romantic nonsense.
G: All I can think is that she was born into this world with that personality and figure just to trifle with me.
K: You’re terribly mistaken if you think anyone was born just for your sake.
G: But that’s how I express my love. When I like someone I want to torment them.
K: You’re a sadist. Or a kindergartener. Like those brats who throw sand at girls at the sandbox, even though it just earns them hatred. You just want attention little man.
(Continues next page)