Anime Retrospectives is ComicsVerse’s series on anime that ended prior to the story’s true conclusion. Today, we’re looking back at PRINCESS JELLYFISH.
An inspiring rom-com with lovable characters and a heartwarming message, PRINCESS JELLYFISH has been a favorite among anime fans for years.
The anime first aired in October 2010 and finished later that same year after releasing eleven delightful episodes. But those eleven episodes were just a portion of the full story. PRINCESS JELLYFISH started as a manga by Akiko Higashimura. It ran from 2008-2017 and came to a close with 17 volumes. With so many chapters now released, the anime is hardly complete. The final episode ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger that leaves you furiously googling to see if there’s even a chance of a second season in the future.
Despite the abrupt ending, the show still holds fond memories for me. Eight years after the last episode aired, PRINCESS JELLYFISH is still one of my favorites. It presents a diverse cast of characters all with their own unique quirks and it embraces their differences wholeheartedly. The story is playful and fun; it takes you on a roller coaster of emotion as the characters fight for what they believe in. Most of all, PRINCESS JELLYFISH encourages people from all walks of life to take pride in who they are and flaunt their inner beauty. Everyone deserves to be themselves without feeling afraid of being judged. PRINCESS JELLYFISH is all about being true to who you are, especially in the face of fear.
The Princess and the N.E.E.T.
The story follows Tsukimi Kurashita, an 18-year-old girl who practically lives in sweats and loves to draw jellyfish. Her strong passion for jellyfish is how she met her friends and housemates. Chieko, Mayaya, Jiji, Banba, and Juon all live together with Tsukimi in an apartment building called the Amamizukan in Tokyo. The Amamizukan, owned by Chieko’s mother, houses girls like Tsukimi who share strong passions for their hobbies. Each tenant is a N.E.E.T. (not in employment, education, or training) and devotes their time to their own unique hobbies, such as collecting dolls, figures, or even model trains.
Tsukimi’s life takes a wild turn when she meets Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the cross-dressing son of a famous politician. After a pet store snubs Tsukimi, Kuranosuke comes to her rescue, shaming the worker for not treating her with respect. He takes an interest in Tsukimi and her friends who live a secluded lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Since the Amamizukan has a strict policy about men, Tsukimi struggles to prevent the other tenants from discovering Kuranosuke’s gender, leading to hilarity.
Over time, his boisterous personality wins them all over and he becomes a part of their family. He encourages them to fight for the Amamizukan when a construction company threatens to demolish it and even helps them gain confidence in themselves. Through his efforts to help them save their home, Tsukimi realizes her potential as a fashion designer. To raise money, Tsukimi, Kuranosuke, and their friends make and sell dresses modeled off of Tsukimi’s favorite jellyfish.
One Big, Nerdy Family
The women of Amamizukan are a tight-knit community who exemplify an exaggerated stereotype of otaku who stay at home and refuse to work. When they do leave home, the girls take careful steps to avoid the “stylish” (people who religiously follow fashion trends). However, when faced with stressful situations in the bustling city of Tokyo, the girls freeze up.
Comedy aside, the girls represent exactly what it means to be a family. They’re not conventional by any means, but each tenant has found a place to call home. They feel accepted because they’re surrounded by people who, like them, don’t quite fit in with the rest of society. They indulge in each others’ interests despite not quite understanding them and they unite against the dreaded stylish. Banba, Jiji, Cheiko, Juon, Mayaya, and Tsukimi have a sisterhood that’s as heartwarming as it is comedic.
By contrast, Kuranosuke represents everything the girls fear at first. He’s wealthy, dresses to match the hottest trends, and oversteps their boundaries frequently. But he sees something amazing in their cozy little hideaway from reality: that strong bond of female friendship and family. He may act confident, but his family discourages his cross-dressing and pressures him to act more like his older brother. He flaunts his style to rebel against that familial pressure. Tsukimi and her friends, on the other hand, don’t suffer from that same pressure when they’re at home. Their hodgepodge little family accepts differences and doesn’t pressure anyone to change.
Cross (Ad)Dressing the Issues
PRINCESS JELLYFISH handles the girls’ anxieties delicately, questioning their fears and actions while still validating them. Sometimes the girls can be rude to Kuranosuke as a result of their anxiety, but he bounces back and tries again. The girls’ nerves are valid and even though their reactions might not be, Kuranosuke doesn’t combat them, he changes his own approach to better fit their comfort level. PRINCESS JELLYFISH addresses their fears without entirely excusing their actions and, eventually, the girls warm up to him.
To help them emerge from their shells, Kuranosuke slowly builds their tolerance for venturing out into public and even gives them makeovers. The series could have turned the girls into fashionistas, but it chose to focus on them as individuals. With the makeovers, Kuranosuke only embellished the styles they already had. He helped bring out their personalities through clothing, instead of covering them up.
