The story centers around Tsukimi Kurashita, a huge fan of jellyfish (kurage, a wordplay on the "kura/mi" and "tsuki/ge" in her name) and a girl who moves to Tokyo to become an illustrator. She moves into "Amamizukan," an apartment complex that is full of fujoshi (diehard female otaku) with a no-men-allowed rule. However, one day, Tsukimi invites a stylishly fashionable woman to stay at her room at Amamizukan—only to discover that the guest is not who "she" seems to be.
Kuragehime won the Kodansha Manga Award in the shoujo demographic category in 2010. It was adapted into a live-action film in Japan on December 27, 2014.
The series has been published in English as Princess Jellyfish by Kodansha Comics USA in 2-in-1 omnibuses since March 22, 2016. Crunchyroll is publishing manga digitally and released the first four volumes of the manga on July 15, 2015.
This manga started out beautifully. The plot? Amazing. The characters? Funny and soooo unique. I was hooked in the beginning. This was one of those mangas that just kept you reading to see what happens next.
It was a long run, but alas, in the end the mangaka seemed to have given up on the story in its final chapters.
I feel like there was SO much more room for story development, as well as for the development of our characters and their relationships.
The manga was shot to a new level of interesting in the second half of the manga. Things became intense. The
story was really going somewhere... and then it was abandoned. I cannot put into words how much the ending was rushed. An entire conclusion to a story that was more than 80 chapters long, was squeezed into a mere 2 chapters and it pissed me the hell off. The logic of the story and characters was thrown right into the trash.
This was a really good manga, but the story and the characters deserved better. The ending sank my love for this manga halfway to the bottom.
Princess Jellyfish is a wonderful manga. I went in with no idea what to expect really, having not even read the tagline summary but merely a screencap of a funny panel, and absolutely fell in love with its fun, extremely goofy cast of characters. It wonderfully balanced a plot that got way more intense than I ever expected (and gave me a lot of anxiety while reading...) with a group of friends that had me laughing nonstop almost entirely from just their personal interactions. (Especially Hanamori, who had me laughing pretty much every time he appeared.)
There's a review on here that insisted that the author
lost interest in her work near the end, but aside from a conflict wrapping up a little too neatly, I felt like Higashimura's love for her work shone brightly through both the entire story and through her very consistent bonus chapters in each volume as well.
The art is really impressive (and cute!), and perfectly silly when it needs to be. I never once got the sense that she was taking cheap shortcuts. Princess Jellyfish is clean and consistent all throughout.
I enjoyed this manga intensely from start to finish, and while the Amars probably deserved more backstory outside of bonus chapters, they never wore on me. Although their antics are a bit exaggerated, the whole group all felt pretty true to a bunch of shut-ins that just want to pursue their interests and don't care to share details of their lives, honestly. (speaking as one of those people)
I wouldn't call it flawless, but it's definitely landed a spot in my favorites.
'Kuragehime' is a gem. Granted, it's a gem that still needs to be cut, polished, and set into a ring, but it's still very well worth the read. Higashimura does so much right with this story, with her characters, and with the world that she built. Unfortunately, she doesn't quite nail the landing.
This isn't even a problem with the writing, as much as it is a problem with Higashimura stretching herself too thin with multiple projects, as well as herself and her editorial team not planning the spacing of the last arc of the manga. There was definitely room for two more volumes in
order to properly flesh out the climax of the story, as well tie up everybody's loose ends.
But enough of the negative already. What did 'Kuragehime' do to deserve a 9?
I started reading this manga when I was 17 years old (I'm 21 now) and it opened up a whole new world of manga to me. I expected a silly story, one ridden with tropes and shalloweness, but what I got was a story that takes so many shoujo-manga tropes and flips them on their heads. Or flips them off altogether. This manga is hilarious, it's sometimes even preposterous, but never at any one point do any of the characters seem like cartoons. Despite all of their eccentricities, the Amars and Kuranosuke are very much real people, with real problems, and beautiful personal growth.
'Kuragehime' is probably the manga that kick-started my disdain towards vanilla shoujo manga. After I became so deeply invested in the world of these characters, and the stories that they had to offer, I could no longer look upon most vanilla high-school shoujo the same way. Why? Well, because it was refreshing to see characters - especially so many characters who are women - be concerned with something other than a shallow, silly romance or looks.
Sure, there's romance in here (I'll get that onto that later), and Tsukimi does have a complex about her looks. OK, a lot of 'Kuragehime' IS about looks and fashion. But it isn't about going through a drastic makeover and then suddenly making friends and winning the guy. It's about expressing yourself through art - no matter what your interests are - being yourself, learning to love yourself on the inside and then letting that love show on the outside. One of the most beautiful things this manga does is turn Tsukimi from an insecure, shrinking violet, who doubts are artistic ability and loathes her lack of femininity and appearance, into a creative genius who is capable of making beautiful items of clothing for the people she loves. Whilst growing to love herself. Without even realising that she now loves herself. And it isn't conveyed in a change of wardrobe. Yes, from time-to-time she'll get dolled up, but her appearance changes because her confidence changes. She's no longer hunched over, or sweaty, or timid. She walks with an air of confidence, and she looks happy, all the while still wearing her braids and funny glasses.
