Princess Jellyfish Complete Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 241 minutes approx.
Tsukimi Kurashita is an 18 year-old girl living in Tokyo with dreams of becoming an illustrator and is obsessed with jellyfish, ever since she saw some during a visit to an aquarium as a child with her late mother. Tsukimi lives in female only shared apartment house called Amamizukan with other otaku – calling themselves Amars – each with their own obsessions whilst all lacking social interaction skills.
One night a depressed Tsukimi pays a visit to the local pet shop to see a Spotted jellyfish she named Clara, which she is mortified to see has been put in a tank with a Moon jellyfish. Tsukimi tries to explain to the shop assistant his error but her shyness makes the task impossible until a rich, glamorous, trendy woman intervenes and buys Clara for Tsukimi. They return to Amamizukan where the woman stays the night – only she is actually a he: wealthy politician’s kid Kuranosuke Koibuchi!
Originally a manga by Akiko Higashimura this anime adaptation from Brian’s Base aired on Fuji TV’s Noitamina (that’s “animation” backwards) programming block, a strand of late night anime which strays from the norm in terms of both the animation styles and storylines. Rather than being a vehicle for the manic actions of the Amars’ daily struggle to exist in the modern world, there is a central plot line, taking in numerous themes from communal living, social inhibitions, otaku obsessions, political corruption and cross dressing to romance, sexual harassment and of course, jellyfish.
The Amars learn that Amamizukan is to be sold off to a group of local developers who wish to demolish it and replace it with a hotel. Kuranosuke discovers that his older half-brother Shu is the man behind the development and sides with the Amars in saving Amamizukan. In the meantime, ambitious property developer Shōko Inari wants to get in with Keiichirou Koibuchi, Shu and Kuranosuke’s father so she uses her feminine charms to seduce Shu and blackmail him for a meeting with daddy. And if that isn’t enough plot for you, there is also a couple of potential love triangles in the offering, involving shy Tsukimi, woman phobic Shu, devious sexual predator Inari and cross dressing Kuranosuke.
Tsukimi and Kuranosuke may be the nominal leads but they are ably supported by a wonderfully esoteric supporting cast. Beginning with the Amars, we have the gangly Mayaya who is enamoured by the Records of the Three Kingdoms; Chieko, the Amamizukan owner’s daughter who makes kimonos for her doll collection; Afro haired Banba is a train freak while quiet Jiji is into old men.
Locked away in her room is man hater Juon Mejiro, a popular manga artist who only communicates via notes slipped under her door. Elsewhere we have Shu’s driver Yoshio Hanamori, whose weakness are Mercedes Benz S-Class cars; and Shu and Kuranosuke’s uncle Saburouta Negishi, Japans Prime Minster and a closet pervert. Everyone will have their favourite although Mayaya’s perpetual frantic gestures may work against her for some viewers.
One policy Princess Jellyfish makes clear from the start it not to vilify or ridicule the otaku, even if much of the humour comes from their social awkwardness – such as whenever the Amars meet trendily dressed people (whom they call “The Stylish”) they literally turn to stone. If anything this series embraces the otaku – check out the wonderful pop culture spoofing opening for further evidence – with the Amars coming out on top because of their obsessions and not in spite of them, with a little help from Kuranosuke of course.
He puts Tsukimi’s love for jellyfish and Chieko’s kimono making skills to good use when they decide to try and raise the funds to buy Amamizukan. And of course the girls scrub up a treat once Kuranosuke – whose real gender is only known to Tsukimi – has given them a make over, especially Tsukimi, who to be fair is actually exceptionally cute even in her “regular” look of glasses, tracksuit and pigtails.
Even with a story to focus on, the show revels in possessing a subversive touch, effortlessly allowing surreal asides to appear without disruption, such as Clara the Jellyfish’s handy explanations or her regular “Things which will frighten an Amar” countdown. Quite annoyingly however it how the translators didn’t see fit to subtitle some of the signs which Clara holds up or appear in other gag scenes, rendering the jokes and references utterly lost on the non-Japanese reading viewer. For shame, Funi, for shame. While this version of Clara is a cartoon figure, the other jellyfish featured are more faithful and beautifully rendered versions, allowing some of the love Tsukimi has for them to be shared the audience.
If there is a complaint to be held against this show it is that it is too short! At just eleven episodes the viewer is almost guaranteed to be left wanting more, which isn’t helped by the huge rush to conclude everything in the final episode, cutting some thread short while leaving others wide open. Not that the results are all bad, some contain sweet little twists but one can’t help but feel that two more episodes would have been far more successful in wrapping the series up in the same pace and vein and is the preceding ten episodes.
Princess Jellyfish is that rare anime which is refreshingly different from everything else on the market, yet not so different that it will alienate anyone. The humour is subtle yet hilarious, the charters are vivid yet rarely predictable tropes, the story twists are well woven into the plot rather than thrown in for desperation sake. It oozes charm and visual grace from every frame and even with a prevalent sentimental thread running through the narrative, it refuses to be schmaltzy and saccharine.
This is genuinely one of the most enjoyable anime experiences you will have this year and if you get the special collectors edition, you will get a free Clara plushie too!
Go on – release your inner Amar! You know you want to!
English, French Language
Japanese Language with English and French Subtitles
Disc 3 only:
Princess Jellyfish Heroes
Ratings – *****
Man In Black