Posts tagged ‘Manga Moveable Feast ‘




Manga Moveable Feast: Sailor Moon

When the Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast was announced, I knew I absolutely had to contribute something. After all, it is because of Sailor Moon that I became interested in anime and manga in the first place. I’ve been a fan for almost half of my life, and I still proudly call myself a Moonie. (I even write SM fanfiction!) Though I’ve seen better anime and manga since those early days, Sailor Moon will always hold a special place in my heart.

But what to write about? The obvious choice was a review, but I only review completed series on this blog. That would mean I would have to review the Mixxzine/Tokyopop version of the manga, and, well…there’s nothing really nice I can say about it, other than that I’m glad it came out at all, even with the shoddy binding — my copies are pretty much falling apart — and loose translation. Hey, it was better than nothing, but eternal love to Kodansha for the awesome rerelease. (However, I did write a review about Codename: Sailor V, which you can find here.)

Then I thought about writing an essay, but I’ve been involved in the fandom for so long, there’s very little I haven’t already discussed about the series in some fashion before, whether on message boards, Livejournal posts, or among friends. I couldn’t even decide on a topic. Comparison between the manga and anime? Mythological influences? Feminism and the Sailor Senshi? My favorite Senshi, and why I love her? (Pluto, by the way, because she’s awesome and tragic.) Why Chibi-Usa/Helios is my all-time favorite OTP? Who is Sailor Cosmos, really, or how the heck does time travel really work in the SM universe? (I actually did write that essay a few years back. If you’re interested, you can read it here at my website, but it may give you a headache, as anything related to time travel tends to do.) Clearly, it was impossible to pick just one, and I don’t have the time to write on all those topics, as much as I would like to.

So, I’m going to stick to something fun, fast, and simple: My Top Ten Favorite Sailor Moon Manga Moments. And if you have a favorite moment not on this list, feel free to mention it in the comments!

(It should be obvious that the following will filled with unmarked spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the series and want to remain surprised, I suggest you back-button now. Also, I’m using the Tokyopop version to put this list together, so volume and act numbers may be different from the Kodansha version.)

10. Volume 2, Act 9: The revelation of the real Moon Princess – When Tuxedo Kamen takes the brunt of Kunzite’s attack intended for her and is seriously hurt, Sailor Moon begins to cry, causing her tiara to crack and reveal the crescent moon sigil underneath. She turns out to be the Princess Serenity they had been searching for, not Sailor Venus, who had been posing as a decoy princess. Tuxedo Kamen, Sailor Moon, and the rest of the senshi unlock the memories of their past lives, and the seal on the Silver Crystal is broken as one of her tears transforms into a crystal. I just thought this was a beautiful moment.

9. Volume 4, Act 10: The first appearance of Chibi-Usa – And, boy, did she make one heck of an entrance! Shortly after the Dark Kingdom is defeated, Usagi meets up with Mamoru for a date after school. She gives him back his pocketwatch, which she had repaired, and he kisses her. However, at that moment, a little girl suddenly drops out of the sky and lands directly on Usagi’s head! The girl, claiming her name is also Usagi, holds Usagi at gunpoint and demands that she hand over the Silver Crystal.

8. Volume 14, Act 39: Life with the Outers’ family – Pluto may be my favorite, but I love the rest of the Outer Senshi as well, so I really liked the beginning part of this chapter. At the end of the Infinity arc, Setsuna (Pluto), Haruka (Uranus), and Michiru (Neptune) decided to “adopt” the reborn Hotaru (Saturn), and together, the four of them created a close-knit, if unconventional, family. However, though Hotaru is growing at a rapid pace and each of them can sense that a new threat has arrived, they can no longer transform into Sailor Senshi. I just loved the slice-of-life vibe of these domestic scenes contrasted with the sense of foreboding each of them feels concerning the enemy. It’s also really sweet how Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna all wear a ring to symbolize their commitment to raising Hotaru.