PRINCESS JELLYFISH conveys a strong message of believing in oneself. Kuranosuke teaches the girls, especially Tsukimi, how to be themselves in enemy territory. In turn, the girls teach Kuranosuke how to be himself at home. Both parties learn and grow from their time together. With these characters, PRINCESS JELLYFISH, through its perfect mixture of comedy and heartfelt emotion, expresses morals of self-love and acceptance.
It also poses a challenge to society, questioning the boundaries of what society deems as acceptable behavior and why. PRINCESS JELLYFISH doesn’t stop there, however; it also challenges N.E.E.T. society, showing that there’s no reason for the girls to judge the stylish. Everyone has their own hobbies and interests and there shouldn’t be judgment from either side. People are who they are and that’s something truly beautiful. As it develops throughout the show, Kuranosuke and Tsukimi’s friendship represents exactly that.
PRINCESS JELLYFISH: Defying Gender Roles Since 2008
Tsukimi and Kuranosuke both bring out feminist themes present in PRINCESS JELLYFISH. On one end of the spectrum, Kuranosuke defies traditional gender roles and encourages others to be themselves, no matter what obstacles might stand in the way. Kuranosuke’s wonderful personality is half of what makes PRINCESS JELLYFISH so lovable. He isn’t afraid to cross-dress in public and be seen.
Like so many other shows out there, PRINCESS JELLYFISH could have turned him into a joke, caricaturizing his cross-dressing and diminishing his identity. Instead, Kuranosuke is a source of strength and admiration for Tsukimi and so many others. His friends from school even ask for his help picking outfits or putting on makeup. He symbolizes the breaking of the gender binary itself; the idea that anyone can wear anything regardless of gender because it’s really about the heart.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tsukimi defies gender roles in her own way. Like Kuranosuke, she flip-flops between two styles. For him, those styles are masculine and feminine, but for Tsukimi, it’s her sweats and the stylish clothes he lends her. Tsukimi represents a blending of these two styles, showing that it’s okay to wear both—to be both. Together, Tsukimi and Kuranosuke are a powerhouse of feminist ideals. They both break traditional societal expectations of gender roles and fashion, blurring the lines of the gender binary. Both are driven by their passions and, through watching them both grow to accept themselves, PRINCESS JELLYFISH delivers a powerful message of strength.
The Princess’s New Clothes
PRINCESS JELLYFISH takes something simple (fashion) and turns it into a means of identification. Some say that clothes are an expression of yourself and this show really echoes that sentiment. Through clothes, Kuranosuke can feel comfortable in his own skin, and Tsukimi can turn her passions into an art the whole world can see. Tsukimi’s journey of self-discovery, aided by the fashion expert Kuranosuke, is a perfect metaphor for the series.
Clothes are a means of expression and sometimes people will only judge a person at face value, like when the girls fear the stylish or when the pet store worker snubs Tsukimi. Despite that, it’s important to be proud of who you are and not be afraid to express yourself. Kuranosuke’s character as a whole embodies this sentiment and so do the girls at Amamizukan, to an extent. Tsukimi and Kuranosuke’s friendship shows us that the most important thing is not the clothes you’re wearing, but the heart put into them. Tsukimi’s clothes carry her love for jellyfish, as well as the passion of her friends as they all worked to make the dresses together. PRINCESS JELLYFISH reminds us to be true to ourselves, our passions, and our friends.
Jellyfishing for Season 2
PRINCESS JELLYFISH is a really fun show to watch. Its diverse characters and powerful themes make it stand out, even after all these years. However, eleven episodes don’t do the story justice. The manga continued for seven years after the anime ended and so much has happened to the story in between. After winning a fashion show and saving Amamizukan, Kuranosuke and Tsukimi go on to make their own clothing line. Unfortunately, the anime ends with their victory at the fashion show. The romantic subplot between Tsukimi, Kuranosuke, and Kuranosuke’s older brother that the anime had been fostering is left on hold and the future of their jellyfish dress line is unknown.
With the win at the fashion show and Kuranosuke’s realization of his own feelings, the anime ended rather abruptly. It had so much more in store for its characters, who still had room to grow. Without a second season, the characters of PRINCESS JELLYFISH feel cheated out of further development and the story feels incomplete. Additional episodes could have allowed the anime to explore more relationships, Tsukimi’s anxieties, and Kuranosuke’s own journey to find himself.
Although the anime ended over eight years ago, it’s not too late for it to get a second season. The manga has only just finished, and there are so many more chapters for PRINCESS JELLYFISH to expand its world. With the manga’s conclusion, the story could gain more traction from fans. It might even attract the attention of animators willing to put the finishing touches on this enchanting story of love and self-discovery.
Featured image courtesy of Amazon.