Paradise Kiss Vol. #2 (of 3) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, February 22, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What They Say
Yukari takes the drastic step of running away when her mother vehemently objects to her involvment with "Paradise Kiss." Dopping out of school, Yukari pusues the only goal left to her: becoming a professional model. As her whirlwind romance with George passionately heats up, a worried classmate, Tokumori, shows up to warn her that she is in danger of being expelled from school and questions her relationship with George. Now Yukari faces her nost difficult life-altering decision: should she give up what her heart desires?

The Review!
Yukari gets serious about the change in her life as her career starts to move forward as does her relationship with George.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both languages are done in just a stereo mix which isn't much of a problem for the show since it is generally just a dialogue piece with music. The music though, from the incidental to the closing song, really needed to be done in something a bit cleaner and more dynamic. The Japanese track is solid throughout though with plenty of directionality for the dialogue as well as background sounds. The car in particular comes across really well here when it's kicking in. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The folks at Madhouse were brought in to animate this show and their style meshes really well with the original look of the manga. Not uncommon, a lot of backgrounds are colored photographs that give the show a slightly different feel and it's well represented here. Colors look good, black levels are nice and deep and the show is free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing. Where the problem lies here, and it's not truly a problem, is that the animation was done in such a way to give it a very grainy feel. The reproduction of that here is accurate to what I've seen on the Japanese release earlier in the year. The transfer for this is likely to get a lot of criticism but it is to my knowledge doing an accurate representation of the source material as best as it can under the limitations of DVD. I can see this being done in HD with a higher bitrate and retaining even more of a film-like feel and not quite as alive as it seems here.

Though it uses artwork from the Japanese release and it's one that I like, it's an odd choice for this short series since it doesn't exactly sell it all that well. Arashi and Miwako are both certainly eye-catching characters but with the dank look of the stairwell and the bright white background where the logo is it just feels like it doesn't have a strong sense of itself. The back cover keeps to the fashion oriented theme and a simple but effective layout. The opening and closing songs are given prominence and there's a good layout of the discs features alongside the summary and a few shots from the show. It's a bit minimal in some ways with a bit more open space than usual around the production credits and technical information. Sadly, it doesn't have the grid but is still fairly easy at figuring out when combined with the features section. The cover is reversible with another of the Japanese covers that would work much better I think as it's a full cast shot. The backside mirrors the main back cover. The insert has another shot of the front cover while the reverse side lists the episodes on this volume, the general release plans for future volumes and a rather good ad from TOKYOPOP for the manga for the series.

The menu design keeps to the blue roses and petal theme with a deep border of them that glisten with lights moving over it. Through the center a brief selection of clips from the show plays set to some upbeat instrumental music that sets the mood nicely. Navigation is quick and easy with a direct episode access design and menus load quickly while moving about. The disc unfortunately doesn't read our player presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles. Though the menu isn't anything that's terribly amazing, it is a solid piece that looks good and fits well with the show.

The second volume brings over a number of extras from the Japanese. A roundtable discussion with the voice actors provides some fun as we get to see them talking about their roles and the show in general. The concert piece by The Baby's is solid as it runs almost twenty minutes and is a rare but great extra if you're enjoying the music in this series. A promotional video for the series is included as well as a new round of character conceptual artwork. Breaking trend, a DVD-ROM extra is also included that has a manga preview from TOKYOPOP.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Paradise Kiss in its middle set of episodes is something of a curious show because in some sense it does feel like it's mostly filler. There isn't any sort of serious progress made but there are several moments where the wheels seem like they're spinning but not getting anywhere. At the same time, the small amounts of progress that are made here and there do a good deal to advance the show before you realize it.

The storyline moves forward in a fairly lazy manner as the focus of Yukari shifts between her attempts at a career and the way her love life manifests itself. On the career side, it's interesting to see her getting a shot at a job a number of people would love by meeting Miwako's sister Mikako. With her being the president of Happy Berry, she's able to make the choices as to who will model her stuff. It's not a favor for her sister since she sees that there is some solid potential in Yukari but having connections is simply the way the entire game is played. Yukari isn't aware of this and her general youth and inexperience combined with her lack of certainty at times has her questioning everything she does.

The moment that she goes in for the real shoot though and goes through meeting with everyone in the production it all changes. As much fun as she has had, and she does realize she is having fun even now, it's also a serious business to those around her and she has to bring that into her consideration. When she gets into her outfits and starts doing the actual modeling, not just the twirling at ParaKiss, she's like a completely different person. When she's all made up and ready to go, it's quite easy to see why she would indeed be called model material. The diamond in the rough phrase is what ends up suiting her best.

Yukari's relationship with George is another area that's fairly fascinating to watch since George himself isn't just a carbon copy of your typical male lead. While he has his own issues and background that gives him some shades of gray, he's also the kind of guy who has his own life to deal with and is plainly aware of the challenges in front of him. With pliant women all around hoping to use him to advance or just for fun, he's able to see what's out there and find what he really wants. Yukari's an odd case since she's still young and she's not really given much thought to relationships. Through her he's able to see something of what he wants but he won't mold her to it but rather let her come into her own.

The secondary cast have some good moments as well though I think they flowed better within the manga. Arashi and Miwako have their own troubles as Arashi's jealousy of a sorts crops up when Miwako's former flame comes back into their lives courtesy of Yukari. Like a good male though, Arashi can't quite formulate his feelings into words and his only recourse is to give her the cold shoulder. Miwako is naturally oblivious to what she's done wrong, since she hasn't really done anything truly wrong, and only feels hurt and left out by what Arashi is doing. The relationships in the show like this one aren't exactly original or fresh, but they feel a bit more involved than your typical romantic triangle or unrequited love that populate so many series. There's an inkling of depth and an adult nature to it but it doesn't take itself too seriously or get too melodramatic.

In Summary:
Though it essentially lives up to what the manga felt like as I read it a few years back, the transition from page to screen feels like it lacks just a bit of something that makes it truly special. The visuals are spot on, the acting is solid and the progression is just right which has me smiling throughout but it doesn't have me quite as madly in love with it as I thought I would be. Though the entire series will be covered easily in the three volumes, this is one that I wonder if a somewhat longer format would have worked better with Yazawa providing a bit of expansion on some areas to flesh it out more. Regardless, Paradise Kiss is the kind of show that I love to see coming out here as it's unlike most others. Just about everything Geneon has done with this release has been spot on.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Voice Actors Roundtable,The Babys Concert,Promotional Video,Character Concept Art,TOKYOPOP Manga Preview

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Paradise Kiss