Anime Reviews: Princess Jellyfish

2011; Director: Takahiro Omori; Studio: Brains Base
2011; Director: Takahiro Omori; Studio: Brains Base

Considering the growing number of unemployed shut-ins in Japan that has come to light in recent years, it’s not at all surprising that more and more anime and manga have focused on NEETs and social phobics. Welcome to the NHK, for example, is a psychological comedy that probes the inner psyche, emotional fragility and occasional paranoid delusions of a NEET, while The Wallflower is a story about a rich girl who enjoys sitting in a dark room talking to anatomical dummies and watching splatter movies as she is forced to live with four pretty boy housemates.

Then we have Princess Jellyfish, an eleven-episode anime from the people who brought you Baccano! and Durarara!! that debuted on Fuji TV’s “noitaminA” block in 2010.

The show focuses on five lady otaku—actually six, there is another one we never see who is a shut-in to the point where she never leaves her room—known as “sisters” (read: “nuns”) who live together in the Amamizu-kan no-boys-allowed boarding house. They’re all duly engrossed with their hobbies, among which are trains, Japanese kimono dolls, old men and ancient Chinese historical texts, to the exclusion of most everything else, including the outside world. They don’t do well in the social interaction department and are especially afraid of “stylish” people, whose sheer radiance leaves them quite literally petrified. Of particular presence is Tsukimi Kurashita, an aspiring young artist who moved in six months ago. Her passion is jellyfish, of which her knowledge is encyclopedic.

With a series this cute, well, I suppose there HAS to be one bishounen in it. Enter Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the illegitimate son of a local politician who comes to Tsukimi’s aid when she rescues a spotted jellyfish she is particularly fond of, and has even named “Clara”, from a negligent pet store. Since then, he has taken in interest in Tsukimi and has become a frequent visitor to the Amamizu-kan.

Kuranosuke is allowed inside this NEET nunnery thanks to his particular hobby—dressing in women’s clothes. Unlike the rest of his family, he doesn’t care much for politics and was inspired by his absent birth mother to go into fashion. Tsukimi is the only one of the Sisters who knows he’s really a man, and thanks to him (her?), she and her housemates are soon swept up in the strange new world of the stylish people they loathe so very much. And they’ll need all the help they can get in the fight to save their beloved Amamizu-kan from demolition as part of a neighborhood redevelopment plan.

This show only came out a few years ago and so many already anime viewers who have seen it have fallen in love with it. And I can see why. For starters, its cast is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in a Japanese import. The Sisterhood and their idiosyncratic hobbies never fail to amuse me, and their erratic behavior is hilarious. The over-the-top Three Kingdoms -obsessed Mayaya and deadpan train-o-phile Banba are perhaps the two weirdest characters in the whole cast, and also the funniest. I usually don’t like bishounen characters, but Kuranosuke’s backstory makes him human enough that I don’t mind him all that much.

The plot starts out as an “ugly duckling” story coupled with the redevelopment subplot, but soon develops into a will-they-won’t-they love story between Tsukimi and Kuranosuke and only gets more complex when Kuranosuke’s mature older brother Shu enters the equation, as well as a seductive land developer who tries to use Shu’s fear of women against him. Sadly, the series is only eleven episodes, so the abundant romances don’t have a lot of room to develop, but the “ugly duckling” part of the story does resurface at the end to give it at least a satisfying conclusion. Plus, considering how popular this show has become in such a short time, we might get a second season out of the deal--only time will tell.

I can’t honestly say I’m into rom-coms, being a guy and all, but Princess Jellyfish has managed to win me over as one of the most hilarious series in recent years. It may be a chick show at its heart, but there are plenty of interesting characters and well-staged comedic moments to keep anyone hooked. It may be a fujoshi series targeted at older lady otaku, but its lighthearted nature brings something to the table for everyone to enjoy.

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Hilarious, endearing cast, including a pretty boy who doesn't make me ill
Short episode length leaves some loose ends untied

Princess Jellyfish: awesome or crap?

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