I’m still working on the question of “is Paradise Kiss objectively good?” as I read through this book. To be honest, I’m liking it a lot more than I thought I would. One thing that I forgot about romance manga, though, is that the plot and character development tends to move more slowly than, say, an action or fantasy manga. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Romance isn’t just about the main characters falling in love, or the steamy scenes everyone looks forward to. They’re about attraction, longing, and the tantalizing conflicts that make the relationship seem impossible.
A good romance needs nuance and realism without leaving behind the fantasy: of a gorgeous man stealing a kiss, or a smile from that mysterious woman on the train, or that meet-cute in the book store you’ve always secretly wanted.
The third chapter of Paradise Kiss shows us the first real interaction between Yukari, and her future lover, George. At least, first interaction where Yukari isn’t freaking out.
The slow pace feels relaxing and real as they meet “by chance” in the library, though Yukari later learns that George had planned it. There, she starts to see another side of George, one that wasn’t apparent when she herself was being swept away – literally – by the other characters who want Yukari to model for them. In this one-on-one setting, Yukari starts to see George’s ambition and work ethic. She’s also envious that George knows what he wants to do with his life and has a dream, while Yukari isn’t sure what hers really is.
Yukari’s inner conflict about not knowing what she wants to do is very relatable. Like many people, she’s done what she’s been told: good family, good background, go to school, prepare for college. This hasn’t made her happy, and she doesn’t know, exactly, what will. She doesn’t know what her passions are. It’s an uncomfortable place to be. If the Paradise Kiss students are shining stars, Yukari is a white dwarf.
The real significance of this scene is that Yukari shares her troubles and feelings with George. Before, we’ve only known about them through her narration, and she’s moved to tears because George wanted to listen to her problems. Which kind of makes me wonder, what kind of lonely life does she have, where George is the only person who wants to listen to her?