The love plot thickens
While all this is going on, another plot is developing: a love quadrangle, and a hilarious one at that. Obviously, one half of that story is Tsukimi and Kuranosuke. Both of them are stupefied that they’re drawn to the other. To do so means to reject the very definition of themselves that they carried around for so long and relied on to give them definition in a confusing and cold world. But they can’t deny it: they like each other, darn it all, and in the end love is stronger than fear.
Shu’s presence complicates things further. He’s serious and sober—exactly the kind of man who keels over the minute a woman enters the picture. And when that woman turns out to be Tsukimi (post-makeover, that is), he’s thrown for a loop. What’s more, Tsukimi senses from him a great and unfulfilled emotional need of the kind she has herself—and his buttoned-down presence is a little easier for her to accept than Kuranosuke’s wildness. At one point later on Tsukimi confesses, “I want my life to be just lukewarm,” but deep down she knows a lukewarm life is one where nothing ever really changes, and she learns to finally stick her neck out where it matters.
And on top of that there’s Inari, the self-proclaimed “virgin slayer,” putting her hooks into Shu for the sake of allowing the construction project she’s spearheading to go through. She’s comically despicable at first, but later on just plain despicable, as it becomes clearer she doesn’t have any other way to accomplish things except by being manipulative. She forces Shu to figure out what it is he really wants: to be dragged along, or to stand up and start walking on his own two feet.
A joy of a show to behold, again and again
There are a whole bevy of reasons to love this show, but the biggest and most obvious reason is that it is funny. Fall-down, laugh-out-loud, roll-on-the-floor funny, and in such a relatable way, too. The antics of the Sisterhood are a big source of laughs: Chinese-military-classics nut Mayaya, in particular is the biggest scene-stealing character since Haruko blazed through FLCL on the back of her Vespa. On top of all that is Kuranosuke, whose scenes where he hams it up in front of his very embarrassed family are next to impossible to watch without bursting a lung.
But under and above the humor, and supporting it, is another of the big reasons to love this show: it’s actually about something. It’s also all delivered in such a way that the deeper meanings of the show creep up on you; they slide themselves under the door instead of hitting you over the head. Everyone in the show—from Kuranosuke through the Sisterhood on down—is simply looking for a way to be happy, even if that comes at the cost of going against society’s grain. The Sisterhood aren’t the only batch of freaks and misfits around, and they’re far from being the least-fulfilled people in the show, either—a revelation which seems a lot clearer in retrospect when you realize how unhappy the “normal” people around them are.
There are any number of shows about the merits of being yourself in the face of endless pressure to conform, a feeling which even in this day and age manifests in ways we don’t always see. Ouran High School Host Club had a little of that, and even the cross-dressing to boot. Ditto Revolutionary Girl Utena, which used surrealism and fantasy to make its points. Princess Jellyfish is as good as any of them, and may even be all the better for being that much more accessible for a wide audience. Its sole flaw is that it ends with contrived abruptness (although I’ve honestly seen far worse), and that there are no plans to give us a second season.
Another major thumbs-up for the show goes to its English dub track, which features two truly inspired performances. Josh Grelle, who up until this role normally did supporting characters, voices Kuranosuke in both his “male” and “female” incarnations. Even better is Monica Rial as Mayaya, in a performance so gleefully unhinged someone needs to give out a trophy for it.