DVD Review: Princess Jellyfish Deluxe Collector’s Edition
Welcome to the world of the fangirls!
Princess Jellyfish centres around the Amamizukan, a small household of otaku women and particularly on the life of Tsukimi Kurashita, a young woman with a love of art and sea-life, specifically jellyfish. Each of the women in the Amamizukan have their own unique obsessions, ranging from traditional Japanese fashion and dolls to trains, older gentlemen, Japanese history, manga and yaoi.
During her time in the city, Tsukimi visits a small spotted jellyfish she has named Clara in the window of a pet-store. She is shocked to find it has been homed with a spotted jellyfish which, if not removed, will cause Clara to wither and die over time. As she attempts to drum up the courage to speak to the stylish young man who works in the pet store, but to no avail, a glamorous and outspoken woman comes to her aid and buys the jellyfish for her so as to save it from dying. This Amazonic woman is actually a cross-dressing man named Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the son of a local politician.
The series focuses on the relationship between Tsukimi and Kuranosuke, who adopts the name Kurako so as to appear as a woman to the man-fearing otaku in her apartment building. As the series progresses we see Tsukimi develop as a person, as well as business woman with Kuranosuke’s help, dealing with stresses such as style, love and self confidence.
Princess Jellyfish plays very much on the ‘Cinderella’ style motif of a socially awkward or stereotypically ‘plain’ girl who struggles to show the world her true beauty because of her awkwardness. It also plays on a theme made famous by such Western cinema as The Breakfast Club or She’s All That; that of a girl outwardly showing her inner beauty and embracing style and fashion through the help of a fashionable friend or love for a man. Unlike many of these stories however, it is refreshing to see Kuranosuke falling for Tsukimi when she is at her most socially awkward or ‘plain’ and Tsukimi shrugging off chances for makeovers and style advice in favour of her preferred comfortable style.
Tsukimi is a typical girl next door, lovable geek and her character is much less flamboyant and loud than her house mates, making her an accessible and relatable protagonist. Her motives are not powered by love or attraction, unlike many stories of this sort, but rather the love and memory of her mother and her appreciation of beauty in the form of jellyfish. In this way, Tsukimi is a surprisingly ambitious girl, despite her awkward reservations and the need to be pushed into most situations. When she is creating something, be it her artwork, jellyfish toys or fashion, she is determined and focused, showing that it is her drive towards a passion which fuels her, rather than the stereotyped need for acceptance that so many stories like this perpetuate.
Kuranosuke and his later featured brother Shü are both well rounded and interesting love interests. Kuranosuke’s friendship with the Amamizukan sisterhood is developed slowly but surely, bringing each character out of their shells in different ways. He treats makeovers and style re-vamps as ‘battle armour’ when dealing with the outside world and encourages the girls to dress differently for different social situations, while not discouraging their day-to-day style. This use of fashion as a costume or armour is an interesting take on the traditional Cinderella story as it shows us that style can be used for a purpose rather than define who you are. Kuranosuke, for example, may dress as a stylish, gorgeous woman, but this does not reflect his sexual orientation. He merely uses it as armour to defend himself against a future he does not want, whilst also expressing his appreciation for fashion.
The art style of Princess Jellyfish is beautiful, with realistic backgrounds and atmosphere animation as well as well honed character animation. Each of the characters of the Amamizukan is brilliantly detailed and full of personality, while Kuranosuke’s wide array of costume and designs are expertly tailored to many modern Japanese and Western fashions. The anime elements of the series such as interval cards, the chibi character of Clara the jellyfish popping up to narrate, instant costume changes and action lines fit well into the realistic setting due to the geeky manga backgrounds of the household. The fact that one resident actually draws manga, while the rest appreciate it and reference it as well as other otaku themes, means that the anime and manga motifs and style of the series are well framed within the world of otaku.
Despite its simple premise; a series focusing on the comedy and drama surrounding social awkwardness; Princess Jellyfish is a surprisingly touching series with some wonderful moments of pathos. Tsukimi and Shü’s blossoming romance as well as Kuranosuke’s battle with his own emotions lead to some sweet and poignant moments as well as some brilliant moments of comedy. The melodrama of the girls of the Amamizukan is softened by these understated moments of emotion and consequently we are left with a series with a completely three dimensional story and cast, which makes such a simple story, wonderful to watch.
Label: Manga Entertainment
Release date: 3rd September 2012
Director: Takahiro Omori
Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.wordpress.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris. View Anastasia’s showreel here.