Wednesdays Watching Anime – Princess Jellyfish

March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

This week, we’re talking about the OP for Princess Jellyfish, “Koko Dake no Hanashi” by chatmonchy!

Ben: It’s always weird when you actually start to recognize some of the bands playing the OPs and EDs for the anime you watch. I remember that I first heard chatmonchy in a 2007 ED for Bleach, of all things. I didn’t like them very much then, partly because “Daidai” isn’t a very good song and partly because their sound was a poor fit for the show anyway. They’ve got this way of singing that verges on tuneless, you know? Maybe you don’t. Three years of practice does wonders, because I love “Koko Dake no Hanashi” now.

I’m not sure what is the secret to which the title of the song refers, though. Is it Tsukimi’s inner beauty? Kuranosuke’s biological gender? The show itself? I do think it’s a great touch that the OP is just the main cast of characters acting out scenes from various movies. It offers up a sense of who each of them are, through the roles they’re given in each scene, but also hides them a bit behind those roles. Obviously, the quiet and retiring Tsukimi shares very little in common with Gene Kelly’s character from Singin’ in the Rain, but just putting the possibility in front of the audience at the beginning of every episode might make them begin to wonder. It cultivates something of the unknown through presentation of the known.

Maybe I’m reaching there, who knows. There’s also a bit of the unknown for me just because I’m not versed that much in film. The references to Emperor of the NorthGod of Gamblers, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind all sailed right past me over multiple viewings. I’m lucky that the only media references in the show itself are Heidi, Girl of the Alps, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and whatever is comprised by Bae Yong-joon’s filmography. It does make me wonder, what would an anime look like if the whole of it had the same kind of film literacy that’s on display in Princess Jellyfish‘s OP? At the very least, it would be easier for me to talk Katie into watching it, because screenshots like the one below aren’t enough.

Negishi, Kuranosuke, and Shu from Princess Jellyfish

Katie: I’d just like to note that I interrupted a very important Girl Scout cookie-eating binge to watch this OP. Thin Mints, people.

I LOVE this theme song. chatmonchy, you’re fantastic. What’s that phrase for a kind of careless charm? Something French probably, like “jolie laide,” but casual rather than ugly. Maybe I made this up. Anyway, this song has it, and so does the whole OP.

Whenever I see a plain, bespectacled girl in an anime series, my heart lifts, because I am a plain, bespectacled girl, and then my heart falls, because I realize the subject of the show will be her plainness. Still, there’s something arresting about the way that Tsukimi moves here, a certain slightly disheveled slump that’s completely endearing. This is moe not as the drive for an entire industry, but as another color in the animator’s palette.

Gahh, this series looks so delightful. A bunch of awkward girls in a dorm (as well as one character whose gender identity I can’t quite work out from the couple of episodes I’ve seen). The gentleness and warmth in the art tells me that this is a show that’s going to be kind to its characters.

And yet I’m afraid to watch any more into the series, because it’s clearly a romantic comedy, and my fear with romantic comedies is that they tend to move toward the conservative as their plots progress. All the pleasantly anarchic chaos will be reshaped into heterosexual order. Tsukimi’s going to end up with someone, isn’t she? Even if she learns to love herself along the way. I’m not sure I can take any more growing up just today.

Maybe my fears are unfounded. But I prefer to think of Tsukimi as we see her in the Close Encounters snippet here, being guided to somewhere unearthly by her friends the jellyfish.

Ben: It’s so hard to recommend Princess Jellyfish wholeheartedly. On the one hand, it’s an anime about women who don’t need men to define femininity for them, which is really cool to watch. To whatever degree they want men to be involved in their lives, that involvement is not something upon which their lives depend, even with Tsukimi, the most, uh… nubile of their number. Actually, I’m a little fond of Jiji myself, with her glasses and sweaters and… and…

Ahem. On the other hand, it’s definitely got its moment right out of She’s All That (or Not Another Teen Movie, if your parents had inscrutable rules for what movies were appropriate viewing for teenagers, like mine did). A man infiltrates the sisterhood, removes Tsukimi’s glasses and pigtails, and reveals her inner beauty to the not-quite-unsuspecting audience. The fact that it’s done by Kuranosuke, a drag queen who puts on women’s clothing out of a love for feminine beauty, and that the show ends not with a fundamental transformation of Tsukimi, but with the recognition that such a transformation is largely irrelevant so long as she’s happy, will be of varying levels of comfort, depending on what you want the show to mean deep down. Gender hijinks aside, the order to which you refer is upheld, Katie.

Honestly, I wish that more anime (and more media in general) had the gumption to spring a surprise like Sunako from The Wallflower on the audience. The mangaka becomes obsessed with matching up Sunako and Kyohei in later volumes, but when the four bishounen first try to make her over, they discover that she’s actually a fairly ugly girl and prefers it that way. It’s who she is and she’s not willing to throw it away for just anything. Even better, the bishi-boys accept that, at least until she changes her mind on her own after being subjected to their magnificence for so long.

Sunako faces Takenaga, Yuki, Ranmaru, and Kyohei in The Wallflower

Also, I know it’s probably not the word you had in mind, but “careless charm” immediately brings Baldassare Castiglione’s concept of sprezzatura to my mind. I don’t want to admit that chatmonchy has sprezzatura, though. It’s a gentlemanly trait, not suited for twee pop songs.

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