Tsukimi is an otaku and jellyfish enthusiast whose only means of coping with the world is to reject it: she and her friends live in a house they declare a man-free zone, generally avoid 'stylish people', and spend their days blissfully bonding over geeky rituals. As misfortune would have it, their convenient existence is about to be turned on its head by the arrival of Kuranosuke, a seemingly beautiful young woman who is actually a beautiful young man. While he may be strange even by their standards, Kuranosuke embodies everything Tsukimi secretly dreams of being - a princess as ethereal as a floating jellyfish - and promises the kind of mind-boggling adventures only possible when geek meets chic!
StoryEvery 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.AnimationWithout 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.SoundThe 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.CharactersKuranosuke'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.OverallA 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.
I actually really like this, its way different than anything I really saw. A lot of people do a lot of otaku outcasts but this one has a little different vibe to it. The characters, though their names are hard to remember, are remember-able for how out there and crazy they are. Each one is a otaku in their own way and have different ways of showing it whether it is being crazy about kimonos, to posting old men’s pictures into a scrap-book. A little creepy, but it’s not as bad as it seems. The guy is really cool even if he cross-dresses but he seems normal otherwise. The underlining story is pretty much being true to yourself and never give up on your dreams. The animation is wonderful even if it lacks in some places. It mostly does this when you look between the two ‘worlds’ and depicts Tsukimi’s world and Kuranosuke’s world. It’s not all that bad, but once in a while when the two worlds meet, it’s sometimes a bit harsh of an art style. I really love the designs of the jellyfish and how they actually have a few facts about jellyfish that are supposedly real. I don’t care much too actually look them up but they sound real so its ether true or the actor is rather good at making it sound true. The voice acting for the most part is well done. The English is a little bothersome though I really like the cute voice of Tsukimi and Kuranosuke. I’m not so fond of one or two of the characters in the apartments and it made me cringe the first few times I heard them. Now along the way, I ether got used to it, it got better, or I just didn’t even care about what they sounded like because the story was just so good! All together, it was funny and sweet. Really, if you want funny, This is it! Sadly, it has a very bad cliff hanger right now and I really want to see more! It does make me want to read the manga now but something really tells me that this is better as an Anime then the manga.
Animated by Brain’s Base, a studpio with quite the high budgets who cares a lot about the aesthetics of its shows. No wonder it looks so gorgeous. Directed by Oomori Takahiro who has made lots of famous and everybody’s favourite shows, such as Koi Kaze, Jigoku Shoujo, Baccano, Durarara, Natsume Yujincho, and Hotabi no Mori e. This smells great already! And indeed it was before they ran out of episodes and refused to continue it. It began as something yelling masterpiece and in the second half turned into simply a funny way to spend your time. But I got to hand it to Noitamina; they have their way of making even a simple story to look exciting. The story is quite simple actually. It is about an old apartment building where a group of geek women in their 30’s spend their lives doing their geeky hobbies and running away from anything that has to do with cosmetics, posing, beauticians, and general anything that has to do with making you look hippy. That is the core theme of the show actually; the beauty we all hide inside us. It is quite a refreshing take I must say as 99.99% of anime have protagonists that are uber beautiful girls, ultra handsome boys or ridiculously cute children. This show is the only one I can remember in the latest years that didn’t attract me with sexy or moe characters but with the premise of NOT being all that. It’s not like the characters are ugly as hell but I for once was never attracted to their bodies. And what makes it even funnier is how the core theme IS ABOUT BEAUTY. Another thing is the otaku culture aspect of the show. It is not so much about anime as it is about old movies and retro series only someone well versed to what was going on decades ago will get. So although all the women in it are otakus, they are not the anime type. One adores traditional Japanese dolls, another one adores trains, others old people, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms lore or jellyfish. And guess what; IT IS EQUALLY CREEPY. Also, unlike today’s state where even otakus have large communities, their hobbies are not accepted by many (none else for all we see in the show) and thus it is not as if they can go find some group to feel just like home. They are as isolated from the rest of the “normals” as otakus were up until 20 years ago. So it not the same as in other shows like Genshiken or Ore no Imouto. Yet another thing about this isolation part is their anti-social behaviour. Acting quite agoraphobic (but not as severe as hikikomoris; although there is one of those present as well) half the main problem of the show is dealing with the outside world. They are afraid of normal people, their modern fashion, make ups, office suits; heck they are afraid of working. It has a vibe familiar with Welcome to the NHK in this regard; which makes it interesting as there aren’t many shows dealing with the subject. So basically this is a show about people who are afraid to face the modern world, who have a very low esteem of themselves, who are all isolated in their lonely hobbies, eating away their lives in some crummy apartment, still living off their parents’ allowance or doing minor chores for the local market. Sounds like a terrible kind of people to like; isn’t it? Well, not exactly as the show makes it clear that they are simply afraid to tap into their real potential, because of the very negative image they have about themselves. It also makes sure to point out how they keep blaming everybody else in a way that clearly frames them in the end. So no, it’s not trying to advertise how cool it is to love