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DVD Review

DVD cover

Princess Jellyfish
Collector Edition


Starring (voice): Kana Hanazawa, Akemi Okamura, Junichi Suwabe and Junko Kitanishi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 12
Available 03 September 2012

Amamizukan is a quaintly old fashioned apartment block in an unfashionable part of Tokyo where Tsukimi Kurashita has lived for the past few months. Having moved to Tokyo to try and make it as an illustrator, she finds herself living with a collection of oddball female otukas. Their home is a place where no man is allowed and the rule is strictly kept until one night, in an effort to save a jellyfish, Tsukimi has a run in with the boy in the pet store. Unable to assert herself she and the jellyfish are rescued by the beautiful Kurako, who comes back to the apartment, only to crash asleep as a woman and wake in the morning as a man...?

Princess Jellyfish (2012) is an eleven episode anime show, directed by Takahiro Omori. The show was based on the josei manga series written and illustrated by Akiko Higashimura. Josei is that branch of manga written and illustrated by women for women. At times the subgenre deals with teens but mostly the material deals with the lives of adult women. In this case, the manga showcased a collection of otukas, a name which roughly translates as geek. They are the sort of fan girls who obsess about a subject, not necessarily anything fantasy.

Tsukimi is obsessed with jellyfish and has been since her mother took her to an aquarium. Her mother had told her that she would grow up to be a princess, but Tsukimi has grown to be a young woman beset with insecurities, who wears no make-up and dresses in sweat pants and hides from the world behind her glasses. One night she gets into a fight over a jellyfish and is rescued by Kurako, who looks like the sort of princess which Tsukimi’s mother had promised she would grow up to be.

In the morning, sans wig and clothes, Kurako turns out to be Kuranosuke Koibuchi the son of a wealthy and politically connected family. Kuranosuke dresses as a woman, partly to escape from his families expectations that he will enter politics, but mostly to feel closer to his missing mother.

Tsukimi is mortified in case any of the other residents discover that she has inadvertently brought a man home, but Kuranosuke finds that Tsukimi is possibly the most interesting thing in his life, even when asked to leave he returns time and again dressed as a girl until he/she is finally accepted as one of the girls.

The show is a multi-layered little joy with an overall story arc which deals with the group’s attempts to stop developers tearing down their apartment building. This, though, is only a skeleton to hang a much more engaging look at relationships. Both Tsukimi and Kuranosuke feel the loss of their missing mothers.

Kuranosuke brother, Shu, a proverbial virgin falls for Tsukimi, when he see her following a makeover, although he does not recognise her when she is dressed as herself. He gets drugged by the developer, the deliciously slutty Shōko Inari, who persuades him that they had sex after doping his drink and taking suggestive pictures. She does this to gain access to his influential father.

The rest of the household are completely ignorant of either Kuranosake real sex or the machinations going on in the background which threaten their home. Juon Mejiro provides the source of much of the apartment’s money. A successful manga artist, her social phobia means that she never comes out of her room; in fact we never see this character during the show. Nonetheless she employs the other girls to help her complete her work.

Chieko is the daughter of the apartment’s owner; she dresses in a kimono and is obsessed with traditional dolls. Mayaya is girl living on her nerves and her over the top reactions provide much of the show's physical comedy. Banba sports a massive afro, while the softly spoken Jiji has an unhealthy sexual interest in older men.

The eleven episodes of the show are spread across three DVD discs, with the extras appearing on the last disc. Princess Jellyfish Heroes (4 x 6’) are four shorts which introduced by Clara, each of the shorts takes a look at a single character, although the others appear making the shorts more like mini episodes as each attempts to explain the otaku’s individual obsessions, the four covered are Mataya (4 min 51 sec) with her obsession over the Three Kingdoms, Banba and Jiji (5 min, 44 sec) whose interests are respectively trains and lusting over elderly gentlemen, Chieko (5 min, 05 sec) who dresses in kimonos and collects traditional Japanese dolls, Shu Shu and Mr Hanamori (5 min, 44 sec) who are obsessed with Tsukimi and the Benz. Jellyfish Safari (6 x 30’) is a series of six shorts (28 sec each) with the girls on safari.

The discs have audio options for either the original Japanese 2.0 or an English 2.0 dub. The original Japanese audio is very evocative, with the voices perfectly matching the characters; this is also true of the dub, which is the best I’ve heard this year. The picture is solid, if a little soft, shown with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

For a show written by women, for women, I found that I enjoyed it a lot. The story is a slow burner, with very little in the way of action, but the characters are engaging and their relationships keep you going through the whole thing.


Charles Packer

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