What They Say:
Plain, timid and obsessed with jellyfish, Tsukimi is a far cry from her idea of a princess. Her tepid life as a jobless illustrator comes complete with roommates who harbor diehard hobbies that solidify their status as hopeless social rejects. These wallflowers run a tight, nun-like ship, but their no-men-allowed-not-no-one-not-no-how bubble is unwittingly burst after Tsukimi brings home a rescued sea jelly and a beauty queen… who’s actually a guy.
When the threat of losing their cozy convent inspires this glamour boy to turn the neurotic entourage into a portrait of success, will Tsukimi take her chance to bloom, or will she end up a hot mess?
The audio presentation for this series is straightforward in its bilingual design as we get the original Japanese in stereo and the English getting bumped up to 5.1, both of which are in the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show is one that focuses strongly on dialogue with a bit of silly fun mixed in so there aren’t any really big moments when you get down to it. When it does, it’s the characters acting out strongly in a particular situation so that’s nicely handled but it doesn’t stretch the show in the slightest. The busiest moment really is the opening sequence and it’s definitely a fun piece there. The audio side is well handled here throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The only downside is that the tracks are locked with their respective subtitles (full subtitles with the Japanese, sign/song with the English) and you can’t turn them off.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and two on the second, giving it more than enough room to deal with the material, especially since there are so many near static or slow scenes without a lot of high motion. It does have some though, especially the opening sequence, and that really looks great here as the colors and details are well captured. The series has a good sense of design to it as it deals with the real world for backgrounds and the like but it uses a bit softer and more colorful look with the character artwork itself and a lot of good stuff with the jellyfish themselves. The series definitely has its appeal visually and the transfer captures the look of it well with clean, solid colors, a lack of noise and no problems with the video breaking up.
The limited edition release of the series is pretty strong and definitely is aimed at the fans rather than trying to grab some general anime fans, which is a plus since the series is admittedly a fairly limited appeal overall. The DVD/BD combo release comes in a heavy chipboard box with two Blu-ray cases inside, one to hold the two DVDs and another for the two Blu-ray discs. The box for this has a very soft design to it with illustration artwork of the various characters characters on both sides that populates the series. It’s really appealing manga style art and it showcases the two leads in their opposite forms on each side so there’s some contrast to it, as well as shifting the supporting cast on each side as well. With the soft whites, the purples and a few other pastel colors, it really stands out in its own way and is definitely the right approach for this show.
Within the box, the two Blu-ray cases use the same approach though it avoids using a lot of heavy purple from the box to tie it together. The front covers for each use more artwork of a similar nature to the box and showcases each of the leads in different forms, prettied up and how they normally are. With the white background and the soft illustration look, it has the same appeal as the box itself and uses a few more colors to it that lets it stand out more. The back covers are kept simple with just rows of jellyfish in white against either a purple or gray background. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side as well while the left side has a solid piece that breaks down the episodes by number and title as well as the extras.
The menu design for Princess Jellyfish is cute and fun in a way that’s obviously a bit girly but without slamming it into your face with tons of pink. The design behind it has a series of circles floating up in the background that are in blues, greens and shades of purple that occasionally have a jellyfish inside of them. It’s combined with some nice little lilting music that sets the mood just right for something a bit laid back. The logo is spread across th eupper center portion and the lower left has the discs navigation, which is inside a circle itself and uses a large, clean font for the main items. The extras and submenu selections are too small though and a bit hard to read depending on distance. Layout is spot on and easy to access and everything works without any Problems. As noted before, subtitles are locked to audio tracks so you can’t make those selections here. I would have preferred a little more clarity in the menu design for that as you can look at it and believe that it’s Japanese with no subtitles.
This release has a lot of extras to it though it does stick with some of the tried and true ones, with all of them on the second disc. The English cast commentary with the first and last episode here is definitely fun and we also get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. Beyond that though is a little treasure trove of Princess Jellyfish goodness. The first we get is a four part “Princess Jellyfish Heroes” section which is made up of five to six minute animated shorts focusing on various characters, mostly the supporting cast, and just having fun with them. There’s also a six part Sisterhood Expeditionary segment that has the girls going off on an adventure but they’re only thirty seconds each. It’s adorable, but short. And unfortunate it’s also all separate as there’s no play all for it, which it desperately needed. Another cute extra is Tsukimi and Jii’s Jellyfish Tour which runs for 21 minutes and has the voice actresses stepping in to go on a real tour of jellyfish. It’s nicely educational, cute and fun. There’s also a bit of a liner notes section that goes into some of the jellyfish from the show as well as a look at the human cast, breaking them down by sisters and stylish. Add in the promotional video from Japan and the US trailer and you’ve got a good mix of fun extras here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Known as Kuragehime in its Japanese release, Princess Jellyfish is an eleven episode series from Brain’s Base based on the very popular manga series by Akiko Higashimura. The manga version is pretty recent as it only started back in 2008 but it has eight volumes of the josei series out and it’s still coming out regularly in the Kiss magazine. The show is eye-catching from the start, especially with the opening sequence that does a number of movie parodies from James Bond to Star Wars and more. A good culturally aware series is hard to come by, especially one that plays with Western film references so openly.