7. Volume 11, Princess Kaguya’s Lover: Luna becomes human – The entire story — which was the basis for the Sailor Moon S movie — is wonderful, but the best part is undoubtedly the scene in which Sailor Moon uses her powers to grant Luna’s wish for one night: to become human for so she can confess her feelings to Dr. Kakeru Ohzora, a sickly astronomer she has fallen in love with. Pretending to be the Princess Kaguya he had always dreamed of meeting, she takes him into outer space to watch the sunrise, but knowing that his true love is his friend Himeko, she encourages him to get better so that someday he and Himeko may someday return to space together.

6. Volume 18, Act 52: The wedding – I’m not a huge fan of the Stars arc — the anime did it better — but it’s hard to deny that seeing Usagi and Mamoru get married is a fantastic way to end the series, and of course, Usagi’s wedding gown is gorgeous. Usa/Mamo fans couldn’t ask for more.

5. Volume 15, Act 42: The coronation ceremony – It’s not a real coronation ceremony, as Usagi isn’t fated to take the throne for a few more years, but it is a lovely way to end the Dream Arc, with everybody transforming into their royal forms and the revelation that the Amazoness Quartet –formerly their enemies — is actually Chibi-Usa’s future guard. Actually, had the series ended right there, I would have been perfectly happy. (Like I mentioned before, not a huge fan of the Stars arc in the manga.) It would have made a great finale.

4. Volume 10, Act 33: The battle against Pharoah 90 and awakening of Sailor Saturn – In order to defeat Pharoah 90, Sailor Moon decides to release the power of her crystal and the Holy Grail directly into him, sacrificing herself to save the world. At that moment, the Talismans begin to resonate, awakening Hotaru as Sailor Saturn. Sailor Saturn drops her Silence Glaive, ending the world, but Sailor Moon, who managed to survive, uses the crystal to revive the world, including resurrecting Hotaru as a baby. One of the things I disliked about the ending of the S season of the anime is that we don’t really get to see the final battle, so the manga ending for this arc is a marked improvement and features one of Sailor Moon’s most awe-inspiring feats: resurrecting the entire world.

3. Volume 11, Casablanca Memories – Yes, it may be cheating to call it a “moment”, but I’m talking about the entire short story. After Setsuna (Pluto) and Chibi-Usa (Chibi-Moon), Rei (Mars) is probably my next favorite senshi in the manga, so I love that this story focuses on her, fleshing out her family history — her mother died when Rei was young, and she doesn’t get along well with her politician father, so she lives with her grandfather — and explaining why she has such a distrust of men after her heart was broken by her first love. If I absolutely had to choose a single “moment” I liked the best, it would probably be the kiss shared between Rei and Kaidou, the aforementioned first love who broke her heart when he became engaged to another woman. It’s such a sad moment, to see Rei so desperate for him to love her even though he most likely only ever thought of her as a kid sister.

2. Volume 15, Act 42: Chibi-Moon awakens Helios with her kiss – I mentioned above that Helios/Chibi-Usa is my One True Pairing, and this is, without a doubt, my favorite moment between them. (In fact, it was difficult to choose between this moment and the next for the number one spot on this list.) After Nehelenia’s defeat, the curse on Helios’ body, which turned him into a Pegasus, is broken, transforming him back into his true human form. However, having used up his power to help them during the final battle, his body is lifeless. (It’s never made quite clear if he’s dead, or simply in a coma.) Chibi-Moon begs him to open his eyes, then kisses him, the power of her crystal bringing him back to life. As Helios awakens and sees her crying, he realizes that she is the Princess Lady Serenity he saw in his vision. *melts*

1. Volume 7, Act 23: The death of Sailor Pluto – My absolute favorite scene in the entire manga, and a large part of the reason why Pluto is my favorite senshi. Just as Prince Diamond is about to touch the Silver Crystals of the present and future together — which would destroy the world — Pluto uses her forbidden power to stop time. However, the price of breaking the greatest taboo is Pluto’s death. As she lays dying, Pluto implores Usagi to save Chibi-Usa (who is currently in her adult Black Lady form) and tells King Endymion that she was proud of her duty. Her final words are an apology for not being able to protect Chibi-Usa. Hearing that, Black Lady remembers her friendship with Pluto and begins to cry. One of her teardrops transforms into her own Silver Crystal, allowing Chibi-Usa to awaken as a Sailor Senshi for the first time, but it’s a bittersweet moment as she realizes her closest friend is dead. *sniffles* Even knowing that Setsuna/Pluto will return in the next arc, that part almost never fails to make me teary-eyed.

