Every anime menu needs its light, bubbly relief, and in one of the driest years for decent shows, Kuragehime’s plot about geeks, fashion, and cross-dressers is diet cola.
An unabashedly insubstantial plot aided by cliché sweeteners helps this go down oh so easily. Fashionable cross-dresser Kuranosuke crash lands into hopeless nerd Tsukimi’s life and, for a couple of episodes, the gag is how to keep her friends from finding out that she is a he. Bizarrely, though, things morph into a battle between fashion and real estate as Kuranosuke leads Tsukimi’s friends against redevelopment moguls using dress-making as his weapon of choice. If it sounds like contrived nonsense, that’s because it is. It never escalates into any kind of Erin Brockovich epic, rather remaining narrowly focused on the interrelationships and wacky situations. And all this via tragic background stories and ample fangirl wish fulfilment as Tsukimi gets periodic makeovers.
But Kuragehime nevertheless remains engaging because of the character dynamics: by depicting the ironic clash between isolationist nerds (who, by the way, proudly call themselves ‘Amars’ after Buddhist nuns because they shun men) and an excruciatingly beautiful young man who possesses the femininity fate denied them, the show keeps us emotionally vested. Kuranosuke breaks their routine, inserting himself using colour, beauty, and a blithe unawareness of how much they resent him. He calls them ‘a lair of jobless thirty-something NEET chicks with afros’ and boldly asks them if they’re virgins, and they find themselves challenged to open up to the world. Thus, even as the show exploits their friction to reveal the Amars’ absurd fears and fantasies, we find a human story unravelling before our eyes.
Furthermore, thanks to these character clashes, viewers will come away with several sequences still firing in their minds and evoking giggles long after the credits. I am smiling right now, for instance, as I type about that scene when Tsukimi discovers two incompatible jellyfish occupying the same tank of a pet shop. Her imagination, fuelled by a heroic need to save them, slides into a glorious spoof of Isao Takahata’s Heidi. Such highlights pepper every episode and keep it dancing at a satisfying pace right to the end.
Unfortunately, most of the heavier developments only dead-end since the show covers a mere six volumes of an ongoing manga. For instance, Kuranosuke’s search for his long-lost mother remains a vague background detail, as does his blossoming feelings for Tsukimi. As such, the story functions like a cord upon which to hang the decorative jokes and the smattering of colourful characters; it drops a few zany people in a situation and lets their boundless energy nudge them along a jungle trail of comedy.
Without doubt, the animation’s crown is Kuranosuke; viewers wanting a bishounen treat will gobble up his slender pale limbs and exquisite face like bonbons. Not just that, he combines it with a wide-eyed cuteness that is all the lovelier for being understated. Tsukimi, once made over, becomes his adorable equal, although I nevertheless prefer the more eccentric designs of her fellow Amars. Their terrible hair don’ts and scatty, awkward bodies keep us delighting in great visual humour.
Beyond the main characters, the animation is strikingly pedestrian; environments barely register as more than suggestive backdrops and everything is brushed with a smidgen of soft focus for that dreamy shoujo feeling.
The opening theme ‘Koko Dake no Hanashi’ by Chatmonchy (also responsible for Bleach’s twelfth OP, ‘Dadai’) is cute, fluffy, and catchy just like the story. With light, sprightly vocals, it immediately speaks of cheeky fun, not geeky angst. The rest of the soundtrack, including the ending theme, conveys a functional but unmemorable sound design.
Kuranosuke's background, his beauty, his tragedy, they all recall Tamaki Suoh (Ouran High School Host Club). The son of a beautiful woman he isn’t allowed to see, he tries to escape his life of privilege and politics by realising his fantasies. Instead of forming a hedonistic club, however, he makes and wears dresses. Moreover, his personality avoids Tamaki’s childlike innocence in favour of a more purposeful attitude and, as tempting as it must be to overplay him as an eccentric drag queen, the script keeps him natural, harmless, and glamorously sexy.