As someone who has both an eating disorder and depression, the message this manga sent was truly beautiful. It embraced the diversity, eccentricity, and unconventional beauty of its characters and said: you are worth it. You deserve to be loved. You don't need to look like everybody else, or behave like everybody else, or conform, whatever you do is the right thing.
I think that's why it handles the concept of Kuranosuke's fluid gender identity very well. Their gender fluidity is never portrayed in a cheap manner. It's not used for laughs; Kuranosuke's not the butt of the joke - they're a hero. A beautiful hero in a dress and a wig. Kuranosuke may ID as a man, but he rejects the societal pressures and expectations placed upon him because of his gender and decides to be his own person. Dressing up in clothing that are traditionally seen as being "feminine" is just part of his way of expressing himself. I won't get into too much detail about the reasoning behind Kuranosuke's decision to start wearing "women's" clothing since it gets into spoiler-y territory, but it's definitely worth the read in order to find out.
Now, onto the romance. I love romance. A story is never usually complete to me if it doesn't have some sort of element of romance in it. However, I'm also incredibly jaded, and rather cynical, for someone who likes romance as much as I do. It's probably why I can no longer stand the horrible excuse for a "romance" story that we are so often presented with in crappy high-school shoujo manga. That shallow, superficial, love-at-first-sight-even-though-the-guy-is-an-asshole-and-we-have-nothing-in-common romance played out in the corridors of a school when the students should be more busy studying. I can't stand it. It infuriates me. It's so pathetic, and woefully unrealistic.
Do teenagers even talk like that? When I was a teenager, my peers were more concerned about getting hammered on the weekend and having lots of sex. Not writing love letters of Shakespearean proportion to the boy in the next class that they only laid eyes on one. But, I digress. My point is, 'Kuragehime' lets you think that it's going to fall down that superficial love-at-first-sight romantic route by giving us a romance based on exactly that. However, it unravels that trope, showing you just how shaky a relationship based on such superficial qualities is. How it that flame of 'love' dies as quickly as it sparked to life. And you know what else it does? It shows us that it's not a bad thing that our crush didn't work. It's not the end of the world like shoujo manga tells us. It's actually a really good thing, because it allows us to understand what exactly we want from our significant other, it allows us to realise what it means to really fall in love.
Though I do think it's completely unfair that Akiko Higashimura has created a completely unrealistic precedent for men in the form of Koibuchi Kuranosuke. I mean, where can I find a man like that?! He's a bit vain, but honestly, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. lol
It's quite sad that through all of that 'Kuragehime' didn't deliver on the ending -- not that the ending was bad. Actually, it gave us a lot of what I was already expecting through foreshadowing. However, it was just so rushed. It gave us glimpses to things that deserved chapters. To be honest, Higashimura did her characters a disservice by rushing the ending like a J-dorama. I don't entirely blame her, because she did have a lot on her plate at the time, and it had been announced a while ago that 'Kuragehime''s final volume was going to be its 17th. But she should have planned herself a lot better. If only she had shelved 'Tokyo Tarereba Girls' (also a must-read) until after 'Kuragehime's conclusion, we might not have had to go through such a messily executed ending.
Nevertheless, 'Kuragehime' is still most definitely worth the read. You will come out of it with a sense of joy, and with characters that stay close to your heart for a very long time.
Kuragehime is great for young teen/adolescent girls who feel a bit out of place from the mainstream, but have no less passion for what they love. Kuragehime's main focus is on female friendship and having passion for doing what you love.
The Set-Up: Tsukimi is a member of the 'amars', an all-women's living quarters full of socially-awkward young women. One day, Tsukimi is trying to rescue a jellyfish from poor living conditions in a pet store, and a stylish young woman comes to her rescue. This cool girl turns out to be a fashion-obsessed young boy by the name of Kuranosuke, who is the
rebellious son of a Japanese politician. Most of the series follows Tsukimi and Kuranosuke designing and creating their own fashion line of clothes based off of jellyfish.
Story: 6, This manga is character-driven, rather than story-driven, but its still got some decent plot points along the way.
Art: 8, Higashimura-sensei has a pretty unique drawing style, which I think fits the series perfectly. Its kinda quirky, but really beautiful at the same time. Higashimura-sensei does a great job of rendering different body-types, faces, and even races, so no two characters are the same. However, it seems like she can only draw a limited number of face and body angles, which can get quiet stale.
Character: 9, Nearly everyone in the main cast is passionate about their own, sometimes quite niche, interest. And even if you can't relate to the character's likes on a surface level, you the characters for their passion for doing what they love, especially the main character, Tsukimi.
Enjoyment: 7, though the series does end a bit abruptly, with few lose plot ends left dangling, I found the ride there to be enjoyable nonetheless. You really fall in love with the cast of characters, and the story wasn't really plot-driven in the first place.