Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 5

By Akiko Higashimura. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Kuragehime” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Kiss. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Sarah Alys Lindholm.

I realize that it is coincidence, but frequently the volume of Princess Jellyfish that I am reading is there to answer the questions and concerns I mentioned in my review of the previous volume. Last time I talked about wanting Kuranosuke to have to deal with consequences and be thrown off his game more, and I also mentioned the market for the jellyfish dresses being upscale and not for people like Tsukimi. Lo and behold, in this volume Kuranosuke is not only dealing with once again being told how hard it is to be a successful clothing maker in the world today, but also has to stand by and suck it up as Shu and Tsukimi get close enough to start dating, although given the two of them are still talking at cross-purposes a bit, I’m not sure if that’s going to be an endgame. And yeah, what fashion would Amars, the most unfashionable, wear?

Amars is actually pretty impressive here; for all that they may whine and complain a lot (especially Mayaya), they’re very much involved in both saving the apartment complex and getting the jellyfish brand out there. And the biggest worry of the book, how they will react when they hear that Tsukimi and Shu are going out, also turns out to less of a crisis than expected – Shu is, after all, the son of a politician and being groomed for greater things. Ergo, a political marriage would be a godsend for the rest of Amars. Of course, as a reader I’m not entirely convinced that Tsukimi would make a very good politician’s wife. As for the dresses, now that we’ve established the high-end dresses, we need cheaper stuff for the casual buyer. But what if the casual buyer is Amars? Would they wear this stuff? Not a chance. So.. what WOULD they willingly buy?

This volume features not one, not two, but THREE characters slowly realizing that they’ve fallen in love, each with different impact. Tsukimi is the most obvious, adn I’m still not sure it’s sunk in for her, or even if she grasps what it means going forward. The proposal certainly hasn’t sunk in. Inari, meanwhile, hears from Shu that he has a “fiancee” at the apartments, and is horrified not just at the idea that one of those girls (she doesn’t know which one) could have bewitched him but that it hurts her enough for her to realize that she has genuine feelings of love for Shu as well. As for Kuranosuke, I think he’s the furthest behind, as he’s not really admitting to himself at all how he really feels about Tsukimi even as he distances himself by saying he’s the “sorcerer” who placed a spell on her to make her a “princess”. Which is all very well and good, but sounds pretty cowardly to me.

They just announced the manga is wrapping up in Japan this fall, though we still have a few omnibuses to go to catch up. In the meantime, it gets better with each volume, and if you haven’t picked it up yet you should.

Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 4

By Akiko Higashimura. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Kuragehime” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Kiss. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Sarah Alys Lindholm.

I’ve mentioned before that I read this book more for Kuranosuke than Tsukimi, mostly as I keep waiting for everything to come crashing down on him and it just hasn’t yet. Kuranosuke is a giant whirling ball of poor impulse control, and while most of the time this is channeled in a good direction, and I do like that he’s helping the others in his own way, I always grit my teeth a bit when the moral seems to be “consequences are for other people!”. We get a bit of backstory as to how he came to the mansion as a child, and a bit more insight into the relationship he has with his older brother. I liked this, it makes sense for the character. Best of all, though, we have several moments, especially in the second half of the book, where Kuranosuke is thrown off his game, and forced to actually deal with unplanned things. He really shines then.

Speaking of the second half of the book, Nisha is a highly welcome breath of fresh air, and provides a dose of reality to the series that is desperately needed, as Kuranosuke has his head in the clouds just as much as Amars seems to. In particular, they are reminded that if they expect to make any money at all, Tsukimi’s jellyfish dresses need to be priced as haute couture, which is to say way, way above anything that the Amars crew could ever afford. We get a visit to an outlet store for expensive clothing, and while Tsukimi remains horrified, it really is a good object lesson in how the other half lives. She is not the target market for her dresses – people like the rick old ladies who came to the fashion show are. It will be interesting to see how well the dresses succeed in future books.

As you’d expect, there’s also lots of other things going on in these two volumes. Tsukimi and Shu get closer, even as she still has tremendous trouble dealing with a man AS a man (Kuranosuke dressing as a woman helps), and the residence is still very much on the chopping block, which gives Inari a chance to give a magnificently villainous speech tearing down Tsukimi – it’s cliched by design, and after all, if it does what it intended, why not use the cliche? That said, I think Tsukimi will be fighting back soon thanks to her fellow neighbors, who now that they know the strength of their resolve are prepared to bring them in to the protest fold.

There’s more tiny little character moments – I loved Jiji agreeing to run operations for the newly minted Jellyfish fashion business, if only as it gave her something to do for the first time in the entire series. Essentially, Princess Jellyfish’s fourth volumes shows the work of an assured manga artist continuing to draw us into the world of fashion and introverts, and you eagerly read on to see what happens next.

Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 3

By Akiko Higashimura. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Kuragehime” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Kiss. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Sarah Alys Lindholm.

After waffling a bit about the first two omnibuses of this series, the third settles in more comfortably into something I’m really enjoying. The characters develop a bit more, though that’s not always a good thing. The humor can be first rate much of the time. And the overwhelming sense of impending doom is done with a light but necessary touch, as we never forget even from the start that Amars’ home is about to be taken away from them – indeed, the owner (Chieko’s mother, who amusingly also seems to be a giant otaku, this time for Korean actors) signs off on selling it, so we’re left wondering what can possibly be left to save it? Ah, but in the best Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland tradition, Kuranosuke has the answer – we’re gonna put on a show!


Actually, the show was my favorite part of this whole volume – not the fashion show that serves as the cliffhanger ending, but the college drama that they all go to see in order to fill up seats, that fires up Karanosuke’s arrogant fashion heart and leads to all this. College productions can be hilarious at times, and the idea of a huge number of Ophelia clones fighting it out over Hamlet is exactly the sort of play you’d likely see in a hardcore drama department. Likewise, the shoestring budget and slapdash costumes also fit in, even if they upset the aesthetic sense. It’s nice to see Tsukimi manage to overcome her introversion and get everyone sewing so we can get the jellyfish dresses, even if I did groan as Kuranosuke once again forced her into a big social situation without telling her.

And then there’s Inari. I still don’t like her – by design, she’s the villain – but I also wasn’t fond of the plotline in this volume. Her faked suicide looked and felt offhand, as if she threw it together uncaringly, though I was fine with Shu being upset about her doing it. The fact that she started to fall for him for real after he hit her upset me a bit, though I know it wasn’t meant to be taken that way. In reality, it’s that he actually cares about her well-being and isn’t just another male body on the sexual corporate ladder. Still, I wish we could have had that without the violence. That said, I was amused at how she seemingly falls apart a bit after that, to the point where she can’t even blackmail him properly.

The rest of Amars also fare well, getting things to do to flesh them out. Mayaya gets the most, of course, as she’s the one with the body of a model and the personality of a fruitcake. We get into the background of the cast in greater depth here – Mayaya hides her eyes as they’re evil-looking, similar to the hero in Toradora!. But everyone in Amars is quick to remind her that they all went through that sort of thing – they were all bullied in school for being different. I’m not sure how long Mayaya’s actual modeling career may last – and I note that if she ends up with the Benz freak it would be hilarious – but it’s amusing and inspiring at the same time.

To sum up, while I still have a few issues with Princess Jellyfish, I enjoyed this omnibus a lot more, and it’s a solid josei title for young women or anyone.