2 comments December 30, 2011

Manga Moveable Feast: Fruits Basket

This review was written for the Manga Moveable Feast, but I tried to make it as spoiler-free as possible. I won’t say that there are absolutely no spoilers, but there are definitely no major spoilers. However, I cannot guarantee the same for any possible comments that may be made, so read those with caution.

TITLE: Fruits Basket
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Natsuki Takaya
PUBLISHER: Tokyopop
RATING: Teen (13+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 23
SCORE: 10 (Masterpiece)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Fruits Basket anime, Natsuki Takaya (mangaka of Tsubasa: Those With Wings and Phantom Dream), fantasy, romance, humor, drama, slice-of-life

Right off the bat, I’m going to admit that Fruits Basket is my favorite manga series of all time. I’m not even going to try to come across as unbiased during this review, because I’m not. I’m totally, completely 100% biased, and I make no apologies for that, because Fruits Basket is just that awesome.

Fruits Basket is the story of orphan teenager Tohru Honda. Not wanting to be a burden to anybody while her grandfather’s house is being renovated, she decides to camp out in the woods. Yuki Sohma — a classmate of hers and the “prince” of their school — and his older cousin Shigure happen to come across Tohru’s tent one night and inform her that she has been unknowingly trespassing on Sohma land. Tohru offers to pay them rent if they will let her continue camping in the forest, but snce neither Yuki or Shigure is good at cooking or cleaning, they offer to let Tohru stay with them in exchange for becoming their housekeeper instead.

Shortly afterward, Tohru meets another member of the Sohma family, the martial-arts-obsessed Kyo, whose goal in life is to beat his rival Yuki. It isn’t long, though, before Tohru learns that Kyo, Yuki, and Shigure are under a terrible curse. Whenever certain members of the Sohma family are hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into an animal from the Chinese zodiac! As Tohru meets more of the cursed Sohmas and comes to care for them, she becomes determined to find a way to break the Sohma curse, once for all.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Fruits Basket is a fluffy shoujo high school romance at first glance. It does come off mostly as a romantic comedy at first, what with people turning into adorable animals and losing their clothes in the process, but it quickly becomes apparent that the Sohma curse is far more dark and sinister than it first seems. All the cursed Sohma members hold a deep pain in their hearts and have experienced plenty of darkness in their lives due to the curse, ranging from mental and physical abuse and bullying to rejection from family members and the loss of lovers. If you were to ask me who I thought was the worst off, I couldn’t even give you an answer, because the majority of their pasts are just that horrible. The Sohmas are the very definition of a dysfunctional family. In fact, it’s hard to think of a character in Fruits Basket who doesn’t live with some secret pain. Even Tohru and some of the more minor characters have their own tragic backstories.

Even with all the angst, though, Fruits Basket never completely loses the humor and warmth present from the beginning. Honestly, one minute I’ll be laughing my head off, then the next I’ll be on the verge of tears. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so emotionally invested in a manga series before. What’s more, it’s the type of series that makes you analyze and consider things you might never have thought of otherwise.

