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Paradise Kiss - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Paradaisu kisu

Japan 2011

Romance, Drama

Takehiko Shinjo

Keiko Kitagawa
Osamu Mukai
Aya Ohmasa
Kento Kaku
Shunji Igarashi
Ysuke Yamamoto
Fumino Kimura
Natsuki Kat
Aimi Ikematsu

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Paradise Kiss

Story: Yukari Hayasaka (Keiko Kitagawa) is learning for her high school entrance exam. Her mother wants her to visit a good high school, but Yukari is by no means as talented as her little brother or her friends. Moreover, Yukari has been in love with Hiroyuki (Yusuke Yamamoto) for years already, but it seems to be unrequited love. Then one day the girl is suddenly approached by the student Arashi (Kento Kaku) who is looking for a model for the graduation project of his group. Yukari isn't interested, but the boss of the designer group, George Koizumi (Osamu Mukai), has his very own ways of getting her to participate. Strangely enough, the girl soon feels great hanging out with the group and she also becomes friends with Miwako (Aya Omasa) and the cross-dresser Isabella (Shunji Igarashi). Yukari learns to discard her insecurity and is introduced to the world of modelling. However, she constantly has to ask herself whether George actually wants something of her or if his interest in her is only directed at her modelling. Eventually, Yukari gets to a point where she needs to decide what she wants to do in life.

Review: Why would a man watch a movie titled "Paradise Kiss", even the more if it centers around the glamorous world of fashion? My curiosity was awakened since the film is based on the manga by the same name from Ai Yazawa, who is also the one responsible for "Nana", her biggest success to this date. Even though this might be a shojo-manga, in other words a manga for maturing girls, Ai Yazawa is known for her complex emotional worlds. In the end, "Paradise Kiss" is merely a forgettable romance flick with superficial characters, though, and a theme that most men surely would like to keep a distance to. Therefore it's no suprise that fans of the manga virtually tore the movie to pieces.

Thus, being not familiar with the source material "Paradise Kiss" gets a pretty lenient review from me you could say. Still, you can't help but to notice countless missteps in the movie. What's sticking out the most is the odd behavior of the characters. The decisions of the individuals are seldomly of the kind you can comprehend, oftentimes you assume that there is some sort of deeper meaning, a certain complexity, but you can't grasp it, since it's not transported on screen at all. If you read a bit about the manga you soon realize that "Paradise Kiss" deals with difficult problems in relationships and emotions and seldom provides you with a simple answer. But this kind of profoundness is never even touched upon in this live-action adaptation.

Surely it is not easy to force a manga, which in the original medium has a lot more room to unveil its potential, into a two-hour movie, but what filmmakers have done here is almost a crime. "Paradise Kiss" is most of the time very volatile, there are no joint lines between the episode-like parts of the film and you can instantly make out that the characters and their emotions have been simplified, yes even became outright flat. Therefore, it is completely incomprehensible what anyone could like about George, who is quiet, cold and cocksure of himself, or why Yukari decides to become a model doll after all. The few reasons that are offered to us in the movie as some sort of explanation for the behavior of the individuals are everything but sufficient or believable.

It is the first time for me to see Keiko Kitagawa ("The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift") on the screen and I have to admit that I was instantly spellbound by her looks and charisma. In fact she is also the one who holds the movie together at least to some degree. That doesn't mean that her character is fleshed out a lot better than that of the others. During the later course of the film you even get the feeling that her character becomes more shallow the moment she enters the fashion world. Strangely enough, since Keiko started her career as a model in real life, the scenes in which she poses as a model aren't really convincing at all times. George on the other hand isn't likeable at all, his actions, especially towards the end, and the change he undergoes feel very forced.

Even the more irritating is that the movie drags on for about half an hour after the alleged finale! From that point on the movie descends into the realms of tearjerking heartache, which naturally can only head for one apparent ending. There are no surprises here. The movie is enriched by the depicted fashion world, or at least that was the intention. In fact the choice of clothes, even though I really can't claim the authority to judge about this, is very questionable. To avoid saying that some of the dresses look really terrible. Concerning the attire he chooses George also has to ask himself if he really is pursuing the right profession. At least "Paradise Kiss" has a fancy glossy look that can be appealing. But even the movie's message that everyone needs to find his/her own way in life can't make up for the artificial romantic story and the shallowness of the story in general. This is the kind of movie that you will find in Hollywood in droves.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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