Kuragehime/Princess Jellyfish (vol. 4) by Akiko Higashimura

The library coughed up the two-in-one volume 4 of Kuragehime/Princess Jellyfish, which takes me up to Chapter 44, “If She Turns Around, Is it Love?” or, alternatively translated in the official volume, “I Turn Around and Find Love” (which, given the translator’s notes is the appropriate title, since it’s specifically a reference to a Nobuhiko Obayashi film of the same name, “Furimukeba Ai.”)

 

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SPOILERS

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According to one reviewer on Goodreads, this volume does begin to diverge from the anime.  Having read the episode synopses, I will say, instead, that my sense is that the manga is actually still back in time in some respects, but fills in the story more.  For instance, there is the introduction of  an Indian garment company and its employees: Prez (for president) and his little sister, Nisha.

Enough orders for dresses have come in from the fashion show that Kuranosuke realizes that there’s no way the Amars can do this on their own, not if they hope to get them produced in any decent amount of time.  So, he asks a friend in the fashion business, who tells him that most dresses are made overseas, anyway.  India is the best.

A lot of this two-in-one volume involves winning over Prez and Nisha to the idea of doing a little charity work–or at least giving the Amars a deep discount.  Kuranosuke also manages to get Shuu, (his nii-san), to give him an extended loan to cover the capital investment.

The other big development is how much Shuu has changed his tune. He’s still being forced together with land-shark lady by his politically-minded father, but in this volume he really only has eyes for Tsukimi.  In fact, so much so, that Kuranosuke ends up accidentally outing himself at the fashion show because he shouts for Tsukimi to have eyes only for “this boy!”  (I’m guessing he used the pronoun ‘boku,’ and actually said something less awkwardly constructed like, “Keep your eyes on me!”)

The Amar slowly come to realize that maybe Kuranosuke is a guy… ? It’s not entirely clear they GET it, because, mostly, they seem just as comfortable to keep thinking of him as her.

The other bit of plot is that we discover that Kuranosuke’s mom is still alive. I’d gotten the distinct impression that she’d died, but it might be that she was simply banished because she was the mistress.  Regardless, she makes a reappearance in these volumes.  After having seen Kuranosuke on TV in one of the Jellyfish dresses, she calls up nii-san, Shuu, and places a secret order.  She wants one of those dresses for herself.  Shuu is put in an awkward position, but decides to use Tsukimi as a go-between.  They have more cute interactions, including one in which she ends up hiding with him under a table at a coffee shop.

Given how many pages there were in these two volumes (about 355), I was surprised how little plot was actually advanced.  Land-shark lady continues to be the villain, but she doesn’t really do much in these chapters other than call up Tsukimi to congratulate her on the success of the fashion show and to taunt her by saying it’s all ‘useless’ and how they’ll never get enough money to halt the wave of development and progress.  Tsunami is enough of a nerd that the taunt breaks her, and then she sends the rest of the Amars into similar depressions when she confesses what’s bothering her.

At the end of the volumes, it sort of looks like the Amars are broken up, because with the Indian company taking over the dress making, Tsukimi and Kuranosuke are the only ones with Jellyfish business to occupy them. The rest are feeling a little used and abused.

Tsukimi is still obsessively making dress designs and even when approached in a kind of peace offering (without being explicit, of course)…. she turns down hotpot night!

Dun dun DUN!!

I don’t know. Given what I’ve read in the episode guide, it sounds like there are other plot developments to come that we haven’t hit yet. In their place we got reams of fashion talk, including Tsukimi being dragged out to experience fashion so that she can better choose the fabrics she wants the Indian out-sourcing dressmakers to use. I have to admit that I skimmed a lot of the fashion stuff. That doesn’t interest me in the LEAST.  I like the nerds and the otaku commune and I’m moderately shipping Tsukimi and the elder brother, Shuu. I’m sure I’m supposed to ship Tsukimi and Kuranosuke, but I kind of would prefer it if Kuranosuke were gay or ‘new half.’  But believe me, the author spends several panels making absolutely clear that there is NO HOMO here. Crossdressing is just a hobby (and, you know, that’s fine–in fact giving straight, cis men a chance to crossdress is cool with me.–but Higashimura-sensei, you told us already… several times.  Put down the ‘no homo’ spray, we get it.)

But that does lessen my enjoyment of this manga.  The only queer characters left are not explicitly so, so…. and given that this manga seems very determined to pair-up and feminize our otaku ladies, I’m not holding my breath for any queer canon couples. Alas.

