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Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night
Episode 7

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night ?
Community score: 4.4

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The recurring frustration of watching Jellyfish is that it's great at articulating characters' emotions but always seems to stumble when packaging those feelings into an episodic plot. This week, they finally cracked that problem by simply not having a major storyline at all. There's a plot that runs its course across this episode, but it's a small and low-key one that resolves well before the end credits. What's left is a quiet, meandering, dialogue-heavy episode that is easily the best entry in the show to date.

The way it works is pretty ingenious in its simplicity. Rather than introducing a plot to resolve across the episode, our opening scene simply establishes a broader question: What will each of our heroines, on the cusp of adulthood, do when they stop being high schoolers? From there, Jellyfish lets each of the girls stew on that idea—iterating on a question every teenager eventually asks themselves and finding interesting answers that gives depth to each of their characters.

Kiui already has her answer. While you might expect her to pursue online stardom, her goal is to become a middle school teacher—and I like that you can immediately guess why before she elaborates. Kiui knows what it's like to feel outcast and alone as a kid, and her dream is to keep those kids from shouldering it alone: to be the kind of adult she needs in her own life. It's sweet on its own, but what's impressive is how much thought she's put into it—arranging to take a certification exam since graduating high school is off the table. It's cool to see how prepared and dedicated she is to pursue her dream outside the norm. When you're a teenager, it can feel like following the most common, “proper” path is necessary to succeed. And while Kiui didn't veer from that path by choice, she's willing to face the friction of forging her own. She might also pull the classic high school dropout move of dating an older woman with a motorcycle, but more on that later.

For Mei and Yoru, their decisions are a lot more standard—which is why they don't get a ton of focus. Rather than struggling to find a path or forge their own, both girls' conflicts revolve around finding the confidence to commit to their passions. Mei realizes that she loves the piano and wants to excel at the instrument (while Yoru's epiphany happened a couple of episodes prior). That's not to say that their decisions are less meaningful but rather that they're much further along on their individual journeys, at least in this regard. Instead, their storyline allows for valuable bonding, further strengthening JELEE's cohesion.

Then there's Kono. She has no goddamn clue where to start. She has her immediate goal of making JELEE a success but anything beyond that is so nebulous and intimidating that she barely dares think about it. When she joins Kiui in getting her motorcycle license, she's grasping at anything that could make her feel like she's progressing in any direction. There's a palpable sense of panic in Kano throughout the episode, as she quakes in the shadow of the enormous, looming tower that is the future. You can imagine that she's turning over every decision and desire in her head, and paralyzed about what to do. That it's Yoru who breaks her out of that spiral, returning the support that Kano gave her at the start of this story, is pure poetry. Plus it turns out getting her license has an immediate benefit, as both girls discover there's nothing more thrilling and romantic than riding tandem on a motorcycle. Next week better open with Yoru's school buzzing with gossip about how she got picked up by her biker girlfriend with dyed hair, I swear to god.

This episode also introduces Koharu, who I'm rather split on. There's a lot to like about her character and how she sticks out compared to anime characters as a whole. I appreciate how nonchalant she is about having cosmetic surgery, for one. That's a topic that usually comes loaded with a lot of baggage from every side but here it's just a part of Koharu that she's more than comfortable sharing—and there's never a sense of judgment from the cast or show about it. There's some stuff she doesn't address like what appears to be a recently removed tattoo on her back, but that makes her feel like a more rounded person. As open and inspiring as she is to Kano, there are parts of her that she keeps to herself. She's also the first connection that Kiui's made outside of JELEE and seeing them rather awkwardly make first contact is pretty fun—especially with Kiui being so unsure of how to handle somebody new showing so much interest in her.

My issues mostly come from how, exactly, that interest is expressed. Jellyfish has never been one for natural dialogue but it's largely managed to feel authentic in recent episodes. So having the cast have a lengthy conversation about their boob sizes felt like getting splashed with ice water. It's not even that I'm opposed to a dumb boob joke—people with breasts are liable to talk about them in some fashion and I've certainly laughed along with more immature metaphors for personal growth—but the way it's written feels about two steps from Koharu breasting boobily down the stairs. It's one thing for her to be an exceptionally open person and another entirely to go “Hey, teenagers I just met yesterday, what size are your boobs? Would you like to see mine? They were very expensive.” for a whole scene. I don't care how funny it is to see Kiui and Kano pog out over Ten-Thousand Dollar Tiddies (ok, more like $6,500 with the current exchange rate) when it undercuts the actual character writing.

Thankfully, the strengths of Koharu's character mostly make up for those awkward humps and it's not enough to detract from what is otherwise Jellyfish's best episode. Freed from the restraints of tidily wrapping up any given story, the show lets its greatest strengths rise to the top, and I'm hoping that can stay the case as we enter the back half.

Rating:

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


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