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Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night
Episode 12

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night ?
Community score: 4.1


A scene in this finale handily sums up so much of this final story arc.

It's moments after Kano's successful concert. She's just stepped off the stage and is approaching the escalators that will take her upstairs where everyone is waiting. Mahiru calls out to her, standing at the top of the ascending escalator. They lock eyes. This is the moment: the pair's long-awaited reunion that everyone has been waiting for. Kano rushes up the staircase, calling Mahiru's name. Mahiru reacts in kind, and... runs over to the descending staircase to run down. As you'd imagine, this leads to them only reuniting momentarily, before comically reaching for each other as the inexorable pull of their opposed automated stairs drags them apart.

I get what the scene is going for. It's a comic relief to help the audience come down after Kano's climactic song. In that sense, it works, offering a cute reminder that for all their Big Emotions, these are still awkward kids who will sometimes flub things but ultimately make it work. Yet it also feels artificial because I have no idea why Mahiru's first instinct was to go down a different set of stairs than the one she was standing in front of, especially when she could already see where Kano was. In that respect, this scene—a moment that makes sense in the hypothetical but feels contrived because it requires a character to make decisions that feel unnatural for their personality or situation—is a pristine example of why this finale left me so flat.

Take the first half of this finale. In isolation, Kano's concert is touching. She nearly crumbles under the pressure, only for a dramatic display from Yoru to break through to her, allowing her to overcome all the hurt and fear she'd built up. Even if I'm not a big fan of the song, the ideas communicated during that sequence are great and could probably induce tears through sheer impact. My problem is that it's insane that this was the first contact Yoru and Kano have had since their falling out. Both of them feel bad about how that conversation went and have had personal resolutions that helped them bolster their resolve and move forward from that setback.

So why did they never talk for nearly two full months? Why did Mahiru essentially volunteer Kano for a huge, public performance where she'd be working with the mother who cut her off without at least running the idea by her? Why, despite obviously wanting to make amends and reconnect, did both parties maintain total radio silence for months? The cynical answer is that doing so would release the tension and drama of this ostentatious ending, so instead, our characters have to act in ways that make them less believable and sympathetic. It also means their actual reunion is woefully insufficient. They each get a single line of apologizing before making up like nothing happened. That's the least intimate or meaningful way to conclude this conflict and is sadly about what I expected going in.

That's the Achilles heel of this whole production. Jellyfish has always played every emotional conflict to 11 at all times—and while that energy is something I admire, it has undercut nearly every storyline. I don't know the creators or why they made the decisions they did but the whole show feels like it was built by relatively young creatives who started as enthusiastic anime fans and long dreamed of creating the same kind of iconic, memorable moments that stuck with them as viewers. That's a valid enough motivation but it has worked in opposition to the writing's strengths so, so often. This cast is incredibly relatable and engaging and their story arcs grapple with potent and relevant ideas in ways that few anime in this genre space do. Yet the resolutions are always conventional and easy, glossing over the thorniest issues for a happy ending. That is infinitely more frustrating than if it had just been bad and unambitious.

So what are we left with, here at the end? The epilogue is mostly fine, for what it is. Kiwi and Mei's endings feel the most satisfying, probably because their arcs weren't tied directly to the concert. Kiwi has grown more comfortable presenting their identity and want to act as a positive example for anyone struggling to express themselves. Oddly, Koharu is just left up in the air but that's minor (badum, tish) enough that it doesn't detract. Mei gets to experience fandom from the opposite side, learning she's inspired another awkward girl to keep on trucking. Like a lot of the writing for Mei, it's a little too on-the-nose in a way that makes the sequence feel less poignant but it's still a good way to bring her character full circle.

Then there's Mahiru who... learned a lesson somewhere in all this? She says she did and even though we have never seen an example, and she's at least applied to art school. So we'll take her word that working with Yukine helped her artistic journey. She also made friends and got them to re-do her original mural to feature a whole school of jellyfish, to represent that she's no longer alone in the most blunt way possible. That's not bad, but it also feels like the conclusion she would have come to four episodes ago before all this drama occurred. If nothing else, the weird contrivances and inorganic writing of this last story didn't damage Mahiru's broader story.

My real issue comes with Kano's epilogue. She had, by far, the most lingering issues going into the ending, and while they're all mostly resolved, it's almost the opposite of satisfying. Like alright, she made up with Mahiru and everything went back to normal. Cool, sure. Meru did one sympathetic thing during the concert and that's enough for her and Kano to reconnect. So I guess we're meant to assume Meru had a change of heart after one conversation with Mahiru and all that backstabbing and corruption fostered by the entertainment business is water under the bridge. Yukine gets what she always wanted thanks to the concert's success but she also included Kano's real name in the credits so I guess they're also cool now. Who needs to have actual conversations to hack out your deeply estranged relationship when you can make a grand, public gesture that doesn't address the core issues?

It's probably not fair to call this finale disappointing when it's exactly as unsatisfying as I expected it to get. I can't even call it bad, outside of how hollow Kano's epilogue was. Yet I came out of this whole thing with a sour taste in my mouth because I could see the vision. I am also a fan who would love to create something as heart-wrenching and poignant as my favorite anime. I found a lot to love about this show even as I picked it apart. I am deeply grateful to have something that is trying hard enough that it can get me upset like this! In the end, though, as much as I respect and appreciate Jellyfish, I don't know if I like it.


Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

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