Takaya is known for putting little “lessons” in her works, and there are two from Fruits Basket that particularly stick with me. The first is Tohru’s brilliant “umeboshi” analogy. She tells Kyo that everybody has a umeboshi (a plum usually used as flavoring in a rice ball) on their back, and the reason why people probably become jealous of each other is because while they can see the umeboshi on other people’s backs, they are unable to see their own — meaning they are unable recognize what is good about themselves. The second comes from a speech Yuki gives to Kisa, who has been the victim of bullying at her school. Her teacher sends home a letter, telling Kisa that if she wants her classmates to like her, she should try liking herself first, but Yuki realizes that it’s not that simple. A person needs to told that they are liked for who they are before they can start liking themselves, because otherwise, they won’t know what it is to like about themselves, only what they hate. I know from personal experience that is true, so Yuki’s speech really struck a chord with me.

There are other such lessons I could go on about — such as Momiji’s story of the Foolish Traveller or any number of things Tohru learned from her amazing mother — but this review lovefest is already getting ridiculously long, so I’ll leave those for readers to discover and ponder on their own.

The main draw of Fruits Basket, however, is the characters and the various relationships between them. It’s actually rather amazing how well Takaya handles such a large and varied cast. The characters are integrated so well with each other, with the possible exception of Ritsu Sohma, who basically disappears from the story after his introductory arc. That was a bit of a shame, but at the same time, Ritsu is the type of character who is most effective in small doses. He had the potential to become annoying very quickly, so perhaps it was for the best that he didn’t appear too much in the story.

The cast of Fruits Basket holds the honor of possessing not only the manga character I quite possibly love the most, but also the character I quite possibly hate the most. Those two characters would be Shigure and Akito Sohma.

For those who watched the anime before before checking out the manga like I did, the differences between anime!Shigure and manga!Shigure will probably come as quite a shock. The anime (which I also adore and consider one of my all-time favorites) version of Shigure, while incredibly hilarious and loveable, lacks the complexity and somewhat manipulative nature of his original manga personality. Underneath his goofy, lazy, and perverted exterior is a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means possibly hurting those he claims to care about. He’s sadistic and selfish, yet at the same time, he does ultimately have good intentions. That contradictory nature of his makes for a fascinating character to watch.

Akito, on the other hand, makes my blood boil like few other characters. It’s difficult to put into words just how much I loathe the character, who is the cause of so much pain and suffering to the cursed members of the Zodiac. Perhaps the best way I can put it is that even I, an avowed pacifist, wouldn’t hesitate to punch Akito in the face if we were to ever meet. Though Takaya does a good job of showing exactly how Akito came to be that way and even manages to draw up a little sympathy near the end, it doesn’t change the terrible things Akito has done. Yet I still really appreciated the utter ruthlessness of Akito’s character, for it underscored exactly how disturbing and messed up the curse was.

Another thing I loved about the series is the love triangle between Kyo, Yuki, and Tohru. When it comes to most love triangles in shoujo manga, it’s usually pretty obvious who the heroine will end up with, right from the start. The unlucky suitor is mostly just there to cause drama for the main couple before they inevitably get together. Not so in Fruits Basket, since Tohru is not initially interested in either boy in the romantic sense. Her relationship with both of them starts out as just friendship, which to me, who whole-heartedly believes that the best romances happen when the couple starts off as friends, makes the gradual growing of romantic feelings that blossom naturally over time that much sweeter when they happen. Really, the romance is such a subtle development that up until about the halfway point of the series, when it becomes clear who Tohru has actually fallen for, I could see her ending up with either guy. Truly, one of the most well-done love triangles I’ve ever read, and the resulting romance is just as wonderful.

But romantic relationships aren’t the only relationships of importance in the series. Friendships and family ties — whether or not the people involved are blood related — are given just as much focus. I particularly loved the stong friendship between Tohru and her two best friends, former deliquent Uotani and mysterious Hanajima. There’s also the hilarious Mabudachi Trio, featuring three of my favorite characters: the aforementioned pervy Shigure, the straight man Hatori, and the over-the-top Ayame, who also happens to be Yuki’s older brother. Yuki himself becomes a part of a rather ecletic group of friends when he joins the student council later in the series. I know there are a lot of people out there who tend to dislike the student council and the chapters that focused on them, but I actually rather adored them. They (especially Kakeru and Machi) served an important part in developing Yuki’s character, turning him from a guy I really didn’t care much about at the beginning of the story to a character I actually loved by the end. And they made me laugh in the process, which is always a plus in my book.

