Paradise Kiss 9: So High School

This chapter reminded me why Paradise Kiss is a great series for high schoolers, and  no one else. After her close call with George, Yukari meets back up with Miwako, who’s been crying and is clearly upset.

Something struck me about Paradise Kiss here, which makes it stand out from other drama/romance manga. The “Ordinary World” portion of the story is barely there.

In a lot of manga, particularly shojo manga, the first chapter is normally dedicated to showing the protagonist’s every day life before her world is turned upside down by a handsome stranger. This usually includes friends, family, and school life, if she has one. But Paradise Kiss doesn’t give us that introduction. It starts with Yukari running into Arashi and Isabella by chance, and goes from there. We don’t really see what her life was like before this.

Then again, we don’t really need to. At the start of the manga, she doesn’t have much personality, but develops as a character over time, with the help of her colorful new friends. Her backstory unfolds throughout the story, and here it focuses on her crush on Tokumori. Later books will also explore Yukari’s relationship with her demanding mother, and the rest of the characters’ pasts as well.

Here we learn that Yukari is a good friend, even if the only person in her “ordinary world” we’ve seen her interact with is Tokumori. When she sees that Miwako’s been crying, she wants Miwako to tell her about what happened, even if it’s something that Yukari won’t like to hear.

As Miwako explains the love triangle between her, Tokumori, and Arashi, the only thing I wrote in my notes was, “so high school”.

I don’t think that teenagers are too young to fall in love and have deep and meaningful relationships, or that relationship drama magically ends when you graduate. What tipped the “so high school” balance for me wasn’t just the drama, but Miwako’s idealization of Arashi and and Yukari’s naive advice to her.

For some context: when Miwako lived close to both Arashi and Tokumori, she fell for both of them, and they fell for her. Arashi demanded that she choose between the two. After Miwako chose Arashi, he said that he never wanted her to see Tokumori again. Arashi’s already shown himself to be rude and brash, and we can add “jealous” and “possessive” to his list of negative traits. These are traits that Miwako could have romanticized. He’s jealous because he cares so much about her, while ignoring the other implications of his jealousy.

20180729_1843315851879524899115920.jpgYukari doesn’t help much when it’s her turn to give advice. She admits that she’s probably the worst person to give Miwako advice on her love life, and when she does, it sounds like…well, it sounds like it’s ripped straight of a shojo manga.

In this situation, it’s the blind leading the blind, and with no other experience to build on, they both have to let their emotions be the guide.

And that is why this is “so high school”.

Advertisements

Paradise Kiss 8: Frozen Yogurt of Romance

The eighth chapter of Paradise Kiss begins and ends with shots of Miwako and her talk with Tokumori, but for the most part focuses on the budding relationship between George and Yukari. I mentioned before that I don’t like the way George goes out of his way to get under Yukari’s skin, and Yukari explains exactly why.

Yukari hits the nail on the head with her narration:

20180722_1752184815253862150810233.jpg

There’s an ambiguous zone between flirting and an actual relationship, and being stuck there indefinitely is maddening. George is keeping Yukari there because it’s fun for him to see her flustered, even if he does actually like her. George is the frozen yogurt of boyfriends:

tenor

Yukari decides to take control of the situation, rather than let George keep manipulating her. She challenges him in a way that kind of sounds…well, just as bad as George’s attitude.

20180722_1754344125354592681240561.jpg

As they are about to kiss, George gets a call, and answers his phone instead of paying attention to Yukari. This was a pretty telling moment for the character: he cares about fashion and his work more than he cares about her. This is also a great moment of foreshadowing. Spoiler alert for an almost twenty-year-old* manga: George and Yukari do not have a happily ever after. In the end, they drift apart, focusing more on their careers than each other.

Chapter 8 was short, and I don’t have a snappy way to end this, except to say that George is a heel, but so is Yukari.

 

Paradise Kiss 7: The Trouble With George

Chapter 7 begins with Yukari going Tokumori to get tea, and (unbeknownst to him), reunite with Miwako. As they head to the cafe, George passes by them, and doesn’t say anything. Yukari doesn’t know what to think of this, and spends a page just trying to figure out why George ignored her.

Some of Paradise Kiss has gotten better since I’ve gotten older, but not this scene. Yukari over-analyzes George’s non-reaction to her as only a teenage girl can. I would know. I used to do it, too. What might have been relatable to me ten years ago is now just annoying, and it makes me glad that I’ve matured beyond that mentality. Well, mostly.

Tokumori notices Yukari acting weird, and asks her if something’s wrong. This leads to a discussion about school and their futures, and Yukari learns that Tokumori has the same doubts that she does. Yukari is surprised by this, and her reflections confirm my suspicions that this is actually the first real conversation she’s had with him.

Lazy editing job is lazy.

This is a strike against Yukari in my book. Through this read-through, I found that I liked her because she had her own doubts, along with a fairly cynical attitude that often matches mine. But idealizing someone without even trying to talk to them, this “love from afar”, just seems so immature.

When Yukari and Tokumori meet Miwako at the cafe, the two childhood friends are reunited in…a very awkward fashion. Yukari hadn’t warned either of them that the other would be there, wanting it to be a surprise. She hadn’t taken into consideration that Tokumori may have had feelings towards Miwako when they were younger, but that Miwako had chosen Arashi over him.

Yukari makes her escape from the awkward situation, leaving Tokumori and Miwako by themselves to catch up together. She decides to head, of all places, to the Paradise Kiss studio. There she runs into George, who tells her he didn’t greet her because he was jealous of seeing Yukari with another guy.

