This is a series I’ve wanted to read ever since I watched the anime adaptation back in 2013, but it took a while for the manga to get released stateside, didn’t it? It seems the West is still a little uncertain about the commercial viability of josei manga. I certainly hope that this series and others prove successful, because josei is probably my favorite demographic right now.
Princess Jellyfish is about a girl named Tsukimi, who has been obsessed with jellyfish from a young age. Before her mother dies, she tells Tsukimi that all girls grow up to be princesses. Tsukimi, however, feels her growth is stunted, because she winds up working in Tokyo as an illustrator and has absolutely zero confidence in herself.
One fateful night, as she’s pleading with a pet store owner to swap a jellyfish out of its tank to save its life, she encounters a beautiful girl and is in awe of everything about her – her looks, her style, and especially her strength. With her help, Tsukimi is able to save the jellyfish (by purchasing it), and invites her “princess” back to her apartment. This girl isn’t exactly welcome at Tsukimi’s apartment, which is home to the “Amars,” a group of thirtysomething women who are socially awkward and obsessed with various things like kimono, model trains, and Japanese history. Amars doesn’t allow certain types of people in their home, not least of which are the “stylish.” Not just that, but Tsukimi’s expectations are turned upside down when she discovers that her princess is actually a guy in a wig and women’s clothing.
Kuranosuke is the younger son of an infamous politician. Not keen on inheriting the stuffy life of civil servitude, he opts to live life to the fullest, ingratiating himself with the stylish kids of Tokyo. Though Tsukimi is uncomfortable with him, he takes a liking to her and wants to help her get some self-confidence. He lets her try on his clothes, helps her take care of her new pet, and takes her out to help her feel comfortable, whether it’s to a cafe or an aquarium.
The central conflict is with Kuranosuke’s family, actually, as they’re leading a new development project in the neighborhood that affects Tsukimi’s apartment building. Though her and her housemates are meek and inclined to let it happen, Kuranosuke convinces them to fight for their home. He pushes them to step out and speak up at a community meeting for the development. In the process, Tsukimi meets Kuranosuke’s brother and starts to fall for him. Though it takes some time to get going, he starts to return her feelings.
I love the energy in this volume. Maybe I should’ve expected this after watching the anime, but I didn’t expect the series to lean so heavily into the otaku element of the characters. I kind of forgot how over-the-top it could be. I don’t really mind, though; Tsukimi herself is relatively down-to-earth, if a little unsure of herself, so I feel for her as a protagonist. The manga isn’t shy about depicting Tsukimi’s own prejudices (e.g. calling Kuranosuke a creep for his interest in crossdressing) while also cluing us in to her insecurities. The amount of flashbacks to her past and visuals of jellyfish through an aquarium glass suggest that she’s weighed down by her past, which is a rut I hope she can get out of.
While I don’t agree with some of Kuranosuke’s antics (I felt like Tsukimi wasn’t 100% up to letting him help her feel more confident), I do appreciate being a force of nature that’s making Tsukimi reevaluate her life and choices. It reflects a truth in life that sometimes you have to break tradition to enact change. While the Amars ladies are generally quite ridiculous, moments like that make Princess Jellyfish feel very real to me. I really loved reading this.
Princess Jellyfish is written and illustrated by Higashimura Akiko. It was serialized in Kodansha’s Kiss magazine from 2008 to 2016, and it was later collected in 17 bound volumes. The series has been licensed by Kodansha Comics, which has been releasing the series in 2-in-1 omnibus format. Seven omnibus volumes have been released as of December 2017. Check out Kodansha Comics’ page for the series here.