trains while being locked in your room for 10 years. It is not deifying any hobby like Ore no Imouto did with eroge or YuGiOh did with card games. It is the exact opposite. The conflict of the story is basically a redevelopment plan issued by some politicians, which involves tearing down their apartment to make a hotel. The sons of one of them are indirectly involved in the lives of the women, as well as the schemes of a Black-widow type of woman, who uses her sexuality and really dirty tricks to have her way. Basically, the villains are the rich folks and this woman with her cheap entrapment skills. The thing is, the women in the apartment are passive and inactive; it takes the son of the politicians to get them to shape. Who is also another thing I liked. Kuranosuke is the dreamy pretty boy of all corny romances. Rich, handsome, outgoing, cheery, and above all feminine-looking (why women love this shit is beyond my knowledge; pseudo-lesbianism just doesn’t cut it enough). Women are chasing after him and even fight one another for his affection. And this is why he got so fed up in all that, he now cross-dresses. Before you think anything weird, I will clarify he is completely straight and has done the jiggy-wiggy with girls a thousand times already. He doesn’t dress like a woman because he got bored of being male but because he wants to disguise as something women won’t chase after. He even finds that geeky apartment full of women stuck in the past and isolated from the world as his ideal haven. So he has all the reason to help them raise money or be active in order to protect their life style… which ironically means to change their life style.Indeed, all the measures the women need to take because of his advises have to do with “fighting fire with fire”, becoming active, dressing fashionable or interacting with people in order to get support and raise money. All again are not deified in the show and that is what makes it so good. There is no “fashion clothes are cool” moral message, neither is “money and sex appeal move the world”. It is all closer to “make use of what you are good at in order to protect your life style and at times be willing to compromise a little”. It all makes perfect sense and in fact, half the times they actually fail to do it right. It’s not like in those endless stupid teen movies where the complete dorky rookies beat the snobby elites in their own game or something. Which leads back to the “beauty” aspect of the show. Each woman is really good at something and all they are doing to help themselves is using their talent as their own personal beauty in the same way the black-widow is using her sexuality to have her way. They do need to occasionally dress as their hated enemies, the hipsters, but they never forget who they really are… and practically never change.This is a thing that will feel bad for most as character development is close to zero for the entire cast. We get to learn a lot about them, especially Tsukimi since the story is shown through her perspective. But by the end of it, nothing has really changed for them. The conflict seems to have passed like a breeze and they are all back to their initial selves, something that will not feel right and practically does count as a major negative. No real romance is resolved, no real life changing events take place, no buildings collapse. It’s as if we watch an established lifestyle defending itself before going back to how it was. It kind of reminds me of another anime, the Wallflower; where these bishounens were trying to beautify this creepy girl with also low self esteem and again by the end of the show NOTHING had changed at all. The themes were of course far simpler and the story even more invisible but the lack of progress in a show about beauty is just infuriating. This is where the anime failed to be a real masterpiece for me. It does offer some sort of fairy tale ending, where evil is vanished and the world is as happy as it was in the beginning… without the prince marrying the peasant girl. Which is a shame; there were many interesting sub plots going around and none led to anything. All the women remain the same two-dimensional cardboards, repeating nothing but stuff that have to do only with their narrow-minded hobby; it can eventually tire anyone. I know many don’t mind characters being the same caricatures all they in comedies; nobody complains why Gintama or Son Goku never smarten up. Yet in this case the rather realistic setting was made in a way to expect development. Artistically speaking, the show is excellent as everything is made to look eye catchy without being sexy or moe. It has its moments where it does go to those territories but not for a moment I cared about how cute or erotic they are; it is all nothing compared to why and how they do it. Where it is really good is how it visualizes the emotions of everyone; from how they turn to stone because of anxiety, to making tributes to other shows, to having dream states of abstract backgrounds. Voice acting is equally great, each having a distinctive and funny or serious tone when it needs to be. The soundtrack is weird and different, quite successful in taking you in the mood of the show.Story and characters are good only in theory. We have many interesting personalities and life situations that require lots of willpower and talent to get through, all with rather reasonable realism. Unfortunately, the lack of development for the characters, and the completely easy way all problems were resolved and life went back to normal, really felt bad as an aftertaste. I mean, NHK also had a simple ending but after the sometimes life threatening events the characters faced, you felt a lot closer to them even if they didn’t change a lot. Here, everything goes away like a calm ocean stream. It’s just not memorable. It is a very enjoyable show; far above the average anime and its tired copy-pasted formulas. Its themes are great, the visuals are fine, and the characters are funny and dramatic. It will please most of us but the chances of rewatching it or remembering it for years to come is questionable because of its refusal to end with a bang … or a marriage, a murder, a turn around and generally something to say it wasn’t all for nay. I wasn’t expecting the ending of an ugly duckling turning to a swan but I sure didn’t like Cinderella going back to her cabin and dusting ash even after her prince helped her wear the glass heel.
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