At this point, I’m sure that Yukari’s attraction to George is largely because she’s the only guy she’d been able to speak candidly with so far. Arashi is nothing but rude to her, and her relationship with Tokumori is distant at best. He also balances Yukari out in some aspects. He has passion and drive, whereas she is full of doubt and uncertainty. In fact, that’s the key difference between Yukari and the Yazawa Arts students: Yukari doesn’t know where she wants to go, but they know exactly what they want in their futures.

The end of this chapter marks the beginning of a possible relationship with George, but it feels rather superficial. This is maybe the fourth time we’ve seen Yukari and George talk to on another, and most of those conversations have been about modeling for the fashion show. He treats her more as a vehicle to showcase his work than as a person.

I’m trying to find the right words to explain just why I don’t like George, but I think what bothers me most about him is his sense of entitlement. Apart from his conversation with Yukari at the library – which he planned – he’s largely indifferent to her. Yet, he admits he was jealous of seeing her with someone else, a classmate who Yukari was well within her rights to be with. Additionally, he asks Yukari, almost mockingly, if she’s falling in love with him. Since the chapter ends there, we don’t see Yukari’s response other than some nervousness, and we don’t know if George will reciprocate a confession of feelings…or if he’s just trying to get under Yukari’s skin.

 

Paradise Kiss 5-6: Shall We Model?

I’ve decided to combine chapters 5 and 6 in a single post, as not a whole lot happens in chapter 5. Yukari agrees to model for the Paradise Kiss studio, and the Yazawa Arts kids throw a party to celebrate. Thinking the champagne at the party is non-alcoholic, Yukari accidentally gets drunk and falls asleep at the studio. She misses cram school, and George takes her home.

There’s not a lot of substance in this chapter. As I read through it, I only ended up making two notes: there wasn’t a lot of George this time around, and the art is very pretty.

The sexual tension ramps up at the end of the chapter, when George takes Yukari home. He leans in, and it looks as though he’s going to kiss her. Instead, he only tries to wipe her makeup off, so Yukari won’t get in trouble with her parents.

A lot of romance fiction, as I understand now, is really about the build-up between the presumptive couple. I don’t really feel this moment of a potential kiss, though. Maybe it’s because I already know where the series is going, or because George still hasn’t gotten a lot of screen time so far. Maybe romance stories just aren’t my cup of tea.

At least it’s nice to look at.20180709_1158188767141281503960383.jpg

The next chapter has a bit more story to it, and goes back to the potential love triangle between Yukari, Miwako, and Tokumori. Love square, if you include Arashi in that as well.

I also noticed another moment that might not translate well to American audiences. After several instances of non-sexual physical contact between Yukari and George, Yukari wonders, “why does he always touch me?” It was something that I wouldn’t have even thought of the significance of when I first read this.20180709_1157294692829488967709785.jpg

I took three semesters of Japanese in college with a professor who taught the class with a large focus on Japan’s culture. The personal stories he told us and some of the cultural difference between his life in Japan and in America are things that I remember long after I’ve forgotten katakana and how to conjugate verbs.

In college, many of my friends were very physically affectionate. There were always lots of hugs, play fighting, and back scratches. During my first semester taking Japanese, there was a girl who sat next to me and often hugged me. Then one evening, my professor addressed the class about our American habits that wouldn’t be permissible in a Japanese classroom.  Make sure your cell phones are off, always arrive on time, and please, cool it with the hugs. The lesson was further reinforced when we watched the Japanese film Shall We Dance? Our sensei explained that the film had been inspired by the fascination of American couples, openly taking each other in their arms, and dancing. Watching the American version of the film only further accentuates the differences between American and Japanese culture when it comes to touch.

Americans still like their space, but casual touching between friends or relatives isn’t uncommon. Whereas in Japan, touching others, particularly those you don’t know well, wouldn’t happen often. George constantly touching Yukari could be seen as downright weird, or George may be implying that they have a deeper relationship than they actually do.

Chapter 6 also gave me the first real reminder of how much time had passed since this manga was published. The first volume of Paradise Kiss was released in 2000, and for the most part, it holds up well. However, there are a few instances where (as TV Tropes puts it) Technology Marches On. Here’s the first one, when Yukari and Miwako exchange phone numbers.20180709_144952104498298163815428.jpg

Had this come out today, those phones would have looked very different. Furthermore, Miwako has to teach Yukari how to become “pen pals” with her. There’s no way a seventeen-year-old today wouldn’t know how to do that. Later in the chapter, Yukari wants to invite Miwako, Arashi, and Tokumori out for tea but doesn’t know how to get in touch with them. Then she remembers that she has Miwako’s phone number. Had this come out today, or even five years ago, Yukari wouldn’t even have had to wonder. Texting has basically become second nature.

20180709_1159415981331058126958235.jpg

The reason Yukari wanted to invite Arashi and Miwako out to tea is so they can reunite with their childhood friend, Tokumori. Yukari had been startled, and a little jealous, when she realized that Miwako and Tokumori knew each other. This is because Yukari has a big crush on Tokumori, or at least is trying to convince herself she does.

When Yukari’s mind wanders over to George, she tries to shove him out of her mind. Instead, she even makes herself list the things she likes about Tokumori, and manages to come up with about three things. Then, when she asks him to tea, the conversation is…incredibly awkward.

All this makes me wonder: Has Yukari ever actually had a conversation with Tokumori before, outside of exchanging pleasantries? Until now, we’ve seen him compliment her new haircut, and nothing else. No wonder she’s attracted to George: he’s handsome, interesting, and they’ve had real conversations together, even if it’s only once or twice.