Grim_Noir Takes a Swim in the World of Princess Jellyfish Volume 2

Princess Jellyfish - Volume 2 Cover

Title: Princess Jellyfish Volume 2

Story and Art: Akiko Higashimura

Editor: Haruko Hashimoto

Lettering: Carl Vanstiphout

Translation: Sarah Alys Lindholm

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

If you’re an average comic book fan, Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime in Japanese) might not be for you. But it should be, because it is more about intellectual geeks in a superficial society than almost any other comic in recent memory.

My elevator pitch for this manga is “The Big Bang Theory, if the women were the main characters,” but that is a bit disingenuous. If you like The Big Bang Theory, you will “get” Princess Jellyfish, however if you are an actual geek, these characters will feel eerily like people you’ve already met.

Princess Jellyfish - Episode 16

The story begins with Tsukimi Kurashita, an 18-year-old girl who sees herself as an ugly duckling. She has social anxiety, agoraphobia and she is severely shy around anyone she percieves as prettier than herself. She was raised by her single mother, who passed away when Tsukimi was younger. She still writes letters to her mother whenever she feels lost about things she thinks a mother would have passed onto a teenaged daughter. Her mother was a huge influence in her life and a childhood visit to an aquarium informs Tsukimi’s interest in marine biology, particularly jellyfish.

Tsukimi has found a coccoon for herself at Amamizukan, a women-only apartment building whose residents refer to it as “The Nunnery” and themselves as “The Amars” (Japanese for “Nuns”). Mostly, they stay in and live in their sweat clothes. Her primary friends are all nervous, shy geeks as well, so they all feel comfortable around each other in their uncomfortableness. There’s the building manager, Chieko, who only wears kimonos and collects Japanese dolls. Add the very tall, very loud, very enthusiastic samurai fangirl, Mayaya. The trains-obsessed Banba isn’t as tall but makes up for it with her fluffy afro. And Jiji is that friend everyone has who comes across creepy/stalker-y, until you get to know them. (Jiji has a “from-a-distance” fascination with very mature men.)

Put Your Armor On

Before you get too depressed, this is an unconventional romantic comedy, but it is a rom-com. In volume 1, Tsukimi was out late at night, when the streets are more deserted, to visit a pet shop that carries a jellyfish that she can’t afford to buy. She is forced into action when she notices “Clara” (the jellyfish) has been moved into the tank of another fish that will poison Clara. Unfortunately, Tsukimi’s crippling shyness renders her unable to communicate to the part-time help what is going on. The clerk is kicking her out when Kurako explodes into Tsukimi’s world.

Kurako is like nothing Tsukimi has ever experienced before: She is shown as simply materializing on the sidewalk in front of the pet store. To Tsukimi, she is a hero: Kurako is a tall, fashionable, brash Tokyo party girl, who is genuinely interested in what is happening to Tsukimi. Using positively Zaphod-Beeblebraxian-logic, Kurako gets the shop boy to give them Clara for free.

jellyfish-princess anime

Kurako is also not genetically a she. Kurako is a heterosexual male who like to cross-dress, a fact Tsukimi discovers after Kurako passes out in her room after they’ve been up late talking. Suddenly Tsukimi is lying to her friends about Kurako’s gender to avoid being kicked out of the building.

Writer Akiko Higashimura carves out her own niche somewhere between Strangers in Paradise and To Wong Foo…, peppered with Some Like It Hot and Bosom Buddies, but without ever treating her characters as a punchline. These people all have issues and somehow their random interactions are a therapy to everyone involved. We laugh with them, never at them, and often cheer for them. Volume 2 take us deeper into the plans to tear down the Amamizukan, while Tsukimi and Kurako’s relationship moves forward in small shuffling steps (complicated by Tsukimi’s crush on Kurako’s older brother).

PJ ch 18 p14

Artist Akiko Higashimura compliments her story-telling with an art style that could be accused of being unrealistic and too realistic all at the same time. It is VERY shojo, but with unique body types and a skewed perspective. Often she will create panels and pages that represent the flurry of motion and emotion going on more accurately than photorealism could. At first peruse, I found it slightly jarring, but quickly rolled with it as I got into the story.

Princess Jellyfish has been running in Japan since 2009. Volume 1 has been adapted into both an anime and a live-action movie. There is a reason for this manga’s endurance. We’ve all been the nerdiest person in the room, or the most shy, or the least fashionable, or intimidated by things that were more in our mind than actually there. The story is sweet, soapy, sincere, occasionally surreal, painful, funny, emotional, thrilling, geeky and smart. You know, like real life.

LA Princess Jellyfish

 

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Good Reads or Facebook to end his self-delusions.

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