Shiori IzawaPrincess JellyfishYuuki OnoHiromi Igarashi
Princess Jellyfish (2010 anime)
Also known as: Kuragehime (2010 anime)
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2010
Director: Takahiro Omori
Original creator: Akiko Higashimura
Studio: Brain's Base
Actor: Kana Hanazawa, Akemi Okamura, Junichi Suwabe, Junko Kitanishi, Kentarou Itou, Kimiko Saito, Mamiko Noto, Mitsuki Saiga, Motoko Kumai, Mugihito, Shigeru Chiba, Sumire Morohoshi, Takehito Koyasu, Arisa Nishiguchi, Asami Imai, Atsushi Imaruoka, Eiji Miyashita, Ema Kogure, Eri Kitamura, Hiromi Igarashi, Ikumi Hayama, Kana Akutsu, Kaoru Katakai, Mami Uchida, Manami Tanaka, Masaya Onosaka, Satomi Moriya, Satomi Sakamoto, Seiko Yoshida, Shinya Takahashi, Shiori Izawa, Takeo Chii, Tamako Nohama, Tetsu Hirata, Yuko Minaguchi, Yuuki Ono
Keywords: Princess Jellyfish, anime, favourite, noitaminA
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 11 episodes
Website category: Anime early 10s
Review date: 8 January 2015
It's fantastic. I love it to pieces. I'd been expecting good things because it's from Brain's Base studios, but... wow.
It's based on an award-winning woman's manga by Akiko Higashimura who based the main character on herself when she was younger. (She's also written an autobiographical manga called Kakukaku Shikajika.) Anyway, Princess Jellyfish's main character is Tsukimi, an eighteen-year-old wannabe illustrator and jellyfish nerd. She loves jellyfish more than people, with whom she has extreme problems. She might flee in terror, experience brain overload and/or go into a petrified state if subjected to any of the following:
1. men
2. stylish people
3. evidence that other people are in gainful employment
4. unwanted (i.e. any) physical contact
5. anything else
She normally mumbles, except when raised to a state of frenzy by jellyfish. The person she talks to the most is her late mother and she's convinced that she's a subhuman eyesore to be shunned by all right-thinking people. (People who see her in her everyday attire tend to agree, even though she'd look quite pretty if she tidied her hair and dressed up a bit.)
She's also adorable. All protagonists need profound obstacles to overcome and Tsukimi's is the entire universe. What's more, her housemates are even more hopeless. She lives in a boarding house called Amamizu-kan, called the Nunnery by the female otaku who live there. Guess why. Hint: they react badly to being asked if they're virgins, although in fairness they react badly to a great many things, up to and including "social contact with outsiders". The other Nuns are:
(a) Chieko, who's obsessed with traditional Japanese dolls and clothing. She looks like a concrete bollard in a kimono.
(b) Mayaya, who's obsessed with the 14th century Chinese epic called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. She's also super-energetic and always talks as if she's on a battlefield.
(c) Banba, a trainspotter with hair that's devouring her head. We only ever see the lower half of her face and it's hard to tell her gender.
(d) Jiji, who's sexually obsessed with old men... but strictly from a distance. She has creepy hair and looks like a ghost that just crawled out of a well in a J-horror movie.
(e) Juon Mejiro, who's nocturnal and thinks men should die. We never see her. She communicates via letters pushed under her door, although she's also a professional writer of boy's love manga and will sometimes employ her housemates as artist's assistants.
Watching them doing anything at all is wonderful, because they'll be terrible at it. This is always true. No exceptions... well, except when there's any connection to one of their geek obsessions, in which case they're superhumans. Otherwise, though, the Nuns are guaranteed to make themselves look like idiots.
I don't find it patronising, though. Others might disagree, but I think Akiko Higashimura's writing about them with love. The Nuns aren't depressed about their lives. They're happy. They're doing what they love and the world be damned. I'd even call them inspiring, even if they're hardly role models. You're cheering for them as they face terrifying obstacles like... ooooh, having to talk to a businesswoman in a suit without petrifying in fear and falling over in the corner. (Note: they fail.)