With him in the spotlight, Tsukimi (Tsuki = moon, mi = sea; reverse the characters in her name and you get ‘jellyfish’) rarely gets to stand out. She’s brilliantly funny in her scenes of raw panic whenever approaching fashionable people, symptomised by noodle limbs, ghoulish grimacing, and a sudden gait like a drunkard on ice. Equally, her moments of vulnerability underscore the show’s romanticism with lines like this: ‘Looking at this beautiful person, my heart is filled with jellyfish lace.’ But as a character, she sticks too closely to the geek-turns-chic formula and harbours a typical internal conflict between her wish for femininity (to be the princess she believes her dead mother would have wanted) and her inherent lack of it.
The supporting cast, on the other hand, mainly run along train tracks of recurring gags. We can rely on Kuranosuke’s stoic butler Hanamori to narrowly define his interests in terms of his beloved Benz. And no one has to wait long in any scene for fellow Amar Mayaya to spout references to Records of the Three Kingdoms (‘To think that the red of San Quan’s army now belongs to me!’ she joyfully exclaims at the sight of a stupendous platter of beef.). If you find them funny once, most likely they’ll only keep growing on you, but that many of them are underdeveloped becomes obvious.
A friend of mine once cynically asserted that all shoujo lovers want from anime is men who are women with penises. I couldn’t help thinking of that as my heart squeezed every time Kuranosuke exploded onto the screen with his masculinity aggressively tamed by dresses, make-up, and the cutest face this side of Ouran. But with no designs beyond plastering daft smiles on all faces and dropping a gooey cliché or two, Kuragehime has a disarming quirkiness that should melt the guys too. Unfortunately, I can only call this a great beginning - without any substantial developments, the show delivers little more than light refreshment.
Noitamina shows have recently been taking a bit of a dive, so it was good to go back and remind myself of why the time slot has such a good reputation, Kuragehime was a great way of achieving this.
Tsukimi has recently moved into a boarding house in Tokyo filled with batchelorettes, and joined the Sisterhood. A group of Otaku NEET women who live only to persue their individula hobbies. In the case of Tsukimi, this is jellyfish.
One day when walking back from a convenience store, she sees that a spotted jellyfish is sharing a tank with an aurelia, a type of jeelyfish that secretes a toxin that will eventually kill the spotted jellyfish (named Clara, by Tsukimi), unfortunately, Tsukimi being the socially anxious woman that she is, fails to get her point across to the store clerk and gets kicked onto the curb. Enter Kuronosukee, a beautiful "hipster" woman that takes issue with the clerk and buys Clara for Tsukimi. This is all well and good, except that Kuronosuke overstays her welcome that night, and reveals a shocking truth, she is actually a boy!
From here the story evolves, it's a bit of a coming of age story as well as an almost "she's all that" transformation show, except this never feels exploitive, that Tsukimi needs to alter who she is and what she believes in to be viewed as a fufunctional member of society. Together, Tsukimi and Kurnosuke ddiscover parts of themselves that they never knew existed, and learn to evolve and accept themselves and each other.
Honestly, the story is pretty simple here, but it's carried through with some great comedy moments, and never feels too dramatic. The great characterisation here also helps, not just from our 2 main characters, but from the supporting cast of the Sisterhood and Kuronosuke's family too. Each has their own kind of trait, but none of them are entnirely defined by them, there is space here for them to act as people, even if that is disfunctional people.
Like a lot of shows of this type, there isn't much animation to be used here. The artstyle is great to my eye, it reminds me a little of Mawaru Penguindrum (same studio, go figure), and the comedic elements are carried through with some great stylistic touches, some great reaction faces, the turning to stone when in situations that they don't like etc. It works, it never looks bad. The use of colour, especially on Kuronosuke's outfits, is fabulous and always draws the eye. Ultimately, it looks pretty gorgeous. A special mention to the different jellyfish shown throughout the show, the mangaka who originally created this obviously put some research in, and Brains Base have brought them to life beautifully here.
I may have given extra points here for the OP and ED which I utterly adore, the BGM often works, and there are a few standout pieces that I'd like to go back and listen to. It always fits the mood perfectly at it's best, and at it's worst, it might have been a little forgettable.
