"Princess Jellyfish" is based on a comic aimed at adult women by Akiko Higashimura. There are 9 volumes of the series out in Japan, the first 4 of which have been used to create this delightful animated comedy brought to US audiences by FUNimation.
"Princess Jellyfish" tells the story of a group of misfits who live in Amamizukan, an aging apartment complex in Tokyo. All the tenants are women who are social outcasts in some way. They may be shy, have unusual obsessions/hobbies, or are simply not interested in the outside world. All of them are reclusive, socially awkward, and uncomfortable around beautiful people and men. Their avoidance of men even prompts them to refer to themselves as "Amars," or nuns. Therefore, they have one iron-clad rule for their home- NO MEN ALLOWED. The idea of a man invading their sanctuary is horrifying.
Our heroine is 18 year-old Tsukimi, the youngest tenant of Amamizukan. She is a timid girl who wears unflattering clothes and is currently an unemployed illustrator. Like the other tenants, she is awkward around men and has an unusual hobby -- she loves Jellyfish, and often spends hours creating beautiful drawings of them. If there is one thing that can tempt her to venture forth from the relative safety of the apartment complex, it's the prospect of seeing a Jellyfish at the local aquarium of the nearby pet store.
It is during one such outing that Tsukimi's life is turned upside down. While at the local pet store, Tsukimi discovers a jellyfish being kept in poor conditions. She tries to convince the store clerk to help the creature, but her timid efforts are rejected. Outside the store, Tsukimi bumps into an amazingly beautiful woman who helps her deal with the pet shop clerk. The result is a new pet jellyfish (named Clara), and a new friend. The beautiful, stylish woman is called "Kurako," and, in spite of her intimidating good looks, she is very friendly towards the shy Tsukimi. Kurako's outgoing friendliness manages to thaw Tsukimi's awkwardness at first, but then Tsukimi discovers something shocking about her new friend — Kurako is a MAN!
This fashionable beauty queen is actually a guy named Kuranosuke. He is a cross-dresser who dreams of becoming a professional fashion designer. His cross-dressing habit also conveniently annoys his uptight political family. Kuranosuke has no desire to go into politics like the rest of them, so the cross-dressing certainly suits both his outgoing personality and his unconventional career goal.
Kuranosuke is the type of person who gets a lot of attention wherever he goes. He is comfortable around people and good at making friends. He is always surrounded by beautiful, fashionable people. Therefore, Tsukimi's awkward group at the Amamizukan apartment complex is like a whole new world to him. He has never really been around people like them, and he finds them all extremely entertaining and enjoys visiting often. Thus "Kurako" soon installs "herself" as a regular at the Amamizukan apartment house, befriending the women and acting as a sort of fairy godmother or cheerleader to them, encouraging them to be daring and get out more. In deference to their phobia of men, Kuranosuke maintains his female persona of Kurako around the Amars, with only Tsukimi knowing his true gender.
Through the course of the series, the unusual group of friends learns a lot from each other and experiences many adventures.
This is such an adorable and warm-hearted series! It is so wonderful to see a show every once in a while where the characters aren't all 15 year-olds. It's even better to see a show where all the characters aren't perfect-looking or super-powered, or destined for Great Things. I like how this series lets the awkward people shine for once. Each of the women has a unique and interesting personality or quirk that makes for some hilarious situations.
I really enjoyed how the flamboyant Kuranosuke is at first amused by the women at the building, and slowly bonds with them and becomes one of the gang, his male gender notwithstanding. It's also sweet to watch him as he realizes how special Tsukimi is. Considering how socially awkward all the characters are, the fact that a love triangle still forms in this series is truly incredible. It is one of the most awkwardly funny triangles ever.
I was so excited when FUNimation announced they were releasing "Princess Jellyfish." For a while now, it seems that they have been focusing mainly on live-action martial arts/ horror flicks or jiggling-boob anime. Their plan seems to be to license anything with fan-service as its main selling point. And while not all such shows are bad -- I do sometimes like harems of martial artist cat-eared-panty-flashing-vampire-fox-girls -- after so many such releases, the trend is getting tiresome. This is probably because I am so outside of the target audience for shows like that. Therefore, when FUNimation picked up "Princess Jellyfish," I was delighted. Now here is a show that was made for me.
This great set is a DVD/Blu-Ray combo that contains all 11 episodes across 2 DVDs or 2 Blu-Ray discs.The comedy is quirky, the characters geeky, and there is an amusing amount of romance and adventure thrown in. This is a funny, uplifting show about a bunch of misfits who work to turn their lives around and bond as a family.
For this review, I viewed the Blu-Ray release of the series. "Princess Jellyfish" is presented in 1.78:1 format, 1080p, and looks fantastic. The colors are bright and airy, and the luminous glow of the Jellyfish looks amazing. There is also a sort of soft quality to the picture (usually in scenes with Kuranosuke) that looks deliberate and gives the series a bit of a fairy tale feel to it.
There are two audio tracks on the Blu-Ray set. The first is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, and the second is a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track. The English track is loud, and the voice actors are all enthusiastic, but for me, the English voices all sound just a hint too old (Clara in particular). I also had a difficult time understanding the actress playing Mayaya. The Japanese voices include some of my favorite actors (such as Koyasu Takehito as the chauffeur, Hanamori), so I much preferred that track.
This fantastic set from FUNimation comes with a mountain of great extras. First off is the standard clean opening and closing credits. The opening for this series is a particular favorite of mine, what with its many spoofs of popular movies and cliches. Next, we get dub cast commentaries on episodes 1 and 11. This is followed by a collection of commercials for the Japanese DVD release and the trailer for the US release. Next is a set of special short features. The first is called "Princess Jellyfish Heroes." It is a collection of 5-minute animated shorts, each focusing on a different character. The first showcases Mayaya and her obsession with the Three Kingdoms. Next is a special starring Banba and Jiji, the train nerd and the girl with the fetish for old men. The third short is about Chieko, the refined older tenant who collects kimono. Finally, we step away from the Amars and look over at Hanamori, the Mercedes-obsessed chauffeur who works for Kuranosuke's family. Each special is funny and elaborates on each person's hobby. The next set of specials is called "Go, Sisterhood Explorers!" and is a strange collection of shorts that has the Amars dressed in Explorer gear and venturing out into nature and encountering wild animals, locusts, and other dangers. Their dire situations are resolved quickly and in unexpected ways. Next up in the pile of Extra Features is "Tsukimi and Jiji's Jellyfish Tour," a 20-minute special which follows the Japanese voice actresses for Tsukimi and Jiji as they visit an aquarium to look at some real jellyfish. It's fun to see all the jellyfish shown in the manga in real life. The voice actresses are excited to be there. Finally, we have the Princess Jellyfish Field Guide, a set of slides that provide information about the characters in the series as well as all of the species of jellyfish featured in the episodes. This is a geat pile of extras. I wish more series were released with bonuses like these.
This is a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. Each pair of discs comes in its own Blu-ray-sized keep case, and both slide into a very sturdy outer cardboard box. The box and both keep cases have wonderful character illustrations on them. This set looks amazing.
I really wish they would make another season of "Princess Jellyfish." It has been one of my favorite anime I've seen in a while; a refreshing change from the same old super-powered teens. Any time I can find a series like that, it's a good bet I'll check it out. I hope this series does well enough such that FUNimation will continue to take a break from all the boobs for other unconventional shows like this one. I highly recommend this series.