Manga Recommendation: Princess Jellyfish
Terrifyingly enough… there’s a male princess in Tokyo. A strong, beautiful male princess. – Tsukimi Kurashita
Although it hurts my heart, because I will miss the adventures of the Amars, I am at the last (ninth) volume of this series. For anyone who’s read and has fallen in love with this manga, it’s an easy thing to understand. After all, it’s a great series that has a lighthearted tone and an actual ending that is within believable reaching distance (unlike so many that NEVER seem to end and outstay their welcome!).
Although I am sad to be getting ready to say good-bye, I was happy to spend my time with such an upbeat, adorable story. Especially one that features grown women who love who they are and aren’t ashamed of their hobbies and passions.
This manga is a cute and strangely sober look at the minds of both shut-in fangirl culture as well as haute couture fashion. It’s a dramedy about a house full of women united in their absolute devotion to their individual fandoms, hobbies, and bizarre behavior.
It has a cast mostly made up of female characters who have chosen a self-exile to focus on their eccentricities and dreams. Calling themselves Amars (nuns), instead of living in squalor, or at the mercy of family members like spinsters of old, they have come together to live in an aging estate, which has become a communal gilded cage. Together, they ignore an outside world that has shunned them (in real or imagined ways), with the occasional interaction that they have outside of the house literally turning them to stone when approached by people they’re unfamiliar with! But, above all, they’re trying to do everything in their powers to avoid a potential run-in with the most dreaded class of people of all.
The youngest and most approachable of the Amars, Tsukimi, is much like her Amars’ sisters in most ways, with her own fixation resting almost entirely on jellyfish. Yes, jellyfish. She draws them, daydreams of them, and retains fond memories of a mother she lost, the fondest of all memories being ones spent visiting an aquarium where she first became enamored with the unlikeliest of creatures.
Her life changes with a split decision Tsukimi makes in order to rescue a jellyfish that would otherwise die. It leads to her teaming up with a Stylish. It’s not long before she discovers that not only is this beautiful woman dead set on situating herself firmly into Tsukimi’s life (and that of the rest of the Amars’), but that she’s more than make-up and perfect clothing. To be exact, “she” is a young man who loves to dress as a woman.
The clash of values, culture, wealth, and identities leads to a fascinating story, with make-overs and rabid attempts to save the Amars’ home from being demolished, working in tandem with a journey through the invention of a new focus in Japanese fashion. It’s… *Deep breath* Jellyfish. No, really.
Although I usually enjoy a good romance plot (especially the stranger and less logical it seems), I must admit that, to me, the love triangle that this manga insists on centering on is actually by far the weakest aspect of the series’ story. However, among a sea of truly eye-rolling romance plots in mangas, Princess Jellyfish comes off surprisingly clean and light, in comparison to its cliché-riddled competition. Where the manga truly shows how special it is, however, is with its gentle depiction of its characters, not only poking fun at their more absurd behavior and fixations, but offering reasons why they do what they do and showing how they’re more than capable of overcoming odds stacked against them in wonderful and inventive ways.
Indeed, what ultimately elevates this story is how it playfully pokes at these damaged characters, taking genuine joy in revealing the – Princess or Prince – beneath the surface of every worthy character, the humor never turning into excuses to punch down on these people for their strangeness or supposed defects. The “makeovers” seem to be more indicative of a physical manifestation of a deeper possible change, a potential that’s there, if only it can be grasped. And I think that’s beautiful.
A true disappointment is that the short-lived anime series based off of the manga was ultimately cancelled really early in the series’ story arc. I believe it is still worth watching – the comedic timing and all of the heart of the manga is there, even though it was cancelled after a pretty big cliff hanger. One thing I am hopeful for is that the next brand-spankin-new series that Higashimura has made, Tokyo Tarareba Girls, will offer a lot of the same heart and humor that this one has in spades.
Kayla loves all things weird, wonderful, and macabre. Her soul’s in writing, and her hobbies include gaming, watching movies and television shows, reading anything and everything. Her black cat’s TOTALLY, 100%, not evil.