Princess Jellyfish

Princess Jellyfish

PRINCESS JELLYFISH

Watched via Funimation

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: As far as storyline, Tsukimi encounters a beautiful young woman late at night, and through various circumstances lets her stay the night. In the morning she discovers that the “woman” she let stay over happens to be a cross-dresser. Undeterred by the shock and rejection radiating from Tsukimi upon his discovery, Kurako, as he calls himself, finds that he enjoys the simplistic atmosphere of the apartment house with all of its eccentric occupants and sets his mind to befriending “the sisterhood” and becoming a part of their inner circle.

As an audience we get to know the many inhabitants of the sisterhood through the eyes of a “stylish”. I really enjoyed this aspect of the series as it gave me the opportunity to see “otaku” from a whole new perspective. Not only does Kurako grow to enjoy the company of people he wouldn’t usually friend, but the sisterhood gets the opportunity to break their own misconceptions and stereotypes of outsiders. Towards the end of the series the sisterhood learns that their house is in threat of being bought and torn down and the women team up with Kurako and face their fears of the outside world in order to protect their sanctuary.

I really enjoy that the series looks at how difficult it is for nerds to interact with stylish people. It can be incredibly terrifying to think you’re being judged by someone so flawlessly beautiful, and I’m glad Kuranosuke works on breaking down that barrier.

PLOT: Whitney gives a good synopsis of part of Princess Jellyfish’s plot, so I’ll talk some about the parts involving Kuranosuke (Kurako’s real name) and his family.

Kuranosuke’s the illegitimate son of a politician, which causes him stress because he loves fashion, like his mother, and doesn’t care for politics. There’s a lot of conflict between Kuranosuke and his older half-brother, Shu, who tries to be a better son to their father. For Shu’s part, he’s also been scarred by discovering Kuranosuke’s mother with their father and hates women because of it; this phobia causes problems for Shu when a sexy real estate developer tries to manipulate him by using her feminine wiles on him. Throw in Shu’s random crush on the cleaned-up Tsukimi, and you’ve got a lot of character interactions going on.

All of these character interactions mixed with the plot about saving the apartment building cause Princess Jellyfish to lose focus. The series bounces back and forth between developing its many characters, working on its plot (which I found quite random), and spinning its wheels. I love the series to death for having such good portrayals of the kinds of characters it follows, but its plot has the same problems as most other shoujo or josei anime that follow on-going manga. The writers didn’t have more material to work with, so you know they just picked the first story arc to adapt and threw in whatever character-following, wheel-spinning filler they could.

SETTING: The sisterhood lives in the midst of Tokyo, and because of such are constantly in peril of getting caught in the swarms of stylish people. It’s pretty evident that all of the members of the sisterhood have some variety of social anxiety, so the setting actually does have an impact on the personal growth of each individual member of the household. The central location also gives the cast many opportunities to attend various otaku events and look for job opportunities.

Kurako serves as a means to reconnect the sisterhood to society. Towards the end of the series he even manages to get them outside and talking to “stylish” people in order to fundraise for the apartment building. There is a nice interplay between “inside” and “outside” that is emphasized by setting, I only wish that the series had been longer so this could have been explored more in depth. I know the manga is ongoing in Japan and I’d love to see more episodes or at least get a chance to read it.

SETTING: I concur with Whitney that Princess Jellyfish actually has a well-thought-out setting! Tokyo must be a frustrating place for the girls of the sisterhood to live: so close to events that give their otaku hearts cheer, but filled with stylish people who freeze them in their tracks. I can only imagine the stress they feel going out into the world, and I appreciate the series for addressing the anxieties of this particular group of otaku. I’d love to see the further development of the girls and hope it would mirror the development I had in college and grad school, where now I’m finally confident enough to be somewhat outgoing in social situations.

I’m also intrigued by the idea behind Amamizukan, their apartment building, which functions as a shell for the girls to hide in. Most introverts I know have times when they want to hide in a comfortable place, and Amamizukan is just that for the girls: a paradise where, as NEETs, they can avoid the world and indulge in their otaku fantasies forever. Even though they succeed in saving it from redevelopment in the anime, I’m interested in how the apartment building functions in the rest of the series’ narrative. Does Tsukimi ever learn to be truly comfortable outside of Amamizukan? Can these girls learn to meet Tokyo on Tokyo’s terms, or will they always be guided by Kurako? How does Kurako/Kuranosuke’s relationship with the building and its tenants change later on? C’mon, Japan, just give this series a second season!

I second this thought! I want another season so badly! This show has a lot of potential, specially within the household and I’d love to see some of the other characters fleshed out, specially the manga-ka who just hides out in the back room.

CHARACTERS: Princess Jellyfish revitalizes the typical “otaku” genre. Rather than focusing on a group of fans who love anime, manga, games, etc., this show focuses on a group of socially stunted women, obsessed with atypical interests. In the beginning it’s hard to relate to these hobbies, and therefore the women, but it helps as a device to show us fans what we take for granted, which is how we can appear at times to other people. Not only that, but the characters aren’t glamorized like in many “otaku” shows, they are true character studies of fandom culture.

Tsukimi, the main character, is probably the least “otaku” of the sisterhood and seems like she would have been “normal”, had it not been for her mother’s death during her childhood. Her obsession with jellyfish appears to be in truth an obsession with reliving the memories of her mother. Her character helps remind all of us that being an “otaku” is normal, and that we all have our various reasons for becoming interested in our hobbies.

