Kosuke Fujishima has spent most of his career on one classic manga: Oh My Goddess!, the nearly 50-volume saga of a motorcycle-loving boy and the three Norse goddesses who share his Tokyo apartment. Oh My Goddess! started as a supernatural comedy in the mold of then-recent hit Urusei Yatsura but developed into something softer and sweeter, a blend of blushing romance, fantasy plots, and lots of detailed, flowery drawings of pretty girls (and vehicles, Fujishima’s second love).
The more recent Paradise Residence ditches the magical element, not to mention almost any pretense of a story, to focus on the girls. The setting is a hilltop dormitory at a private girls’ school. Hatsune, a simple, relentlessly upbeat creature who loves to sleep and eat and obsess over pudding, races to and from school, getting into mild scrapes. Her dorm mates include a precocious eight-year-old house mother, a tall athlete who keeps the peace, a busty blonde exchange student with a penchant for walking around naked (she’s British, although a Western cartoonist undoubtedly would have made her a Valley Girl), and several other girls with less distinct personalities.
Together, they get into cliché high school manga setups: studying for tests, beating the heat on a summer day (this leads to one of the cuter mini-plots, as the girls try to build a bamboo pipe for chilled noodles), dealing with a blackout, feuding with a rival dorm. Fanservice is distributed generously and randomly. The Volume 1 omnibus from Kodansha includes the first volume of Paradise Residence proper and a “Volume 0” of miscellaneous short stories about the characters. Volume 0 is a breezier read; eight to 10 pages is the right length for stories this simple.
Paradise Residence is almost worth reading just for the artwork. Fujishima has always been an exceptional artist, and this manga finds him at his mature best. All the characters are drawn with charm and verve, running and tumbling though meticulously detailed settings (although the blackout storyline gives him a chance to stop drawing backgrounds for a while). A manga this good-looking almost doesn’t need a plot. But plots, alas, would be nice.
publisher: Kodansha Comics
story and art: Kosuke Fujishima