The series revolves around Tsukimi, a young woman who has not achieved what she wanted out of life. She opens part of her narration by apologizing to her mother about not becoming a princess of sorts as an adult and instead having become something that doesn’t exactly fit in with the social culture of the day. While she may not have achieved that, she is somewhat happy with her life as she lives in a woman’s only apartment building with a group of rather like minded individuals. They’re all basic archetypes of social issues that keep them from interacting with society normally and without any problems. The setup and scenario is fairly standard, but it’s very rare that we see this with a group of women. Occasionally you might find one NEET oriented girl in a show, at best, but even that is exceedingly rare and hard to come by.
While the show could be extremely interesting to watch just from this perspective, akin to the Welcome to the NHK series, Princess Jellyfish intends to go a different way. Jellyfish have been important to Tsukimi since her younger days as the show opens with her visiting them with her mother, there’s story books about them and even as a young adult she spends some time drawing about them. She’s so infatuated with them, in a completely no creepy and normal way, that she has a name for the one at the local pet store she visits. What causes it to go beyond the norm is that when she visits it one night, there’s another jellyfish in the tank with her Clara jellyfish, one that will threaten Clara’s life if it’s left in there.
Tsukimi can’t actually talk to the guy there since she’s so introverted, but what saves her is the arrival of a very stylish woman who purchases the jellyfish for her and walks home with her. The arrival of this stylish woman throws a kink into the apartments since the others can’t handle someone like her there and even Tsukimi has a difficult time with it as well as knowing how it will impact the others. Never mind putting a jellyfish in the bathtub. When the woman stays overnight, it only adds to the bizarre nature of things when her true nature is revealed that she’s really a he, and that just sends Tsukimi into a real bind and panic. The newly revealed Kuranosuke is having none of it though as he can’t understand why she’s so panicked and even though she tells him to never come back, Kuranosuke is too curious not to..
And it’s his returning over the course of the series that keeps things moving and fun. The women of the complex are fearful of all that’s new and that has Tsukimi continually making sure Kuranosuke doesn’t get caught out. Of course, he knows how to dress, tease and play the ladies and he bribes them well with a bit of meat that softens them up. And at the time that Kuransouke does this, he also messes with Tsukimi and the others a bit by helping them to be stylish. Not heavily, as it would turn them away, but in smaller ways that eases their comfort level with him. Where the real trouble comes in though is when Kuranosuke’s older brother Shu sees Tsukimi in her stylish mode and can’t make the connect with her normal mode, as he sees them as separate people. And he falls pretty hard for Tsukimi.
When we start to get to know Shu a bit, as he’s the straight and proper (and virginal) son of the family who is well into politics and power, we get a larger feel for things not only with him but also why Kuranosuke is like he is. With Shu devoted to the family and service, we learn that he’s part of a project that’s going to redevelop the area. That becomes a stronger subplot as it progresses and turns into an impetus for the women at the complex to do something since their home is threatened. But as important as it is, it never really feels like it dominates. It provides the drama for the characters but it’s their interactions that really makes it work as we see the various relationships play out and mess with each other, both within the group of women and Kuranoskue and within the politics side.
With the show running just eleven episodes, it has a pretty good pacing to it as it deals with the cast of characters while never losing its focus on who’s important. Tsukimi and her relationship with her mother, the past and jellyfishes are key and they hit a lot of good points throughout this. And it’s seeing how it gets her to interact with others that makes it more special. When she deals with Kuranosuke, he’s able to draw her out more. Yet when she’s with Shu, a general rarity overall, it’s more about how she affects him and her blushing curiosity about it all. Shu’s probably my favorite character of the show since he has so many great reactions and goes through a few different issues because of his position. It’s fun to watch how he copes with it and the various people that come into the show through him.
Princess Jellyfish really drew me in during its simulcast run and left me smiling week after week. Taking it in as a whole didn’t change my opinion of it much in that regard as it was strong in telling its story both in weekly form and as a whole so revisiting here this way was just simply a delight to watch. There’s a great balance here between the silly stuff and the character driven material that lets it flow well. You smile along with the characters even though it’s really only Tsukimi that gets fully developed with a past. But the others aren’t diminished by that as they work well as a group and their personalities shine through well enough to make them thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Princess Jellyfish is definitely one of those special series and not like many others out there in how it handles itself and what it wants to tell. It works wonderfully and is the kind of show that’s simply great to revisit.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Princess Jellyfish Heroes Parts 1-4, Go, Sisterhood Explorers! Parts 1-6, Tsukimi and Jiji’s Octopus Tour, The Princess Jellyfish Field Guide, Episodes 1 & 11 Commentary, Promotional Videos, Textless Songs
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.