The Spring 2019 Manga Guide
What's It About?There's a very unique apartment building in Tokyo – called Amamizukan – with some pretty peculiar rules for its tenants. Number one – no men. Number two – otaku women only! The women of Amamizukan are known collectively as “Amars”, known chiefly for their dislike and fear of attractive folks.
These are the adventures of Tsukimi Kurashita, an otaku with a unique fixation on jellyfish. But she's not the only one – Tsukimi meets the impossibly stylish Kurako, a fashion obsessive with a major secret – his name is really Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the illegitimate son of a famous politician, exiled from his wealthy family for his love of cross-dressing. Kurako has to hide this secret in order to remain in Amamizukan, which creates a lot of tension for him.
Together alongside a cast of eclectic, relatable otaku women, Tsukimi and Kurako wind up having to try to rescue Amamizukan from aggressive real estate development, which threatens to knock the building down. Can these eccentric ladies save their haven?
Princess Jellyfish is written and drawn by Akiko Higashimura. An anime series was produced in 2010. A complete box set of the series with extras will be released by Kodansha Comics and is available on June 25th for $179.91.
Is It Worth Reading?
It is hard to state just how much I love Princess Jellyfish. Not just because it's a good story with enjoyable characters and artwork (and an excellent anime adaptation), but because thematically it works with the idea of remaining true to who you are and still finding your place in the world, even if the world isn't sure you belong in it. Or, conversely, if you've allowed yourself to become convinced that you don't belong in the world. Tsukimi's journey alongside Kuranosuke and the Sisterhood is by turns touching, funny, and grounded, and as an added bonus, the manga fosters an appreciation of the beauty of jellyfish – and given that I grew up poking dead ones with a stick when they washed up on shore after a storm, that's saying something. (If you've ever seen the blob of a dead jellyfish over barnacle-covered rocks, you'll know what I mean.)
While I could wax eloquent about the series, which apart from the aforementioned positives also has some nice cultural diversity, instead I'll talk about this particular edition, which is the complete boxed set of the manga. Including all nine English volumes (most of which are omnibuses), the set also has a plastic keychain of Clara, Tsukimi's pet jellyfish, and a large poster. The poster will appeal mostly to fans of the series' content rather than its art – it isn't a picture, but rather a copy of the Sisterhood's creed, “A Life with No Need for Men.” The poster is double-sided, with the words in English on one side and in Japanese on the other, so you can reverse it in order to not freak out your father when he comes over, as a totally random example. Each of the volumes contains a good amount of color pages and copious translation notes, more than most books typically have. They are, I should note, identical to the single-volume releases, so whether or not you double-dip is going to be dependent upon how much you want the sturdy box decorated with Higashimura's art, the poster, and the keychain. If none of those things matter to you, this is a safe pass. (I should also mention that my keychain was broken in shipping – superglue fixed it right up, but for the price tag, it shouldn't have happened.)
If, however, you haven't read the whole series, have someone you're willing to spend a lot of money on, or need that poster for your wall, this is a great way to get the whole thing in one go.
Princess Jellyfish is sweet and lovely, and yet still puts me off. To articulate why, you need to know that it's less an issue of outright aversion and more to do with not knowing how to feel about a story element. Anyone who's familiar with Princess Jellyfish will know what I'm talking about: One of the primary characters is a drag queen who passes really, really well. He identifies as male, however, and his gender identity is a constant source of tension in the main residence of the series, a loft that forbids men. I'm a trans woman myself, and these kinds of characters make me uncomfortable on principle, partly because the ‘person of a certain gender disguises themselves as another gender’ trope is one that does contribute to real-world transphobia. It can cast trans people as invalid, which is my big worry with this character in Princess Jellyfish, partly because there is so much narrative focus on his gender identity (while also somewhat undermining the story's attempt to be an exploration of all the different facets of womanhood). However, I will say this: The series does accept his femininity as a valid, beautiful form of femininity all the same, and is an essential facet of the book's ultimate message, that anyone can be a princess. In that way, it's pretty progressive. In other ways, I think it's a bit less so.
Kodansha's release of this box set is pretty stellar, however. The key chain it comes with is gorgeous, the poster is great. If you need an all-in-one, straight-shot of every book in the series and have the money to spend, or are just that big a fan, it comes highly recommended. I can easily see myself binging the entire series in the upcoming weeks.
Princess Jellyfish is something I like the more I reflect on it, but I still have my reservations. It's easy to see why it's so beloved, however: It's an inclusive love-letter to femininity, with eccentric, loveable characters and some choice fashion. In a lot of ways, it really was all it's talked up to be; a weird and wild celebration of all the diverse and wonderful types of ladies who call our world home. I just need some time to reflect and decide how I feel. The fact that I'm itching to read more is probably a good sign, however.
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