Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss is back for another round of love and heartbreak as the Parakiss group tries to finish George’s dress design in time for the Yazawa School of Design fashion show. Meanwhile, Yukari Hayasaka is falling for a man while trying to stand on her own two feet at the same time. Having run away from home, Yukari is going to show her overbearing mother and everyone else that the only person who should have a say in her tumultuous life is Yukari. Featuring popular J-drama actress Yu Yamada in her first seiyuu role and character designs by Yuki Nobuteru (The Vision of Escaflowne, Heat Guy J), Paradise Kiss: Volume 2 struts down the runway of Japanese fashion design for a second look into the animated drama.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English, Signs-Only
Extras: Voice Actors’ Round-Table Discussion, THE BABYS Concert, Promotional Video, Character Concept Art, Trailers, Manga preview (DVD-ROM)
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product. Preview audio clips are available.
Having revealed the truth about skipping classes and not wanting to go to college, Yukari finds herself on the end of a hard slap from her mother. So, Yukari has decided to run away from home and the Parakiss gang is more than happy to help Yukari follow her dreams. Yukari doesn’t want to put anyone out and is willing to bunk at the studio, but George is against the idea of someone taking up their place of creativity as a home. Instead, Arashi offers his apartment to Yukari while he stays at home until Yukari can find a job and get on her feet. Miwako calls her big sis and arranges an interview at Happy Berry for a salesgirl position. Mikako is a graduate of the YSD and has created a successful label in the years since having been in school. However, when Yukari arrives, the job to sell clothes has already been taken. Disappointed, Yukari offers to leave when Mikako reveals the surprise: she wants Yukari to model for him. Tall, slender, and leggy, Yukari is the perfect model for Mikako’s fashion shoot. With a job secure, Yukari meets up with the Parakiss gang that night to celebrate. Meanwhile, Tokumori is worrying about Yukari since she hasn’t been in school. If Yukari doesn’t show up soon, she won’t be ready for the exams in a few days.
Episode six follows Yukari’s adventure into a brand new world. The fashion shoot at an old Western-style restaurant goes off without a hitch. Mikako introduces her find to the staff who simply go gaga over how perfect Yukari is for the job. George’s friend Seiji is on-set to do make-up and watch over the budding star, but Yukari falls into synch with the rest of the group very naturally. Even the restaurant staff wants to get pictures with her afterwards in the hope that she becomes a famous model. That evening, the Parakiss group celebrate Yukari’s first job, then leave it to George to take her home. But once the pair arrive at Yukari’s place, she can’t bare to let her boyfriend simply drive off for the night.
The final two episodes reveal just how much of a roller-coaster life Yukari has found herself in as obligations in the real world are just as demanding as those in school. Tokumori had gone looking for Yukari, but Miwako manages to intercept and talk to him before he can find Yukari in a very compromising position with someone else. The two talk for a little bit, but Arashi manages to find out and thinks something more is going on behind his back. George has moved Yukari into his spacious apartment and leaves out litte notes to make sure she eats and wears outfits he thinks are perfect for her. But Yukari is still determined to stand on her own and seeks assistance from Mikako to find a modeling agency. Mikako has a friend who has just started one, and all Yukari needs is her parents’ approval. Damn. Tokumori also hasn’t given up on bringing Yukari back to school and manages to convince her to have coffee with him. Unfortunately, the conversation quickly goes downhill as Tokumori points out how selfish Yukari’s been, running away from home, and that Yukari’s mom has been covering for her so she can make up her missed exams. Meeting George’s mom is only going to open Yukari’s eyes more to what this caged bird needs to do to learn to fly on her own.
Paradise Kiss already stood out in an overly crowded market with a fashion storyline, great character designs, and a tongue-in-cheek display of humor mixed into the conversations and animation. The simple, hidden jokes and breaking of the fourth wall are endlessly amusing as the series continues on. However, everything changes and it becomes apparent just how different this series is going to be due to the simple introduction of the characters making love. Not to be confused with the lustful sex featured in hentai, Paradise Kiss takes a gentle hand to caress the simplicity of the moment, then moves on with the characters having grown. It’s a rarely used feature in anime series and is perfect for a romantic coming-of-age drama like Paradise Kiss. Though, I’m sure the Arashi/Miwako coupling could be spun off into a wicked hentai just by following those two around any given week. The Japanese cast pulls together nicely for this volume with even smaller characters sounding perfect for their roles. Yoko Sawaumi’s small role as the upstart model agency president Kozue is very fitting as she portrays every side of her character. Rumi Shishido’s Mikako mirrors the cheerful peppiness of Marika Matsumoto’s Miwako. Yu Yamada (Yukari) and Kenji Hamada (George) play off each other very well throughout the four episodes as the love/hate tugs of their relationship really need the emotional touches given to them by the two seiyuu. The English production by Bang Zoom! Entertainment, on the other hand, needs to polish up the script and direction under Stephanie Sheh’s watch. Like the first volume, the script tends to waffle between accurate and sketchy with scenes coming off as too simplified now. Julie Ann Taylor continues to put in a good amount of effort capturing Yukari’s various personalities and is worth listening to. However, the rest of the cast can be mixed as not everyone is matched with the proper characters. Add to this the poor direction and dialogue given to Patrick Seitz and you end up with a rather lackluster George. It’s a bad sign when a pretty boy like George doesn’t sound or act like he has the finesse to sweet talk Yukari into anything.
Paradise Kiss: Volume 2 breaks the traditional mold and sets its own path to follow, just like Yukari is trying to do in her own life. While this romantic drama with just the right touch of humor will not be for everyone, it’s a true shame if you don’t even check out one or two episodes to see if you might like it. Paradise Kiss will not disappoint if you give it a chance. The video continues to be solid and the subtitles contain no errors. The DVD extras are heavy with a 22-minute seiyuu round table discussion, a 20-minute concert with THE BABYS, a promotional video, a gallery of character concept art, and a DVD-ROM preview of the manga series published by TOKYOPOP. Paradise Kiss: Volume 2 sets up the last volume very well, and you will want to have it handy once you finish this volume. Paradise Kiss is unique on many levels; a few more titles like this series wouldn’t hurt.