When it comes to family relationships in Fruits Basket, there are a lot of complications due to the nature of the curse, especially when it comes to mothers who give birth to cursed babies. It is said that mothers of Zodiac members tend to either become overprotective of their child or reject them. We see examples of both kinds throughout the story, and it is truly heartbreaking to witness some of the more painful rejections, such as Momiji’s and Rin’s. Even those parents who don’t totally reject their children — such as Yuki’s and Ayame’s materialistic mother — are often cold and unfeeling toward them, and being the overprotective sort can be just as bad, such as in the case of Kisa, who can’t bring herself to tell her mother about being bullied, or Kyo, whose mother tries so hard to love him that it basically destroys her. It’s no wonder that several of the cursed Sohmas come to view Tohru as a surrogate mother.

Perhaps the most important familial relationship in the series, though, is that between Tohru and her late mom Kyoko, who raised her as a single mother after Tohru’s father’s early death. Even though Kyoko dies before the series begins, she’s one of the most important characters in the series. Her influence on Tohru continues well after her death, as Tohru strives achieve the dreams Kyoko had for her, but her bond with her mother is so strong that it also holds Tohru back from truly moving on and letting her go, which serves to support the main theme of the series — that there is no such thing as “unchanging” or “permanence” when it comes to bonds between people, that it is okay for things to change and to end.

Boy, this thing turned out way longer than I thought it would be. And to think I was actually holding back on a lot of things I wanted to say, since I was trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I think my overwhelming love for the series is pretty clear by this point, so the only thing more I can say is that if you haven’t read this yet and can get your hands on it — it’s unfortunately out-of-print now that Tokyopop has closed — do it. Obviously, I can’t guarantee that you’ll love it, but there’s a pretty good chance you will if you just give it a try.

11 comments July 29, 2011

Manga Moveable Feast: Paradise Kiss

This review was written for the Manga Moveable Feast  and thus is a bit different than the usual reviews I post on this blog in that major spoilers will be discussed. (There is also a spoiler for NANA.) I’ll probably rewrite this at a later date to be less spoiler-y, but if you have not read Paradise Kiss yet and want to remain spoiler-free, you’ll probably want to skip this version. Also, there will be some discussion of rape.

TITLE: Paradise Kiss
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Ai Yazawa
PUBLISHER: Tokyopop
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo/Josei
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 5
SCORE: 9 (Great)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Ai Yazawa (mangaka of NANA, Kagen no Tsuki, Gokinjo Monogatari), Paradise Kiss anime, NANA anime, Gokinjo Monogatari anime, romance, drama, comedy

I actually was introduced to Paradise Kiss first through the anime. I had always been a little intrigued by the manga whenever I saw it at the bookstore, but the cover art (the first editions — I like the second edition covers) always kind of turned me off. However, immediately after I finished Netflixing the anime, I was putting in an order at Right Stuf for the manga I had previously ignored.

Turns out you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Eighteen-year-old high school senior Yukari Hayasaka is bored with her life. All she ever does is study in order to please her education-obsessed mother, who expects her to get into a good college. Yukari, however, isn’t even sure she wants to go to college, having no real personal dreams or goals besides those foisted on her by her parents.

Her life becomes infinitely more interesting when she is scouted by a group of students from the Yazawa School for the Arts to be their model in an upcoming fashion show during their school’s cultural festival. The group, calling themselves by the name of Paradise Kiss, consists of an eclectic group of characters: Miwako, a cute pink-haired girl who looks far younger than her actual age, Arashi, Miwako’s rocker boyfriend who possesses a bit of a jealous streak, Isabella, the elegant transvestite who acts as the “mother” of the group, and George, the openly bisexual leader and head designer of Paradise Kiss. Though intially overwhelmed by the strangeness of the group and thinking they’re a bunch of slackers, Yukari soon finds herself won over by their obvious passion for what they do and intrigued by their handsome and charismatic leader.

