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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night

How would you rate episode 1 of
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night ?
Community score: 4.2

What is this?


The young artist Yoru Kurage has been on hiatus ever since a certain incident. In reality, her name is Mahiru Kōzuki. She became traumatized by the pressure of being "special" and instead decided to live a normal, standard high school life. However, things change when she meets former idol Kano Yamanōchi. The strong-minded Kano "graduated" from center position in the Sunflower Dolls idol group, where she was known as Nonoka Tachibana. Along with VTuber Kiwi Watase and talented musician Mei Kim Anouk Takanashi, the girls come together to create art again.

Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night is an original anime project by JELEE. The anime series is streaming on HIDIVE on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

I had to wait nearly twelve whole hours to finally catch the premiere of Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night on account of HIDIVE bungling the subtitles, but boy, am I sure glad that I checked the show before calling it quits for the day. For one, the song lyrics were added in to the subs, which is always great—especially for a series that is so focused on music and artistry. For another, Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night turned out to be friggin' wonderful. I would have kicked myself for weeks if I ended up missing out on such a lovely show.

At the core of what makes it so successful is the immediately compelling relationship between its two leads, Yoru and Kano. On the one hand, they're both very different people: Yoru has become increasingly introverted and withdrawn ever since she let peer pressure and self-doubt get in the way of pursuing art, while Kano is an outspoken and defiant firecracker who is determined to prove to all of her haters that she's the real deal when it comes to her music. These two unlikely friends are bonded together by their shared failures and stifled passions—which makes them perfect for each other. The show can get a little melodramatic with the emboldened speeches and on-the-nose aquatic metaphors but it falls on the right side of the “realistically self-centered and over-the-top for a couple of artsy teenagers.”

It doesn't hurt that the show is a knockout from a production standpoint. While I was a little put-off by the blatant fanservice shots of Yoru that we got throughout the episode—there is one ridiculously overlong sequence that spends a full minute staring straight down the poor girl's undershirt—it must be said that the perverts of the industry are the ones who seem to be exceptionally skilled at character animation. The characters in this show move with real weight and heft, which is vital for giving life to the musical performances and the more intimate dramatic scenes. While the show isn't explicitly gay at this point, you'll be hardpressed to find a more romantic show that has premiered so far this season—because these girls are sizzling with chemistry in every scene they share.

As a lifelong hater of monopolies of both the board game and economy-destroying variety, I am torn. I think it's genuinely good for corporate goliaths like Sony/Crunchyroll to get some real competition in the marketplace, so a part of me is happy that networks like HIDIVE and Hulu have been getting some of the standout hits of the last few seasons. That said, the competition needs to stiffen up and learn how to figure out their technology and localization practices—because nobody is going to flock to any of these other services if they can't get their damned captioning to work. Figure it out, y'all! A show like Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night deserves as many viewers as possible—and without having to wait twelve hours and pray that they could watch the art that they've paid good money to see.

Richard Eisenbeis

Peer pressure is a real bastard. We all have the things we love—things we want others to love as we do. It's just human nature. When others don't like what we do, it hurts—as if a part of us is being denied as well.

This is doubly true for creatives. They put their heart and soul into their art—only to then set it free out into the world to be judged. Poor Mahiru was not prepared for this—and she got the worst possible reaction to her art. Not only was her art judged as “bad” but was judged that way by her real-life friends. At an age where being accepted feels like the most important thing in the world, the result of such criticism was devastating—derailing the entire course of her life.

This situation is so heartbreaking because, now, in the present, Mahiru is desperately searching for what she wants to do—what she was meant to do. However, we know that she already found and discarded it—dooming herself to unhappiness in the process.

This episode is about Mahiru getting the ever-so-rare thing all of us long for a second chance. She encounters a person who loves her art as much as her friends hate it. Kano is the type of person who refuses to give in to peer pressure—to betray the things that are important to her. Kano is simply further down the road to maturity than Mahiru. After all, part of growing up is realizing that some people won't love what you do—and that's okay. But at the same time, it's just as okay for you to love whatever you do.

Mahiru's encounter with Kano has allowed her to take the first step down the long road to maturity and happiness that lies before her—and all signs point to this being a journey worth watching.