Personally what I love about her character is her potential for illustrating and/or designing. I love how she incorporates her love for jellyfish and channels it through clothing design towards the end of the anime. I’m a sucker for crafting, and I about died and went to heaven when Funimation released a pattern to make your very own Clara! (One issue I overlooked at the time of making them is that it should be printed 11×15”, not a standard size sheet, so these actually are about half the size they should be. This wasn’t hugely apparent until they came out with a great video to explain the pattern.)

clarapattern

Princess Jellyfish, more than most anime about otaku, shows that the main differences between otaku and the “stylish” are how socially acceptable our hobbies are and how well we can interact with others. I appreciate that, considering how often I’ve been facing this fact as a mature nerd who’s learning how to blend into society better.

CHARACTERS: Because Princess Jellyfish covers such a variety of female otaku, your reactions to them can vary widely. I personally have a really hard time standing Mayaya (yellow jumpsuit, loves Records of the Three Kingdoms), but I have a fondness for Chieko and her kimono-wearing dolls. Notably, this series takes less time developing each character than the most popular otaku-centric anime, Genshiken, which made me like everyone except for Kugayama and Kuchiki. Princess Jellyfish’s manga might do more for the rest of the girls, but the anime only really addresses Tsukimi and her issues.

Tsukimi’s probably the main character of this series because she’s a shy, quiet, otaku-style Everygirl who’s not too offensive and has the very cute obsession of jellyfish. After watching this series, there’s no way to not find jellyfish cute, beautiful, or both, like Tsukimi does. As a fellow introvert, I identified very strongly with Tsukimi, so I personally love watching her grow and come to have a closer relationship with Kuranosuke, but you may find her slow development intolerable if you’re an extrovert.

I also really love Kuranosuke and am intrigued by his background and personal development. It takes a certain kind of person to connect with hardcore introverts and try to help them socialize, and Kuranosuke (as Kurako) does a great job of that. Unfortunately, his brother’s shenanigans drove me nuts, but every time Kuranosuke showed up made up for it. I’m especially fascinated by his love of cross-dressing when he identifies as a straight male, and I’d like to see more of that area looked at.

Finally, I <3 Clara, Tsukimi’s jellyfish. I’m a sucker for a good mascot character, and Clara does an excellent job of being cute and sometimes informative. Even if I find half of the show’s cast annoying, Clara’s got a soothing presence that makes me focus on the great times, not the okay times.

I love Shu! Sure he stands in the way of real development between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi, but his character is so wonderful! He’s the perfect “first love” type of guy, whose sole purpose is to make the OTP guy look that much better once things start to wrap up. XD

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: First of all, I LOVE the opening for this series. It highlights fandom well by recreating clips from famous movies. What a great way to connect to the everyday individual!

The character designs are stylized, but not in the typical “moe” way that so many series are nowadays. Everyone has a strong “anime” appearance, but the looks and dress of characters is realistic enough that you get the feeling that each of the women could actually exist somewhere in Japan.

The budget is really nice for a series that is straight up josei. Character movements are fluid and well thought out. There are several exceptions, but always for comedic effect. What I love most is how well the animation plays out the daydreams of all the eccentric characters. In the first episode we get to see a reenactment of the anime feature film Heidi, Girl of the Alps, with Tsukimi acting as Heidi and the jellyfish playing the part of Clara learning to walk. The moment is so over-the-top and nostalgic, that you can’t help but fall in love with the series.

heidiclara

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: How does a josei series like this get such a good budget for animation? I have no idea, but Princess Jellyfish looks good and does a lot with what money they have. Like Whitney said, its opening is a crazy good time for nerds like ourselves, and the rest of the show displays similar visual inventiveness. Maybe it’s all because Brain’s Base, who I love more with each week, animated it.

The character designs are similarly great for this series, as everyone looks very individualized in pretty realistic ways. Yes, the sisterhood, may be a little exaggerated in their depictions of how otaku women look, but I find the basic ideas behind everyone quite true to life. With a group of people who tend to be ignorant of appearance and scared of change, how else would you expect otaku to look?

I’m also impressed by Kuranosuke’s androgynous appearance, which works well as both a man and a woman. Like his voice, I hadn’t expected such a seamless transition, but it’s very convincing. Maybe more bishounen should take up cross-dressing.

OVERALL: When this show first aired, in Fall of 2010, it was THE SHOW I was watching. I even remember ditching the family at Christmas to catch up on episodes when it was simulcasting. Not only that, but when Funimation put up a petition in order to get the series released over here I signed it immediately. Granted I have a huge backlog of things to buy, but I was willing to bump it up the list of “things to buy once I’m not so poor” in order to get it out over here.

Seeing how Funimation still has this series up on their site to watch, I think you should take full advantage of the opportunity to give this series a chance. The story is a little weak (girls try to save their house), but the character development and interaction is golden. And if nothing else, Clara is completely adorable!

OVERALL: I’m afraid Princess Jellyfish might be overhyped by fangirls like myself who’ve been starved for good josei and consequently jumped all over this series. Yes, it’s a solid series that gives a fair look at the life of female otaku, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I love this show because I strongly relate to Tsukimi and love Clara, which means I can get beyond the many clichés and slight irritants, but I imagine my boyfriend wouldn’t get much out of this because he wouldn’t have anyone to connect to in the sea of female otaku wish fulfillment. Princess Jellyfish is a well-made show that plays to its audience perfectly, but if you’re outside of that audience, don’t worry about watching it. Fangirls might act like it’s the second coming because we’re so glad to get a show that captures our lives so well, but I don’t think the series has much relevance outside of our small group. It may be sexist to recommend Genshiken to a broader audience than Princess Jellyfish, but the sad reality is that societally we’re trained to relate to male characters better than females. Also, this series requires a strong constitution for shoujo antics, and male fans generally aren’t inoculated against those from the time they hatch.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)

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