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Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night
Episode 3

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night ?
Community score: 4.2

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The most important lesson that an artist of any discipline must learn is that you cannot fear the cringe. Any authentic art made with even a fraction of creative intent involves putting part of yourself into it. Whether it's a $300 Million film or a 10-second TikTok video you recorded on your phone, the act of creation means making yourself vulnerable, and the sheer breadth of human experience means that at least some people who see what you make will think it's embarrassing. The trap so many young folks run into is taking that cringe to heart, and letting the fear of dismissal keep them from expressing their authentic selves. That's the pit Yoru fell into after painting her mural, and her childhood friend Kiui fell even further into those depths.

The difference is in how the two friends reacted to that fear. For Yoru, it meant she hid and suppressed her artistic side, cutting off the chance of rejection entirely. Kiui went in the opposite direction, abandoning her increasingly awkward meat-space social life and crafting an online persona – eventually becoming a full-on Vtuber where she could make up as much about herself as she wanted. Behind a crafted avatar and free from the judging eyes of her classmates, she could be her confident, brash, undeniably cringe self, while inhabiting the fantasy of a social butterfly. Yet, as freeing as that is, so long as she's still ashamed of herself under the harsh daylight sun, every lie about her life – be it to her Twitch chat or her best friend – just piles on the fear.

It's powerful stuff, and I'm grateful that the script allows those emotions room to breathe. While Kiui's emotional journey could never be called subtle, scenes like her trip to the store, finding herself surrounded by her schoolmates, allow the direction and music to sell us on her panicked paranoia in a way that's affecting. Kiui's shame-spiraling after being exposed, dumping money into FTP games until the service cuts her off, is an especially modern way to articulate her desperately trying to be as invincible as she wants. In general, the banter between our cast is a lot more relaxed, with their jokes and retorts feeling a lot closer to authentic teenagers. The writing is still incredibly blunt – sure is convenient that Yoru volunteers for a school play that perfectly parallels Kiui's situation – but by backing off just a tad, it falls closer in line with the big, powerful emotions the rest of the production is swinging for, without getting in the way.

Most of all, I like that the resolution to Kiui's angst isn't to give up V-tubing and return to school, but to be honest with the one person she cares about. I firmly believe that who we present ourselves to be is as much a part of ourselves as our “real” personae and Kiui's online home is as genuine as the flesh-and-blood people she hid from. At the same time, while V-tubing allows her to sublimate that energy into a space where she's insulated, it's still an inherently performative venue that requires her to never be too vulnerable. By coming clean to Yoru and being accepted for the flawed weirdo she is, Kiui can reclaim some of that self-assured energy that brought them together in the first place, to reclaim her identity with confidence and a confidant. It's a welcome rally for this show that's given me a lot more confidence that it might be able to match its storytelling ambitions. There are still some clunky parts, but they go down a lot smoother here.

Rating:

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


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