Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack)
Running Time: 275 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Sometimes it takes a guy in a dress to show us that everyone can be beautiful.
Life has a funny way of telling a person that sometimes it takes a single life-changing event to make you realize what really is important to you and that this important thing is worth fighting for no matter the cost. This is the lesson I learned from The Complete Series of Princess Jellyfish … an anime series unlike any I have seen and I have seen a lot as an anime reviewer, believe me. So like an art critic that stumbles upon a true masterpiece or a food critic who tastes a culinary marvel, I found myself singing the praises of this series that will not fail to make you realize again why we love anime.
If this sounds like I’m over exaggerating, please bear with me because I will tell you why Princess Jellyfish has made quite an impression on this occasionally overcritical reviewer. You see, the series introduces us to a girl named Tsukimi Kurashita whose fondest memory was going to the Enoshima Aquarium with her mother as they tour the jellyfish exhibits. Her mother’s words are encouraging as she tells her little girl that all girls will eventually grow up to become beautiful princesses and that on the day Tsukimi decides to get married she will make a wedding dresses that resembles a jellyfish.
Several years later, Tsukimi doesn’t exactly consider herself a princess or beautiful as she lives in Tokyo trying to make it as an illustrator. She finds herself living comfortably in a communal home with a group of likeminded young women her age who would fall under the otaku or NEET category without any trouble. These young women see themselves as a Sisterhood living in something akin to a nunnery (including a sign that says NO BOYS ALLOWED) as they bask in their hobbies. There’s Mayaya who is obsessed with all things concerning The Three Kingdoms and Banban who wears her hair in an afro and loves trains. Then there’s the soft-spoken Jiji who has a fondness for old men and Chieko who loves kimonos and her collection of creepy dolls.
One day, Tsukimi encounters a store that happens to shelter a rescue jellyfish that she herself is trying to save from the shop employee who clearly doesn’t know anything about caring for them. Of course, it’s hard to talk to a boy without turning to stone (a reoccurring gag in series) but a beautiful young girl in stylish clothes appears and lends a hand. Interestingly enough, Tsukimi ends up not only inviting the girl into her room but Tsukimi also finds out a startling fact about the beauty … she is really a he in drag!
Meet Kuranosuke, the softly handsome young son of a Japanese politician who wears women’s clothing for reasons that the series slowly reveals. Tsukimi finds herself suddenly getting over her shyness around men because Kuranosuke continues to insist on visiting her dressed as a girl. Sure, she looks like a member of the Stylish (the Sisterhood’s term for women obsessed with stylish brand name clothing) but Kuranosuke’s presence in the house has an almost uplifting effect on the rest of the sisters.
One day, visiting his mansion, Tsukimi is suddenly given a major makeover that brings out the girl’s beauty that was always there and while she runs off embarrassed by the sight of her new look she catches the eye of Kuranosuke’s older brother, Shu. It is clear that Shu is smitten by the girl and when his brother has him take her clothes to the communal home known as Amamizu-kan, he encounters Tsukimi changed back to her old self and he doesn’t even recognize her. Shu isn’t the only one who is smitten, we find out, but if he doesn’t even recognize Tsukimi as the same beauty that was in his brother’s room things will certainly get complicated.
As it turns out, Amamizu-kan is one of many buildings on that block that is targeted by a redevelopment project that will turn the communal home into a ritzy hotel. Heading the project is a sultry young woman named Shoko Inari who uses her incredible body and attractive looks to get poor saps into signing on for the project. Of course, Tsukimi and her sisters do not want to leave the comfort of their home and so they even allow themselves to be dolled up by Kuranosuke who inspires the girls to attend the redevelopment project meeting to protest. Unfortunately, the Sisterhood suffers from a number of social phobias that have them too shocked to speak up.
Meanwhile, the sexy Shoko sets her sights on Shu and seduces him to the point of getting some good blackmail pictures of them together. This confuses Shu who has his own personality quirk connected to women and a traumatic event in his past that his friend and chauffer, Hanamori, knows well. It is Hanamori who sends a friend to find out more about this Shoko Inari as well as look into Tsukimi who he knows has captivated his friend.