Rebecca Silverman

One of the worst feelings in the world is when someone tells you that something you love about yourself isn't good enough. Mahiru has been dealing with that for years: she won a contest to design a mural in Shibuya in elementary school, but then her friends all laughed at it and said that they ought to graffiti it, which was the end of her being proud of her artwork. It's a short, painful scene that overshadows everything about Mahiru. Now in high school, she sees herself as "ordinary," which she defines as "not worth anything." One moment redefined her sense of self, and she's been carrying that pain ever since.

It's a solid moment of realism in an otherwise largely symbolic episode. The bulk of the runtime is meandering conversations playing out over highly symbolic images, such as Mahiru hesitating between the devil and angel costumes, which we can read as her being unsure of herself and her place in the world; she defaults to the angel after Kano runs off with the last devil outfit, showing how she feels forced to follow the dictates of so-called normalcy. (Kano's quick choice indicates that she rejects that, with her bleached hair backing it up.) Fanservice images of Mahiru as seen from her sister's camera lens viewpoint back up the idea Kaho puts out about teenage girls being commodities for internet likes and followers, and both Mahiru and Kano's meanderings around nighttime Shibuya show how lost they both feel, hiding their art forms from sight. Even the concert that they twice interrupt shows the difference between performative displays of art for popular consumption versus art for art's sake, although Oscar Wilde would, of course, be quick to assure us that all art is quite useless.

While this level of symbolism can be a little wearying, the final moment of triumph at the end of the episode makes it all worth it. Alone, Mahiru and Kano are just girls struggling to find a place. Together, they're Yoru and Cleopatra, and their art enhances each other. I'm not sure that this could work as a consistently symbol-heavy series. Still, I also want to see Mahiru rediscover her joy in art and herself, and I like the relationship between the girls. I'm here to see where the story goes.

Nicholas Dupree

Neither anime nor music are strangers to blunt metaphors. Often, that's part of the charm. Sometimes, an artist or writer or musician has big, powerful emotions they need to get out, and subtlety would only get in the way, so it's best to bring out a sledgehammer with [EMOTIONALLY RESONANT METAPHOR] painted on its face to smash through the computer screen. That's the realm this show operates in, exploring some big and meaningful emotions with all the stumbling artistry of a teenager writing their first real stab at poetry.

At least, that's where we're at on the scripting side. This episode introduces our first two heroines by constantly and directly reiterating their central problems to the point where it gets a little tiresome. Yes, show, we understand that Mahiru is painfully self-conscious and desperate to express herself through her art but paralyzed by the negative scrutiny it can attract. We get that she's inspired by Kano's resolve to forge her own identity. It is obvious this is a story about finding confidence and defining your own identity through art. You don't need to literally spell that out by having a character point to their online avatar and say, "This character is a part of my identity to express who I am." Or reiterate the jellyfish metaphor multiple times. You're playing with pretty universal and self-evident themes here, and they're good ones! Please trust us, your audience, to get the point without having it hammered into our skull.

Thankfully, the visual artistry is a whole lot more confident, even if it's no less on the nose. The character designs are striking and very appealing and move with the elastic vibrancy you love seeing from the best of Doga Kobo's projects. The neon-lit streets of Shibuya at night make for beautiful backgrounds for these characters, a perfect stage for young kids trying to find themselves amid a busy and chaotic modern world. I love how the world outside our characters is rendered, too, with cuts to random people skating or hanging out at the margins of the story to make the city feel lived-in. The direction can get a little too aggressive at times – Kano's acoustic street performance isn't really bombastic enough to warrant the sweeping camera movement and dramatic cuts – but I won't look too harshly on well-meaning over-exuberance. The show looks great and perfectly captures the emotions the script sometimes fumbles with.

That scripting does leave me with some hangups, but the overall package is endearing and joyful enough that I can put those aside for now. Jellyfish is playing with ideas and themes that I love and clearly has the artistic ambition to make the journey a pleasant one. I can forgive a few fumbles when a show is this earnest and delightful.

What I can't forgive is HIDIVE's failure to translate the in-universe songs. Come on, guys. You're localizing a show about music. The lyrics are going to be important. Get it together.

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