Paradise Kiss: the art of the happy ending (spoilers!)

Paradise Kiss: the art of the happy ending (spoilers!)

It should go as no surprise that I think Paradise Kiss is an amazing series. I’ve already praised Ai Yazawa quite a bit, but there are so many things to love about Paradise Kiss that it’s hard for me to choose what to talk about. From George and Yukari’s glamorous-yet-thorny relationship, to fun characters like Miwako and Isabella who are more than what they seem, to the wonderful clothing we all wish we could wear in real life, Paradise Kiss is so detailed it feels like it’s own world. But the strongest impression the series left on me is definitely its ending. At the end of Paradise Kiss, George decides to go to Paris to try to become a haute couture fashion designer, while Yukari stays behind in Japan because her modelling career is beginning to take off. The two part, and without either of them needing to say so, they know that their relationship as come to an end. Yet one day Yukari receives a package, with the key to George’s storage room inside it. She rushes to the storage room, finds all of the dresses George has designed, and breaks down crying. At the end of the series, we find out that Yukari has married Hiroyuki, a classmate she had feelings for prior to meeting George, and they will be attending a show with costumes designed by George. It’s a bittersweet finale; one that makes me think about the art of the happy ending.

Whether you like them or not, most people are accustomed to the happy ending. Disney films always end with the couple living happily-ever-after, while even the majority of romantic-comedies end with the couple finally getting together. Because we are used to happy endings, we’ve come to expect them and are often surprised when a film or a book ends on a down note. Then there are people who enjoy bittersweet or downright sad endings because they find them to be more realistic than happy endings. Many people who appreciate sad endings enjoy them because they aren’t as common and clichéd as the traditional happy ending. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great reasons for people to like happy endings either – they often genuinely care for the characters and want to see them happy. Many people feel media are fantasies and therefore are meant to allow the audience to escape from harsh realism, while others simply prefer traditional endings because they strongly feel that only a ‘happy’ ending can be a ‘good’ ending. I generally love happy endings myelf as well because I tend to be very emotionally invested in the characters’ lives in my favorite series. And yet, I love the finale of Paradise Kiss. It stands out from most endings not only because is it realistic (since not only do George and Yukari break up but Yukari’s modelling career is described as being only moderately successful), but it also makes me question the true meaning of the ‘happy ending.’

There are several things I appreciate about Paradise Kiss. One element I love is that the series shows that the person who influences your life the most may not be the person you spend the rest of your life with. Even though she marries Hiroyuki, in the six months Yukari was with George he gave her the courage to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and allowed her to become more open-minded. More importantly, Paradise Kiss shows that it takes more than love to make a relationship work. Yukari loves George, yet she constantly feels as though there is space between herself and him, and she is unconfident in their relationship. George never tells Yukari he loves her and always jokes about having a mistress, which makes Yukari feel as though she’s always the one who has to make the first moves in their relationship. At times, George can be very cold toward Yukari, especially when he feels she’s not making her own decisions or that her priorities are in the wrong place. For example, when Yukari doesn’t tell George about the possiblity of her getting signed to a modelling agency so the two can have sex, George gets mad at her for not putting her career first. This is quite hypocritical, since later on in the series George makes the decision to not pursue a career in designing clothes without confiding in Yukari first. And yet, when he drives away after dropping Yukari off on their last date, George has tears in his eyes. And when Yukari enters the storage room, she remembers George telling her that the clothing he has designed has too many precious memories for him to sell them, and she breaks down into tears at the sight of the dresses he’s left in her care. This was the sign both Yukari and I had been looking for to show that he really did love love her. By George and Yukari not ending up together, we can feel their love for each other even more than if they had had a traditional happily-ever-after. Thus, Paradise Kiss has one of my favorite endings of all time – not because it subverts the happy ending, but instead reinvents it.

One hit wonders…in America

One hit wonders…in America

CLAMP. Yuu Watase. Arina Tanemura. These are the most well-known shojo authors in the American market, and each of them have had several of their series licensed in the U.S. However, there are several shojo authors whose talents we’ve gotten taste of because one of their series has managed to make its way stateside yet the majority of their work is stuck in Japan. Here are my favorite prolific shojo authors who I feel don’t deserve to be one-hit wonders in America anymore.

Kaoru Tada

I’m a huge fan of Itazura na Kiss, so it makes sense that I’d love to read another work by the late Kaoru Tada. Of all her other manga, Tada’s most memorable series is probably Aishite Knight, a seven volume manga about a girl named Yakko Mitamura who meets the lead singer of an aspiring rock band. I have a lot of respect for Tada’s ability to infuse her series with charming addictiveness, and I tend to like series that involve show business (Nana, Skip Beat!), so I’m definitely intrigued by this manga. 

Odds of it being licensed: 10 percent. It’s an 80s shojo series, so it’s not likely to become a bestseller. The only company that was willing to take a chance on older shojo series was CMX, which went out of business a few years ago, so I’d say Aishite Knight‘s chances of coming to the U.S seem pretty slim.

Yoshiki Nakamura

I really like Skip Beat!, and I always hear praise for its author Yoshiki Nakamura, whose other works haven’t been made available in America. Aside from Skip Beat!, Nakamura’s most famous series is Tokyo Crazy Paradise, a 19-volume series which started in 1996. Tokyo Crazy Paradise isn’t exactly the type of manga I normally read – the series is about Tsukasa, a girl who was raised to be a boy and gets assigned to be the bodyguard of a mafia leader, and the story takes place in the year 2020. However, Nakamura knows how to simultaneously extract drama and craziness from unordinary situations, and the premise of a girl who comes from a family of policeman being tied to a mob boss sounds intriguing.

Odds of it being licensed: 40 percent. At 19 volumes it’s pretty long, not to mention by most fans’ standards it’s not exactly ‘contemporary.’ But since Skip Beat! seems to be selling decently in the states, I’d say Tokyo Crazy Paradise still has a fighting chance of being licensed.

Ai Yazawa

Okay, so she’s technically a two-hit wonder since two of her works (Nana and Paradise Kiss) have come stateside. But still, Yazawa’s works are still largely underrepresented in the American market. And although I’d be happy to read anything from her, I’m especially interested in the eight-volume series Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai, Yazawa’s first major work. Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai sounds like a pretty straightforward shojo series: Midori Saezima falls in love at first sight with fellow student council member Akira Sudo. But I’d actually love to read Yazawa’s take on a traditional love story – I’m sure she’s got some twist in store, and even if she doesn’t, Yazawa always creates multifaceted characters who are fun to read about. 

Odds of it being licensed: 60 percent. Paradise Kiss just recently got a license rescue, so maybe if it sells well Vertical will consider licensing some of Yazawa’s older works.