It’s still fun, though.

Princess Jellyfish vols. 2 & 3

I was hoping to be able to report something new for the people who have only watched the anime, but I took a quick scan of Wikipedia’s episode synopses for the Princess Jellyfish anime, and it actually looks like my Volume 3 ends a little ahead of where the series ends.  (I accidentally gave myself a tiny bit of a spoiler, but that’s not a big deal to me. I’m one of those odd folks who don’t really care if I’m spoiled for a thing.)

I have put in a request for volume 4 which the Ramsey County Library has listed as ‘in cataloguing’ and for volume 5 which is ‘on order.’  Even though I work at the library, I have no sense of how long it takes for something ‘in cataloguing’ to get processed and put on the shelves, alas.

On the other hand, a quick perusal of the fan sites makes it pretty clear that there likely isn’t going to be a second season of the anime. So, anything I have for you once I get the next volumes should be useful to my anime-only readers.

To that end, I did find an online source for the manga: http://mangakakalot.com/manga/kuragehime  that appears to be up-to-date. The last chapter in the my volume 3 is  #34, “Party Girl,” (which is listed on Mangakakalot as volume 6: chapter 34. I seem to have 2-in-1 volumes.) Looks like these scanlators seem to be uploading on a regular basis so I may hit that site up after I finish volume 4.

SPOILERS

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For both volumes the thee-way romance is mostly on hold (with a only few developments, which I’ll get to,) while the ladies of Amars try out a number of different fundraising ideas to save their home from demolition.  The big break-through comes in the form of a flea market. Kuranosuke decides to dig through the commune for stuff to sell. Among the things he gathers up are a couple of the hand-sewn jellyfish dolls that Tsukimi made for herself.  Turns out, these sell like hotcakes.  All the ‘stylish’ find them deeply kaiwaii.

Between this and watching a badly-costumed college theatre production, Kuranosuke hatches a wild plan to launch a jellyfish-inspired dress label.

Meanwhile, elder brother gets caught up in a faked sex scandal with ‘land-shark’ lady.  She got him drunk, poured him into bed half-naked, and then slipped in beside him to take selfies. She’s using this as leverage to get him to use his influence as the PM’s son to broker her land deal.  This mostly works, except for Chieko’s mom, who actually owns the Amars.  She’s been off in Korea being a fan-girl to Bae Yong-joon. But, the crisis comes when evil land-shark lady bribes Chieo’s mom with tickets to one of Bae Yon-joon’s events and it seems as if she might sell up after all.

The romance developments are: elder brother finally twigs to the fact that Tsukimi’s nerd self and her made-up self are the same person (and that he likes her), the blackmailing real estate agent discovers she finds the elder brother’s spontaneous violence against her (he slaps her around when she fakes her suicide), and, probably most significantly, Kuranosuke does the big lean-in for a kiss with Tsukimi. He also calls Tsukimi out on her attraction to his elder brother, and that sends Tsukimi’s otaku self into a kind of tailspin because, I guess, nerds never get lovin’ where she’s from.

I continue to LOVE the slice-of-life moments in this and the ensemble cast.  I’m less thrilled with the continued emphasis on the fact that for these nerdy women, performing femininity is more powerful in society than one’s authentic self. However, some of that is being mitigated by the fact that Kuranosuke begins to recognize the talents that the otaku commune posses both collectively and in community.  There’s several lovely scenes highlighting Chieko’s own sewing talents as well as her connections in the community of doll-makers/collectors. Tsukimi, too, has found a bridge between the world of ‘stylish’ fashion and her fannish obsession with jellyfish, since all the dresses she ends up designing are based on various types of jellies.

So, yeah, still giving this a cautious thumbs up. I will be very interesting to see where this goes from here… and whether I will have the patience to wait for the manga tankōban to come out or if I’ll break and read the rest on-line.

I will say that these two volumes went down fast.  Plus, I had a couple of those classic moments when I realized my family was trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear them because I was so deep into the story.

Classic.

Classic otaku.

Princess Jellyfish/Kuragehime (Volume 1) by Akiko Higashimura

I picked up Princess Jellyfish because a friend recommended it to me and I saw that the library had it.

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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.

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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.

SPOILERS

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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.

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Tsukimi accidentally pulled off his wig and was trying it on in the mirror.

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.

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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.)