Are you living your best life? How would you know?
We never exist fixed in time. We are always changing. The complexity of mixing past, present, & future with our wants and needs can easily make us feel like one big contradiction.
What we've done in the past might not match up with what we want to do in the future. And if we are lucky enough to make a specific future happen, we will likely want to do something else next.
Because we exist here in the 3rd dimension, we must do things.
It takes a lot of effort to think through all possible outcomes of a situation every single time you have a choice, so we resist doing that. Instead we develop our own "personal program" defined by the things we do and the things we don't do.
"She's just so stuck in her ways"
Over time it is possible to start identifying that program as being you. Getting stuck in your program, can create a self limiting reality.
Your personal program is often calibrated to the path of least embarrassment, least discomfort, least effort -- least resistance.
It is not the path to a fulfilling and enriching life experience.
This is the theme of Princess Jellyfish: Recognizing & Overcoming Self Limiting Beliefs
I think it's important to discus this theme up front because while Princess Jellyfish is essentially just another story about shy, nerdy, girls learning to take on the outside world, we all have self imposed limitations that we could overcome.
** This review will spoil omnibus one in the series -- but there's 8 more to read! And if I've done my job you'll want to read them by the end of this review 👍
Tsukimi, an illustrator & Jellyfish otaku, lives in "The Nunnery", a boarding house full of females totally devoted to pursuing their hobbies!
They have a very simple philosophy:
No stylish people
... no jobs?
As you can probably tell...they live by WAY more rules than freedoms. They live according to their fears.
The extent of this powerlessness is demonstrated early on when our protagonist Tsukimi visits her favorite jellyfish, Clara, at a local pet store and discovers it has been placed in a tank with a predator jelly. Clara will die if she doesn't get put in a new tank.
But Tsukimi is deathly afraid of talking to the shop attendant, and her communication skills are poor, so she can't properly explain what's wrong.
Luckily she is saved by a beautiful Princess.
Who easily convinces the shop attendant to give Tsukimi the jellyfish.
In her pursuit to save Clara, Tsukimi breaks a boarding house rule by taking the stylish girl home with her. It's late, so the girl stays the night and in the morning Tsukimi realizes she's broken another house rule:
The stylish princess is also a boy. His name is Kuranosuke.
Tsukimi needs to get him out of the house before anyone else notices, but he's in no hurry. He wants to become friends despite her attempts to push him away . He ends up returning to the boarding house, and joins in the hot pot dinner with friendly enthusiasm.
Dressed like a girl, of course.
When Tsukimi asks him why he came back, he replies:
"I wanted to see you Tsukimi-chan"
The idea of a bold, fearless, male, princess actually wanting to see her again quite literally shakes up her entire world.
The other residents leave the table one by one. These girls do not have stylish friends.
But Kuranosuke is both socially adept and adaptable... so he wins them over with expensive meat.
While retrieving the meat from his house, Tsukimi see's that he lives in a mansion and is the son of a politician. The world he comes from is even further away from her than she thought.
We also get our first look at his overly serious older brother, Shuu.
It is Shuu who alerts Kuranosuke that the beloved boarding house is under threat of redevelopment.
At first the girls think the redevelopment is out of their hands, but a little push from Kuranosuke lights a fighting spirit within them.
Yet again, the male princess will have to save the day.
If our nerd girls want to be taken seriously at the redevelopment meetings they will need to up their social agility, adaptability, and style.
Through the power of makeovers Kuranosuke shows them life beyond their limited worldview.
With their new and powerful leader, they just might find the confidence necessary to succeed.
The Main Characters
Tsukimi is a sympathetic main character due to her passion for jellyfish & internal monologue where she processes whats going on in her life by updating her late mother.
Beyond that her character is a bit of a downer. She is very stuck within her program. She constantly rejects friendship with Kuranosuke because he's different from her.
Most annoying is her strict, contrasted, view of the world. Her poor self image, is paired with the misconception that all people she perceives as better than her have great lives.
Her being so off base with reality has us rooting for Kuranosuke to help her see the truth. We feel like if he doesn't get through to her she will live in her limited worldview for the rest of her life.
Each time he pushes her, she backtracks, shocked by evidence of what she is capable of when she goes beyond her limitations.
The stylish male crossdresser is the one driving the story forward. He is generous with his time, things, and support.
He is a fish out of water among the sensitive nerd girls who aren't going to let him say or do whatever he wants.
But he seems to like this about them. They're real people, with depth.
They might have very different hobbies, but Kuranosuke understands being passionate about the things you love, even if society will think you're weird for it.
Ironically, while the girls shun him for being stylish, he's the one who sees them as actual people.
He is the character who is living 'truly free' while he retains his personal power.
He thinks he's already jaded in love, but he might be wrong about that.
Sometimes you need a mirror to see your own self limiting beliefs. Kuranosuke is the mirror these girls need. He's living a bold life, true to himself, the way the girls want to live.
They just can't see it yet.
The idea that Kuranosuke could have feelings for Tsukimi is so far outside her own realm of possibility that it never crosses her mind.
She ignores much of the kindness he shows her. She thinks his makeover is creative bullying, the interest he has taken in her well being defies logic, as does his growing appreciation of jellyfish.
And yet the truth is that Kuranosuke likes her more and more each day. It might not be love, but he is very aware of the growing attraction towards her.
They have quite a bit in common, but she only sees their differences.
Both share the loss of their mothers, but when Kuranosuke tells her he understands her feelings of loneliness, she doesn't even ask him what he means.
To Tsukimi, rather than a person, Kuranosuke is a powerful & mysterious force.
Her friendship towards him is still in an unfamiliar & untrusting territory. He is being very patient with her.
Meanwhile, Kuranosuke's naive and puritanical older brother Shuu manages to catch Tsukimi's romantic attention.
The tragic irony here? While Shuu seems sweet, and probably means well, he can't even recognize Tsukimi when she is dressed down.
He thinks the nerd girls who live in "The Nunnery" are gross...including dressed down Tsukimi. He doesn't see them as people who deserve to save their home.
Kuranosuke might seem wild on the surface, but he has much more heart and social capability than Shuu. He is the one most in touch with his inner world.
Unfortunately, Shuu's naivety is ultimately taken advantage of by a business rival and Tsukimi mistakes this for him being in a relationship with that rival.
The ambiguity of "proper and improper" in this series is one of its strongest attributes. It takes a whole bunch of things that "might be right" or "might be wrong" and throws them into situations where they no longer serve their purpose.
The nerd girls might be happy hiding away from the world within their boarding house, but that devotion to a life of leisure won't serve them in the fight to save their home.
Kuranosuke might be a cross dressing, partying, fashionista, playboy, who is going against his families wishes, and not attending his college classes... but he's also the perfect person to push these girls out into the world.
And even Shuu, the mild tempered politician works well for politics. But his program to respect the respectable means he's a dick to the nunnery girls. And his program to be polite and accommodating gets him taken advantage of by the woman who heads the redevelopment project.
It's important to be adaptable. Nothing in the world remains stagnant. You can have preferences, and lean into those, but you can't barricade yourself against the world.
Eventually the world will get in.
The way to live a fulfilling life is to stay in touch with your inner world, while learning the skills required to adapt to new situations.
You gotta learn to do both, like Kuranosuke 💁♀️
Want to know if they save the boarding house? Fall in love? Become super stylish? Gain confidence? Read the series to find out!
Thanks for reading!
Header & Footer graphic made on canva.com
Images included to identify & promote this manga were taken by me.