This really is the strong point of the show. Tsukimi is such a nuanced person, there's so many different levels to who she is and all of those levels blend in perfectly together. I'd even argue that there aren't many other shows out there that can do the same with only 11 episodes, especially as the same is true for Kuronosuke. Both of them have difficult history with their mothers, for Tsukimi, she lost her mother while still very young, and for Kuronosuke, he was sent to live with his father and kept away from his mother also when very young, but again, neither of them are defined by these moments in their lives. The support cast are also great, even Meijiro Sensei, who you never actually see and only communicates in written notes.
Hard to give it a perfect score when it so obviously needs a second season, I assume the manga continued on past this point, and I see that there are specials to watch too that might continue the main story on some, but as it stands, there are a few plot threads that need some further exploration. However, the end it had was satisfying, and it has served as a great way of getting me to read the manga too. Altogether I'm giving it 9.9/10, and a spot in my all time favourites!
It was nice to see really introverted characters like this in an anime. Each character has very defined personalities that can't be related and aren't really stereotypical. The plot advances, but kind of goes off to no where as the manga goes on but the anime just drops off and never picks up a second season. I really love animes with unique art and animation styles. A stale, plain, and generic style to me would be something like fruits basket. Lively colors in the show. I enjoyed how it shows parts of their every day life like cooking and going to the store. People say if you like this you'd like other anime and manga about fashion. I don't think so though. I think it's more about the introvertedness of the cast.
This is my favorite anime of all time. Hysterical. Touching. Good representation of real women. What's not to love?
First of all... I am not native English. do forgive my errors..
Kuragehime was more than I had hoped for when I read the synopsis.
I thought this show would be a good way to pass some free time, but when I started to watch it, I had so much fun that I had finished it before I knew it.
The story is very simple, geek meets chique.
Though chique in this case is a boy that likes to dress up as beautiful girls.
The geek, who is a big fan of jellyfish, hence the title princess jellyfish, lives together with a couple of other geeks. Some stuff happens that I am not going to explain here, because I myself am not a big fan of spoiling things.
But I think, the thing with this anime is, that they just tell this not too complicated story very well. Nothing really huge happens, and that is fine, because they zoom in perfectly into what does happen, and how this affects the main character(s).
the animation isn't briliant, nor is it bad. At times I wished that they had put a little more into the animation, especially concerning the other geeks that our main protagonist lives with.. only one of them seems to have eyes, the other three have their eyes hidden by either hair or glasses. I spend a great deal of the anime being a bit frustrated by this because a great deal of the human emotion is shown through eyes.. And this way it kind off felt like they were truly secondary characters that really aren't important at all for the story. (for the people who have watched inuyasha... remember all the people with dots.. for eyes..)
But for the rest of the animation, especially the movements that the characters make, like darting out of a room in panic, are really well done. It is fluent, and it is sad or funny when it has to be.
That and.. the artstyle that is used.. is something that I personally had to get used to, but after a couple of episodes I really got into it and it just really fitted.
The sound.. I don't really remember much of the sound throughout the anime itself. So I guess that either wasn't present at all.. or it simply wasn't memorable enough.
The opening and the ending though, I really did enjoy. The opening is really cute, and the ending song is really appropriate in my opinion.
The characters.. I loved the two main characters and the way that they do actually have some development. They are almost polar opposites, and yet.. they work so well together in the little friendship that they are developing.
Though three of the four other geeks, do not have eyes.. their own little obsessions (trains.. aging men, and something to do with old japanese war heroes??) are quite funny. And they have some nice and funny scenes, but they do not add anything to the main plot. The brother of the crossdressing boy however, I found to be a real nice addition to the anime. Though once again, I do not feel like spoiling too much here.
Overal.. I give this anime a 8,75. There are a couple of small flaws here and there. But this anime is mostly just really fun and easy to watch. A well told, not overly complicated little plot in which the main characters get a better understanding of eachother and in which they get to develop themselves.
The only real minus that I have with this anime is that it really either needs to continue for a bit longer... or have a second season... because there is a big open ending.
Though the main plot is pretty much wrapped up.. there is a massive subplot that they leave open.. and I cannot stand that. But that is my own opinion, and it doesn't take away from the fact that this is a really nice, sweet and short anime that can safely be enjoyed by many people.