What I love about this series is how real and messy it is. Yazawa is not afraid to give her characters real flaws and let them make mistakes, especially when it comes to the relationship between Yukari and George. Right from the start, despite their obvious attraction to each other, it’s clear that they are fundamentally incompatible with each other. George prefers confident, independent women who know their own mind and often treats Yukari coldly when he thinks she’s being weak and silly, while Yukari struggles to even decide what it is she wants after spending her entire life being bound by rules and her mother’s high expectations.

As you might expect from a typical shoujo story, Yukari decides to change herself to better fit George’s ideal, except by doing so, she’s actually allowing George to control her life. Even though she may insist that the decisions she makes are her own, she really bases the majority of her decisions on what she thinks George would want her to do — in effect, becoming the opposite of the kind of lover George wants. There’s a definite irony in that. While Yukari thinks she’s becoming a strong and independent woman, worthy of George’s love, she’s actually just going through a classic case of teenage rebellion, influenced by a manipulative boyfriend.

Not that Yukari doesn’t mature during her experiences, because she does. She finally discovers something she is passionate about — modeling –and through the mistakes she makes, she learns some important lessons about life and especially love — namely that no matter how much two people may care for each other, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily “right” for each other. By the end of the story, she does become a true independent woman, one who makes the best decisions for herself, not for George, and manages to find somebody who she can actually depend on.

George himself is one of the most interesting male leads I’ve come across in manga, far different from the stereotypical romantic interest. Prince Charming, he isn’t. Several characters describe him as “warped”, and that’s a fairly apt description. He plays the role of a self-centered, extravagant, somewhat eccentric genius, taking pleasure in disregarding rules and convention and driving everyone — especially Yukari and Arashi — insane with his sudden whims and desires. Though it’s never explicitly confirmed, it’s strongly implied that in addition to his relationship with Yukari, he’s also sleeping with Seiji, a male hair and make-up artist who sometimes teaches at Yazawa Arts, and he’s far from a loving, caring boyfriend. Yukari herself even wonders at times if George even knows the meaning of the word “love”.

Amazingly, however, George does come off as sympathetic character once we learn more of his background and realise the reason why he treats Yukari the way he does. As the illegitimate child of a rich business man, he doesn’t want Yukari to become like his mother, a former model who gave up her career to give birth to George. His mother is completely dependent on George’s father for her livelihood and never lets a chance pass by to complain about how George and her lover ruined her life, although she’s never done anything to try to change things. By sometimes being cruel to Yukari, he believes he’s actually, in a way, being kind to her, encouraging her to take responsibility for her own actions and stand on her own two feet instead of relying solely on him. That’s all well and good, of course, but what he doesn’t understand is that sometimes it is okay to lean on those you love, and that he’s not completely blameless for Yukari’s actions, no matter how much he may deny he isn’t.

There’s also a second romantic plot in the series revolving around a love triangle between Miwako, Arashi, and their childhood friend Hiroyuki, who coincidentally is a classmate of Yukari’s and is the object of Yukari’s crush at the beginning of the story. Paradise Kiss is technically a sequel to an earlier, currently unlicensed Yazawa work called Gokinjo Monogatari (Neighborhood Story), though no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy PK, since it takes place about twenty years later. Miwako is the little sister of Mikako, the heroine of Gokinjo Monogatari, and Arashi and Hiroyuki are the sons of some of the other GM characters. The three of them grew up together in the same apartment building, but had a falling out when both the boys fell in love with Miwako, leading Arashi to order Miwako to cut off all contact with Hiroyuki. Thanks to Yukari’s well-intentioned meddling, however, Miwako and Hiroyuki end up meeting again, causing problems in Miwako’s relationship with Arashi as he begins to fear losing her to Hiroyuki, who he considers a much better guy than he is. 

