I picked up Princess Jellyfish because a friend recommended it to me and I saw that the library had it.
The premise of this is kind of fun. Tsukimi Kurasita, 18, lives in a commune of self-proclaimed fujoshi and otaku. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘fujoshi,‘ it means ‘rotten woman’ and is usually a designation specifically given to otaku/fannish/geek women who are obsessed with BL or yaoi. The translator’s notes in the back of Princess Jellyfish also implies that in the case of the women in this manga, it’s more that they are generally geeks, but that there’s specifically an element of defying patriarchal expectations of what makes a ‘good girl’ for anyone who self-defines as fujoshi.)
Tsukimi’s geekery is jellyfish. She’s been obsessed with them since she was a little girl. She reads about jellyfish, she draws them…. everything. She even has a tragic backstory involving jellyfish and a dead mother.
The inciting incident of this story happens when Tsukimi happens by a fish store and discovers that someone has mistakenly put a moon jellyfish in the same tank as a spotted jellyfish. They are incompatible in way that’s deadly to the spotted jellyfish and Tsukimi tries to get over her social awkwardness/anxiety to tell the clerk this, but is unable to until a brash ‘stylish’ shows up and bullies the clerk into giving Tsukimi the spotted jellyfish in order to save its life.
Tsukimi is pretty horrified to discover that after their big rescue of the jellyfish, the ‘stylish’ has stayed over.
Worse, this super-cute girl turns out to be a boy–a beautiful boy named Kuranosuki. Bringing home one of the cool girls would have been bad enough, but boys are strictly verboten in their commune, which they jokingly call the ‘Amamizukan’ the Nunnery.
Kuranosuki insists that he is not okama, but cross dresses as a ‘hobby’ and as an easy way to get away from his high-powered political family. (Sure, honey.)
Kuranosuki, who usually hangs out with the cool girls, suddenly discovers the joy of nerds. Like, they talk about more than sex and clothes! What are these wonderful creatures? I must pet them and hug them and call them my own!
Yes, it’s true. Nerds make much better friends than the clubbing sort. However, the Amars (nuns) as they call themselves, do NOT want men in the commune, so Tsukimi is the only one who knows Kuranosuki is a boy.
But, even as a lady Kuranosuki rubs the Amars the wrong way. They tell Kuranosuki to get lost. Repeatedly. They have a quiet life. Go home; you’re too friendly.
But like every privileged rich dude everywhere, Kuranosuki ignores their request and worms his way into their hearts by being persistent AF and buying them stuff. (Niku! The answer to unlocking nerd girls’ hearts, apparently? ‘Niku,’ aka meat. Seriously. Bring fancy meat to hotpot night is apparently the ticket.)
Then, Kuranosuki decides that what Tsukimi needs is a makeover.
And, let’s face it, ladies, makeovers are magic, am I right?
I mean I saw Grease. I know how this works. You get the big dance number at the end and the Happily Ever After if you ‘dress to impress.’
And, sure enough, when Tsukimi is all dressed up, that’s when she stumbles into Kuranosuki’s older brother and she finally feels chemistry for a guy. Of course, he’s only hot for her when she’s dolled up. In fact, he doesn’t even recognize her when she’s in her natural otaku form.
There’s a subplot that involves the house being bought by a corporation, but mostly, in the first volume (the one I have might be a two-in-one because I have 380+ pages–12 chapters) is about the little three-way that’s forming: Kuranosuki developing feelings for Tsukimi, Tsukimi’s interest in Kuranosuki’s nii-san, and Nii-san’s attraction for made-up Tsukimi.
I’m not sure how I feel about this aspect of the story. It will depend on how it ends. I have a very bad feeling that Kuranosuki’s influence is going to end with all the nerd girls dolled-up. He already has them convinced at the end of this volume that make-up is their “armor” and a weapon they can use as an advantage in the world.
He seems to be right about this.
This depresses me.
But, I’m hopeful that maybe that’s not going to be the point. I’m hopeful, given this is a josei, that maybe we’ll get something more out of it. Although, maybe not, maybe like Kids on the Slope, the whole point will end up being that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down and settling for less-than-your-dream is just fine.
So far, I’m in it for the side characters. I like Tsukimi okay enough to keep reading, and I would like Kuranosuki much more if he WERE an okame or trans, but he’s very NO HOMO, so whatever. I have only so much patience for pretty rich boys.
Currently, my favorite character is Mejiro-sensei, a mangaka shut-in that we never see. She lives behind a door that never opens, and apparently she’s only been seen a few times. She communicates via notes slipped under her door, and sometimes also solicits help finishing her BL manga close to deadline.
I also like Mayaya, who is a Records of Three Kingdoms nerd. I think I like her because she reads the most like a anime fan, plus she’s drawn very non-binary/gender non-conforming.
So, you know, I’m kind of in it for the ensemble cast; I could take or leave the romance. I’ll definitely get the other two volumes from the library, though. I like the somewhat unconventional art style quite a bit, and I kind of want to see if this whole thing is going to be about the magical GIRL power of make-up and a good hairstyle. (If so, expect angry rant when I finish this series.)