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 realises that they are really nice people. Furthermore, their passion and enthusiasm to follow their ideals and dreams make Yukari realise that she has not been enjoying her life and this motivated her to pursue her own dreams.
I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed this show. And I don't mean that I went into it with any negative expectations. It's just that I don't have any real interest in fashion or clothes design or modeling, and yet I was still engaged throughout the entire show.
I think the strongest part of the show is the characters. They feel incredibly real. These are not typical anime exaggerated cariacatures of people. I was surprised at how they all felt like real people. (except for maybe George, just because he might be TOO perfect sometimes)
I was reading a little bit about it, and I found it very interesting that the director decided to use voice actors that weren't typically voice actors. The actor who played Arashi was a musician and had no prior experience. Similarly, most of the cast had very few roles in voice acting. I actually LIKE that, because it gives the reads a very different tone. Anime voice actors are great, and they're great for a reason, but there is a distinct difference in their delivery and the delivery of non-voice actors. It was refreshing, and I think it really helped with making the characters feel real.
Even a character like George felt completely real. You would think that he'd just be the cool, good-looking type, oh I'm such a dreamboat, I'm unattainable and distant. But he really does have feelings and flaws like an actual human being. He doesn't feel like something to be put on a pedestal.
The ways that relationships and their problems are handled along with intimacy felt especially real to me. It was nice to see an anime handle stuff like jealousy and even stuff like love triangles in a mature way that never felt grating.
I have to say that Yukari is a pretty great protagonist. She reminded me a lot of Haruhi from Ouran Host Club. Just someone who is very grounded in reality and headstrong and independent. And yet even though she has absolutely no interest in modeling to begin with, the arc she goes through where she starts to want to become one feels completely believable. Like I said before, I didn't think I'd care about modeling at all, but man, I was really rooting for Yukari.
The whole cast is just wonderfully likable and realistic. I also have to applaud the show for being especially LGBT-friendly. George is bisexual, but it's never made into a big deal. And then there's a character like Isabella, who is transgender, but it's handled so respectfully and tactfully that I was very much surprised. Other shows turn transgender people into big jokes or something to be lampshaded or emphasized, but with Isabella, you don't think "oh there's the transgender character." The emphasis is placed on her motherly nature and kindness, and you don't even care about the fact that she's originally a male or whatever. It's really well done, and I think more Japanese mediums need to take note and follow the example.
My only major issue with the show is that it does feel a little constrained in 12 episodes. I know it's adapted from a manga, and so there are several minor characters (basically anyone outside of Paradise Kiss) that feel like they should have a lot more to them, but unfortunately don't have a whole lot of time to expand upon. I think it results in some minor pacing issues as well. The last episode, honestly, felt like five episodes crammed into one.
But as I say all that, I was still very satisfied with the show as a whole. I didn't ever feel a sense of, "man I should read the manga instead." I think the anime did a respectable job of presenting the story in the number of episodes it had.
Good show. Great characters. Some surprisingly mature and real storytelling. Even if you have no interest in modeling or fashion, give it a shot.
Here's the opening:
And here's the SICK ending song provided by Franz Ferdinand