I could watch these people all day. A story about them trying to walk along a corridor would be wonderful... but there's more to it than that. The Nuns are going to have to engage with the world. A Fashionable Person (Kuranosuke) is going to invade Amamizu-kan, befriend Tsukimi against her will and refuse to go away. (Kuranosuke is elegant, beautiful, made up like a Barbie doll, always wears the most fabulous dresses and is nearly unstoppable. The Nuns couldn't have a better friend, although it'll be the devil's own work to make them admit it.) Kuranosuke's going to end up dragging our heroines kicking and screaming into alien worlds, e.g. the fashion industry. Personally I thought this was saying quite interesting things, with the two different kinds of fantasy world and the contrasting ways in which something can be delusional and yet also speaking deeply to a person's soul.
There's also going to be romance, even if it's technically left unresolved in the final episode. (There's little doubt about where it's going, though, to the extent that I felt credibility strain in the tidying-up of Shuu's subplot.) This is also interesting, involving as it does multiple love triangles that include only two people. Kuranosuke has the superpower of turning the Nuns into fairly good-looking human beings, with the help of wigs, make-up and expensive clothes. We thus have before-Tsukimi and after-Tsukimi, with people having different reactions to each of them. (This includes Tsukimi herself.) Someone can fall for the fantasy Tsukimi without realising that she's still the same person in mufti. Tsukimi's self-image is similarly at variance with reality and her biggest problem is, as in so many things, herself.
Similarly amusing amd charming are the reactions of the person who slowly comes to realise that he's falling for the real Tsukimi, despite (or perhaps because of?) the fact that the image she projects couldn't be worse. "I almost kissed a girl who's practically a Shigeru Mizuki character!"
It's heartwarming, funny and eccentric, in all the best ways. It's also geeky, of course. If it weren't, it would be broken. Mayaya's Sana Rap cracked me up in episode 7, for instance, which is from Kodocha. Meanwhile the title sequence contains Sex and the City, Star Wars, Singin' in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Emperor of the North, God of Gamblers, James Bond, Game of Death and/or Kill Bill, The Graduate and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Mind you, Tomoko says the otaku's bedrooms aren't cluttered enough. A true otaku's room will be wall-to-wall with merchandise and memorabilia relating to their obsession, so much that you can hardly see anything else (e.g. walls). That would have probably been a pain in the neck to draw, though. Also, Banba's more of an indoors girl than you'd expect of a train otaku, who tend to be out and about. Seeing trains. Riding on trains. Photographing trains. You get the idea.
Otaku-specific comments like those aside, though, there's not much to say about this. It's perfect in itself, in the sense that I can hardly identify anything I'd change. Well, I'd like it to be longer, of course, but the manga hasn't concluded yet. However as well as being sweet and enormously entertaining, it's also intelligent and rich in intriguing angles on its themes. Note all the obsessions of even the "normal" characters, for instance. Note all the different kinds of fantasy and people distancing themselves from reality. Note the symbolism, with lots of mirrors, spectacles and windows.
There's a live-action movie in Japanese cinemas right now, by the way. Must watch. I've seen the trailer and I was quite impressed with what I saw of Rena Nonen in the role of Tsukimi, even if she's probably too beautiful to play it.
I'm getting nervous now, because I'm worried I've been overpraising this. It's a delicate show. No one should go in expecting the moon and stars. Nonetheless I adore it and it would be wrong not to say so. What is it with Brain's Base? Mawaru Penguindrum, Kamichu and now Princess Jellyfish. Bloody hell. Even the English dub's quite good, apparently. Oh, and last time I looked it was still available cheap on R1 DVD, with the S.A.V.E. boxed set. The UK R2 Deluxe Collector's Edition's a bit pricier, though.
A must-watch for anyone who's ever had a bit of geek inside them. It's adorkable.