Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Princess Jellyfish Volume One
This will be an unrepentantly positive review of Princess Jellyfish this story about oddball female Otaku and the slow dawning realizations about our protagonist Tsukimi Kurashita feeling the pains of first love while also dealing with her own social awkwardness. The story starts out with Tsukimi returning defeated after attempting to make an outing and returns crestfallen due to being unable to endure the presence of ""the stylish" (the pretty girls and guys who only make Tsukimi and her dorm mates feel inferior) to her female only dormatory known as the Nunery (due to it being filled with nothing but single women and excluding men). The Dorm is inhabited by other female Otaku (the translator uses the term Fujoshi wich is more associated with female fans of Yaoi Manga and while I'm not crazy about it in the context it makes sense it's a minor quibble on a translation choice and is simply a matter of personal preference on my part.)Who include motor-mouthed Three Kingdoms Otaku Mayaya, Old Man Otaku Jiji (my favorite), traditional Japanese doll and kimono Otaku Chieko, (who doubles as the landlady while her Mother chases a popular Korean actor Bae Yong-Joon in Korea) Banba a train Otaku, and Hikikomori Yaoi Mangaka Juon Mejiro. Trying to soothe her nerves Tsukimi goes to see her beloved Jellyfish that she has named Clara (in one of a number of winking nods to Japanese pop culture this to the beloved Anime adaptation Heidi, Heidi Girl of The Alps.)Only to find the Jellyfish in mortal peril due to being in the same tank with another species that being in close contact will slowly kill it and unable to talk to the stylish male clerk. Into Tsukimi's life comes the brash Kuranosuke Koibuchi a female impersonator who helps Tsukimi save the jellyfish only problem Kuronsuke has taken a liking to the group of Otaku in The Nunnery and in drag imposes himself on them despite the Amars own discomfort. This allows Kuranosuke to escape the stifling environment of his political family unlike his older brother the dutiful and hard-working Shū who can't handle women due to a past unspecified trauma. Along with the introduction later in the series of the grifting and manipulative renovator of the district Shōko Inari the Amar live in (this would lead to the destruction of the dormitory) who will do anything to get what she wants. Along with the social anxiety of The Amar is a slow budding almost romance between Shū and Tsukimi (who Shū doesn't know that the pretty girl he's smitten with is the awkward Otaku he can't stand) and Kuranosuke denying what seem to be developing feelings for Tsukimi as well. In short it's a mixture of perception versus reality and the nature of love. For her part, Inari feels like a character that would belong in an Okazaki Kyoko Manga being all blunt sexual power and artifice. While The Amars are adorable little screw ups content to mooch of their parents and blame the economic downturn for lack of employment. Content to live for their individual obsessions making them understandable even if not likable due to their slackerdom. In short it's a series that takes no prisoners Akiko Higashimura has created a series that sparkles not only with human warmth but also the hint of mockery at the superficiality of society while also turning the criticism inward on herself in the scathingly self-deprecating bio-manga she includes at the end of each volume. This is very much a series that speaks to anyone who has ever felt like a freak or misfit and avoids the acidic criticism of series like Welcome To The NHK. Higashmura-Sensei has a comedic genius that is enviable while also making characters that could be one-dimensional stereotypes into real flesh and blood people who are perfectly happy to be slovenly Otaku or preening Fashionistas in the body of college boys. All of this get thrown together and much like the beloved Sukiyaki of The Amar gets thrown together to great effect that is delicious and food for the mind as soul. I have to commend Kodansha Comics for putting this out in the omnibus form with all the color pages and other bells and whistles. I can only hope this series sells well. For my part, I can not wait to see more of the comic and romantic adventures of The Amar and maybe even something happens between Shu and Tsukimi. Words fail to express how much I love this volume may Higashimura-Sensei have a long and prosperous career because this is the exact kind of Manga America needs. Be gone crowdsourced opinion poll manga and make this... this... Art more available to everyone guys, girls, everyone. Even the localization by The Translator deserves credit because with comedy it is hard to localize from one language to another and still have it be funny or make Japanese references from the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties make sense to a culture outside of where those references would be easily understandable. Other things are a kind of visual reference to art style such as Suzue Miuchi's Glass Mask.