“Love is Painful, and Great, and Confusing, and…”- Paradise Kiss (Manga) – 6/10 Sugar Cubes

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down. ~ Woody Allen

Genre: Drama, Romance

Review Status: Full (5 Volumes/ 5 Volumes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art: Sumptuous. Stylized. One might think that the mangaka had spent more time inventing the outfits the characters had to wear than thinking up the storyline itself (and due to how greatly this manga/anime had influenced style in Japan, who could blame me?). Even so, visually, the character designs might take a short time to get used to, but overall the designs that go into this look fabulous.

: Yukari is a typical high-school student who listens to her parents and attends school everyday. As she starts to question her way of life, she encounters a group of fashion design students who has a clothing label known as “Paradise Kiss”. The group needs to find a model to showcase their designs in an up-coming fashion show and decides to pick Yukari instead. Initially, Yukari was reluctant to be associated with this seemingly eccentric group, but eventually, she realizes that they are really nice people. Furthermore, their passion and enthusiasm to follow their ideals and dreams make Yukari realize that she has not been enjoying her life and this motivated her to pursue her own dreams. (From ANN.com)

Review: Now that you’ve read the official summary, here’s the real one:

Girl gets recruited into being a model for a group of fashion design students, mostly because she has a huge crush on the guy who tries to recruit her. Major drama ensues as said students prepare for a major fashion show while dealing with their own horrendously confused, and sometimes just messed-up, love lives.

Right now you might be wondering about the harshness of my tone, especially since I gave it a decent rating. Well, it’s complicated (isn’t it always?). You see, this manga inspired many feelings in me. Primarily was “HORMONES AND ANGST! Dang, I thought I grew out of this stuff!” But in spite of my disdain towards their interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, I could see where they were coming from.

For those who aren’t highly knowledgeable of Japanese academics, over there there’s a LOT of competition to be in the best schools and best colleges. It’s sorta like how we view football teams here in the US. Except even more so, if that makes any sense. It starts way back in elementary school, right up until the end of high school, when you take your entrance exams for college.. That’s right- your high school transcript isn’t all you need to get into Tokyo U.

Yukari, while bright and hardworking, just isn’t bright enough to get into those top schools- even though her younger brother is. I can totally see where she’s coming from- all her life, she’s been pressured to study harder and get higher grades- of course she’s looking for an escape! And a hawt guy wanting to design clothes for you isn’t easy to resist. But that’s where the trouble starts, because George isn’t the white knight that she dreams of. In all actuality, he’s a pretty sick jerk himself…. And even though at the end Yukari claims to sorta understand him, I never did- I just thought he was twisted.

Of course, the other characters get plenty of screen time, from Isabella, the cross-dressing wise-woman (man?) of the group. Always keeping herself above the fray, and giving wise advice when needed, she’s definitely one of my favorite characters. There was also decent drama in the sort-of love triangle between Miwako, a girl who feels she can’t measure up to her older sister’s designing success, Arachi, her rock-band designer BF, and the other man she felt she couldn’t let go of (but who had gotten over his feelings for her, and instead was in love with Yukari) Hiroyuki.

Confused about the relationships yet? It’s easier to understand when you read it. Especially since it provides most of the fodder for the manga. But the parts I appreciated most weren’t Yukari’s attempts to understand herself or George, or when she had issues with her mom, it was when she and the others were working together to make the dress for the fashion event, and all the things that went wrong with that (And the fixes they used- omg! So awesome!).

And of course, the clothes! For something that focused on fashion students you saw CLOTHES! Hip clothes, ridiculous clothes, clothes that I envy even now because they were so darned PRETTY! If you’re into fashion, this is something that even if you don’t read, you might want to page through, because there’s always something new to see.

Overall, this manga, while having too much angst and hormones, had a whole lot of awesome, too. It might not be on my bookshelf, but maybe I’ll find it on yours.

Recommended: If your local library carries it. This is definitely aiming at a more niche girl- high school age, I would say. But since it’s aiming at an older audience, it also has mentions and has some (not graphic) sex scenes. Definitely not something you should read or watch with a younger sibling.

Others you might like (instead):
The prequel Neighborhood Story (manga),
NANA (manga),
Solanin (manga)
Millenium Actress (anime)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (anime)
Kamikaze Girls (live-action, light novel, and manga are all good bets).


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