I wasn’t as fond of their story as I was Yukari and George’s. Fact is, Hiroyuki is a far better guy than Arashi, who we later learn raped Miwako the first time they had sex. It’s played off as something Arashi didn’t mean to do, and he’s sincerely regretful for what he did, but instead of Miwako breaking things off with him as you would hope a rape victim to do in that situation, she decides to accept that violent part of him because she loves him so much. Now, Arashi isn’t some kind of monster. Other than the rape and his (mostly understandable, if unreasonable) jealousy toward Hiroyuki, he’s a decent enough guy — Arashi is probably the sanest and most normal member of Paradise Kiss, despite his punk rocker looks — and seems to treat Miwako well. I’m not saying it was necessarily wrong for Miwako to forgive him for what happened. People sometimes deserve second chances, and as far as the reader is aware, Arashi never does anything like that again. In fact, at the end of the story, they’re happily married with a daughter. I just would have liked to see Arashi in therapy to deal with his issues. Violent tendencies aren’t something that a lover should have to “accept”, and Arashi could have easily become abusive toward Miwako. No, having a talk with Hiroyuki (who actually plans to study psychology in college) about what happened is not the same thing as dealing with his issues of insecurity, although it is a start. Even if Hiroyuki had just suggested Arashi get some (professional) help, I would have been happy. It’s just too easy of a solution compared to complexity of Yukari and George’s problems and how things are resolved, so I was a bit disappointed with that.

(If there’s one major criticism I have with Ai Yazawa — besides the fact that her characters are way. too. freaking. thin. — it’s how she portrays date-rape. Generally, I like Arashi, and I love Takumi from NANA, but I do not like the fact that they both raped their love interests and didn’t really suffer any major consequences for their actions — i.e. their girlfriends stay with them and forgive them right away. (And, at least in Arashi and Miwako’s case, they’re seen as a “good” couple who get a happy ending. I won’t get into Takumi and Hachi’s relationship, since this isn’t a NANA review.) There’s messed up (George)…and then there’s really messed up. Still, it’s saying something for Yazawa’s talent that she can write these two characters doing such a horrible thing, and yet I still like them.)

Enough with all this talk of romance, drama, and sex, though. Let’s talk about the clothes. Oh, the clothes!

Yazawa actually studied to become a fashion designer before she started her career as a mangaka, and it shows. She probably had a lot of fun drawing this series due to all the fabulous and over-the-top outfits the characters wear. Each character has a distinct style that suits their personalities. Miwako, who looks (and sometimes acts) like a little girl, favors cutesy, frilly outfits, often made by her sister’s fashion company, Happy Berry. Arashi, the punk rocker, has tons of piercings and dresses in rock star style. Isabella, despite being physically a man, pulls off wild eye make-up and beautiful, elegant dresses that often appear to be Victorian-inspired with aplomb. As for George, his apparel is as flamboyant as he is. Only he could pull off wearing a feather boa and sunglasses and have the effect come off as sexy instead of silly.

It’s Yukari who gets the best wardrobe, though, as George allows her to wear her choice of his designs. Though the clothes he designs are far from conventional and not something you would see many people wearing on the streets, there’s no denying he has a great talent, and Yukari is the perfect model to wear them, as if they were made just for her. I also really liked the symbolism behind the clothes. To George, every design he makes holds an important memory to him, so for him to allow Yukari to wear them shows just how much he really loved her, despite the way he treated her at times. The scene near the end, where Yukari realizes that he’s left all his designs to her even though they’ve broken up, makes me cry every time. It’s his way of saying “I love you,” and so uniquely George.

There’s a lot more I could say about Paradise Kiss. In fact, I could probably write a two thousand word essay on George’s character alone — I didn’t even discuss how appealingly human he becomes in the last few chapters as he struggles between pursuing his dreams as a fashion designer or taking the safer route of becoming a hair and make-up artist so he can support his mother — but I think this is already long enough. In conclusion, Paradise Kiss is an amazing series, and I would highly recommend reading it.

3 comments July 30, 2010

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