By Jason S. Yadao
It’s Manga Movable Feast time once again, a week when my cohorts in manga blogging write reviews and essays about a given manga series (or on occasion manhwa, as seen last month with the group’s look at Kim Dong Hwa’s Color trilogy). This month, the MMF participants looked at Paradise Kiss, Ai Yazawa’s fashion-filled five-volume tale of a young woman struggling to find her true identity in this crazy, modern world of ours.
Normally this would be the part where I would add my $1.56 (that’s “two cents,” adjusted by current inflation rates and with some value added) to the discussion. But I’ve been busy working on some other projects these past few weeks, so I didn’t have enough time to do a more in-depth writeup. Next month’s topic — which will be revealed publicly tomorrow — sounds like fun, though, so I hope to do something more substantial when the time comes.
Really, though, you should go check out Paradise Kiss. I picked the series as one of my 50 must-read manga in The Rough Guide to Manga (still available at an online retailer near you, although you really should have gotten one for yourself, your family, your friends, your close personal acquaintances, and even a handful of perfect strangers by now … also, please get it while there’s still some semblance of relevance left in the aging-way-faster-than-I-thought-it-would “current manga publishers” section, thanks), so you know it has to be good. As I wrote in the book: “The setup seems cliched at first glance — the ‘ugly duckling transforms into a swan’ concept has played out in countless series before and since. But Aizawa steers cleer of simple cliches in building her story, capturing the natural anxieties of a teenager who struggles to find an identity that will make her more appealing to her peers and who makes plenty of mistakes along the way.”
Even now, a few years after I read the series for the first time in preparing to write the book, I can recall some of the key character traits without peeking — Yukari, the main character, who starts off as the dutiful daughter studying to get into college and ends up charting a far different path for herself, much to her mom’s chagrin; George, the brilliant, enigmatic designer who at turns can be so red-hot and ice-cold toward Yukari, and who sends her on her tumultuous emotional journey; and Miwako, the gothic lolita who’s far more mature emotionally than her childlike surface indicates (and who, on a whim, nicknames Yukari “Caroline” just because she looks like a “Caroline.”) Yazawa just has a way of crafting wonderful, down-to-earth gritty situations for her characters to deal with — see NANA, her current series, for proof of that — and I can’t recommend it enough.
But enough of my abbreviated ramblings. Go visit Michelle Smith’s Soliloquy in Blue for this month’s MMF archive. And then go read the series. (It is available locally in the library system, so there’s no excuse.)