Still determined to help them save Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke convinced the ladies to try to save their home in different way. In order to do it that way, however, they need funds and they set out to do it in a way that will put all the sisters to work and unleash Tsukimi’s creativity … and love of jellyfish.
Princess Jellyfish isn’t just a love story, although there’s certainly great chemistry between Tsukimi, Kuranosuke and Shu. There’s a great moment between the three when they all go to the aquarium that proves it. The series, however, pushes the comedy and does so in a way that isn’t just quirky fun and each character’s personality just adds to the hilarity. This is all certainly due to the great writing, especially for the English dub, as well as the great performances by voice actors. Monica Rial as Mayaya, for instance, is simply over-the-top hilarious.
Oh yeah, this series definitely deserves a second season for sure.
The Complete Series of Princess Jellyfish takes you to a place that will remind you how amazing anime can be and why you love it in the first place. Anime this brilliant doesn’t come along very often but when it does you appreciate it and seeing as everything from the story, characters and animation is flawlessly handled you will most certainly find yourself absolutely addicted to it from the very beginning. I don’t think there should be a second season but rather there has to be one. It’s just that amazing.
BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Growing up with a fondness for jellyfish and the belief that all girls will grow up to be beautiful princesses, Tsukimi feels she is anything but beautiful as she lives in a communal building with a collection of otaku outcasts just like her. Then Tsukimi meets a beautiful girl who actually turns out to be a boy in drag who suddenly changes Tsukimi’s life and those of her friends change in order to save their home from being demolished.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Princess Jellyfish is also a visually impressive anime series with gorgeous animation that certainly will not fail to keep your eyes glued to the screen. There are certainly a number of visual references, sight gags and a brilliant opening animation sequence complete with plenty of nods to movies such as Star Wars, Mary Poppins and The Graduate. You have to see this on Blu-ray but the DVD looks just as good.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the series, whether it’s the original Japanese voice cast or the English dub, is fantastic no matter what language you decide to watch this series. For my money, the entire English dub cast is spectacular with standout performances from Maxey Whitehead and Monica Rial. The opening theme song, “Kododake no Hanashi” by CHATMONCHY is awesome and the closing theme song from harbormaster is not bad at all.
This Limited Edition set comes complete with both the DVD and Blu-ray but also extras such as the clean opening and closing animation, the U.S. Trailer for the series and two Japanese Promotional Videos for the release as well as a few FUNimation trailers. Also included are two audio commentary tracks for Episode 1 and Episode 11 both with Voice Director Christopher Bevins. In the first commentary, Bevins is accompanied by Maxey Whitehead (Tsukimi) and Josh Grelle (Kuranosuke) who love the series and it shows and the second commentary has Bevins chatting with Cynthia Cranz (Chieko), Monica Rial (Mayaya), Leah Clark (Jiji) and Mariella Oriz (Banban) who make the commentary lively fun.
Then there are the fun extras such as the 4-part Princess Jellyfish Heroes extra scenes with the Sisterhood and the six-part Go, Sisterhood Explorers featurette as the ladies explore a jungle. Then there’s the Tsukimi and Jiji Jellyfish Tour featuring Japanese voice actors Kana Honiara (voice Tsukimi) and Mamiko Noto (voice of Jiji) visiting the Enoshima Aquarium that appears in the show as they look at the various jellies. Finally there’s The Princess Jellyfish Field Guide, which is helpful little guide on jellyfish, the Sisterhood and other humans.
Princess Jellyfish with be one of your favorite anime series guaranteed and for a very good reason. It is, put simply, a flawlessly executed series that hits all the right notes to the point that you will not be able to take your eyes off it and still want more in the end. Yes, we could recommend a number of great anime series this year alone but Princess Jellyfish is – without a doubt – something uniquely special. Here’s hoping a second season will be in our future.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment