So, with that out of the way...!
Lots of little girls think that being a grown-up means frilly dresses and tiaras and way, way too much makeup. They dream of being a princess, and for some of them, at least, that's exactly how things
Wait, that'd be a pretty bleak way to kick off an anime series. No, out from the shadows marches Kuranosuke. Statuesque, willowy, impossibly gorgeous...Tsukimi and that prickly cashier are both completely dumbfounded at the sight of her. Kuranosuke charms the guy into giving Tsukimi a new pet jellyfish, and in return, she gets a place to crash for the night. Everybody wins! Kind of. Not really. See, Amamizukan is sort of a "no boys allowed" sort of thing, and Kuranosuke has something that she...I mean, he...forgot to fill Tsukimi in on last night. Catch him at the right time of day, and Kuranosuke is a
All I knew about Princess Jellyfish before plopping the first disc into my Blu-ray player is that everyone, everywhere says it's really, really good, and...well, they're right. This series is pretty incredible. Princess Jellyfish is a rare example of a josei anime to find its way over to these shores. Characterization is given the absolute highest priority, towering above all else. The central characters in Princess Jellyfish aren't archetypes grabbed straight off the shelf; they're people. Exaggerated, yeah, but people just the same. I love that it treats its otaku characters with such an even hand. They're friends, each with their own geeky
There's definitely an element of romance, but one character winding up with someone else is never the end game in Princess Jellyfish. Transformation is a strong element of its story without telling its characters they need to be something they're not. When the Sisterhood doll themselves up, their makeup is warpaint, and their dresses are suits of armor; it's not about conformity but dressing for battle. I'm pretty sure I've never watched an anime series about this many characters in their thirties. It seems as if 80% of the animation out there has "be proud of who you are!" as a quadruple-underlined message, but Princess Jellyfish feels far more sincere about that than your average Disney movie or afterschool special. Its characters are endearingly strange, not the offputting, untouchable dweebs that you'd normally expect to suffer through on TV. It's feminist without being preachy. Its characters are...well, characters: well-realized, distinctive, unique, and very relatable. Princess Jellyfish is fueled by an unrelentingly spastic energy and has a brilliant sense of humor. The series has something to say -- identity, social anxiety, dealing with loss, sexual double-standards -- and yet it manages to score a lot of laughs along the way. The character designs are unilaterally pretty incredible. It's cute without being cloying. I just...I love Princess Jellyfish. Love it, love it, love it, love it, love it. I haven't come across another series that's even a little bit close to this, and I'm not just limiting myself to anime here. Something this smart, well-crafted, and unique really is cause for celebration. ...but hey! You don't have to take my word for it. FUNimation has the entire eleven episode season up for free on YouTube, so you can sample as much as you want. I can already tell you that you'll want to have this boxed set on that shelf in your living room, though. Very, very Highly Recommended.
Princess Jellyfish aims for a softer visual aesthetic. Its flashbacks and fantasies are usually cast in a warm, diffused glow. Its colors draw deeply from gentle pastels. The linework in general isn't as startlingly crisp as what you're probably used to seeing with anime in 1080p. The series looks wonderful on Blu-ray, but it's not what I'd call the usual sort of high definition eye candy. The differences between these Blu-ray discs and the DVDs elsewhere in this combo pack aren't night and day, exactly, but it's still a marked improvement. Pop open these DVD-to-Blu-ray comparison shots if you want to see what I mean:
A fair number of the colors in Princess Jellyfish don't translate to NTSC all that well, and some of them do wind up lost in translation on DVD, particularly the solid pink backdrop in the opening titles. The DVDs also struggle with heavy aliasing and hiccups in the compression, and none of that ever gets in the way on Blu-ray. The clarity of the linework and the texture to the backgrounds are also noticeably improved in high definition. The larger your display, the better you'll appreciate what these Blu-ray discs have to offer beyond DVD, and...well, no matter which format you choose, Princess Jellyfish looks pretty great.
Both of the DVDs in this combo pack are dual-layer discs. The high definition end of things span one BD-50 disc and one BD-25. Princess Jellyfish has been encoded with AVC on Blu-ray, and you're looking at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Princess Jellyfish serves up two lossless soundtracks for each episode, each presented in 16-bit Dolby TrueHD. The original Japanese audio is served up in stereo, while the English dub has been remixed to 5.1. I
The score sounds even better in the English remix too, with the instrumentation spread out to fill the surrounds and seizing hold of the subwoofer while it's at it. The technical end of things on the English track is also flawless, and I'm particularly impressed by how much of a low-frequency assault Princess Jellyfish manages to deliver. I watched the entire series with the Japanese stereo track first, and I went into the six-channel remix expecting something sort of subdued, and instead the LFE was frequently snarling. The rear channels are predominantly used for reinforcing the music but dish out some nice effects at times, such as reverb, fake-gunfire, and skittering footsteps. The voice acting, as expected, continues to come through perfectly as well.
I'm really not the right guy to rate an English dub, no matter how well done it is; Japanese always just sounds right to me as far as anime goes, and sampling the dub after watching the series in its original language for four and a half hours straight probably skewed my reaction even further. The English voice work is cute and charming, though, striking that right balance where it's a bit exaggerated without veering deliriously far over-the-top. The sunny chirp to Clara's cutaways is a personal favorite. I also appreciate how the writing is faithful while still finding its own voice at times, especially when it comes to Tsukimi's dialogue. The voice acting for Kuranosuke in English sounds a bit too affected, and although that kind of makes sense for the character, now that I think about it, that also gives away the surprise a few minutes early. The English dub has a lot of personality to it, which is essential for a series like this, but I still find myself gravitating heavily towards the Japanese track. As ever, it's great to have the option to choose whatever you want, so feel free to ignore me.
The 'Audio' and 'Subtitle' options are disabled as Princess Jellyfish plays, so you'll want to check your settings before clicking on the 'Play All' button. These discs default to English, and English subtitles are automatically enabled if you choose the Japanese audio instead.
The packaging and design straight across the board are pretty much perfect. Princess Jellyfish comes packaged in a thick, sturdy cardboard slipcase, and I really love that watercolor look to its artwork. There are two standard-size Blu-ray cases tucked inside, each containing a pair of discs. The DVDs are in one case while the Blu-ray discs are in the other. The lists of technical specs and extras are on an insert that can be pulled off to reveal more artwork.
The Final Word
Princess Jellyfish latches onto a group of unrepentently geeky women in Tokyo and slathers on a gleefully surreal streak. The end result is a series that's really sweet, extremely funny, teeming with personality, and is rightly more fascinated with its small army of really strong characters than it is in overly familiar anime tropes. It's one of the only anime series I've come across that passes the Bechdel Test, revolving around strong female characters who aren't tossed in there to fall in love, aren't ever exploited for shameless cheesecake, and aren't told that they have to act a certain way or look like a cover girl to be women. Princess Jellyfish manages to be both cute and feminist, two great tastes that seem like they'd be pretty tough to get to taste great together, and that head-on collision somehow works beautifully here. I fell pretty hard for Princess Jellyfish from its very first episode, and it's without a doubt one of the most distinctive and unique anime series I've ever come across. Very, very Highly Recommended.