#1 Otaku struggles
As a kid, Tsukimi Kurashita believed that she would grow up to be like a princess. As beautiful and elegant as the jellyfish that she so adored. But reality dealt her a crushing defeat. Now 18-years-old, Tsukimi grew up to be a geeky, timid girl. A far cry from the princess jellyfish that she envisioned herself to be.
Her sole reprieve is that she is surrounded by others like her. Tsukimi lives in an apartment complex exclusively inhabited by female otaku like her. To say that they are a socially awkward bunch would be an understatement. They are deeply afraid of other people, to the point where any social contact outside of their little circle causes them to freeze up. They are jobless and reclusive, not to mention entirely obsessed with fringe hobbies. But at least they have each other for support. For now…
A redevelopment initiative threatens to consume their apartment complex. Their safe space would be destroyed and they’d no doubt be scattered as they search for new homes. Their only hope is to buy out their landlord, but they only have an allowance from their parents to work with. Being a bunch of NEETs, they are of course allergic to the notion of finding jobs.
In their hour of need, an unlikely hero presents itself: the fabulous cross-dresser Kuranosuke Koibuchi. He’s the son of an influential politician, who stumbled his way into befriending Tsukimi. And for personal reasons, he wants to help these otaku overcome the odds to protect their cherished home. The biggest struggle for him being that he needs to keep these weak-willed nerds motivated, lest they give up the fight at the first hurdle.
#2 Confidence through beauty
Kuranosuke is beautiful. He’s a fashionable guy who rocks his cross-dressing hobby with absolute confidence. He constantly shows up with all-new outfits that come with different wigs and make-up styles. It’s amazing how much effort went into designing all of these different looks and how well Kuranosuke manages to pull them off.
Confidence through beauty is a central theme in Princess Jellyfish. Tsukimi and her friends are initially presented as unattractive, but this is only on a surface level. They’re not ugly, they’re unkempt. And even then they perceive themselves as looking far worse than they actually do. Kuranosuke makes an effort to teach the girls to take better care of themselves. He shows how a change of clothes, some make-up, and a little self-care can go a long way towards bringing out a different side of themselves entirely.
Now it’s important to note that Kuranosuke is not a sage. There is selfishness in him forcing the girls to fit his definition of beauty, even as it brings them a great deal of discomfort to do so. He is also wrong at times. He constantly tries to fix Banba’s unruly hair by straightening it out or hiding it under wigs, with little success. Eventually Banba meets someone who actually likes her hair just the way it is. That interaction, however terrifying, does a whole lot more to help break Banba out of her shell than any wig or flashy outfit could.
#3 Romantic conflict
Another struggle for otaku is that they aren’t exactly the best at navigating romance. In fact, the inhabitants of the apartment complex are outright scared of men—Tsukimi included. But through interacting with Kuranosuke, even the deeply-introverted Tsukimi begins to develop feelings for someone.
That someone is Kuranosuke’s older brother Shuu. A budding politician, who is himself incredibly awkward when it comes to women. Kuranosuke at first feigns disinterest in this development. A lifetime of being fawned over by every girl around him has left Kuranosuke disinterested in romance. But as Tsukimi grows closer with Shuu, Kuranosuke begins to feel strangely jealous.
What makes this story interesting to me is that both pairings work. Both Tsukimi x Shuu and Kuranosuke x Tsukimi would make for satisfying directions for this story. There is genuine interest and chemistry between these characters. At the same time, they also all have their own roadblocks that make romance difficult for them.
Tsukimi has her androphobia and lack of self-confidence, Shuu has his political ambitions and is incredibly dense to boot, and Kuranosuke has to intrude on an already-budding love. The romances also develop in unexpected directions. Shuu, for example, becomes wrapped up in the ambitions of a con woman. A development that touches on the incredibly rare topic of sexual abuse against men.
More like this…
Kimi no Todoke: Romance story with a protagonist who is sensitive about her appearance.
Paradise Kiss: Anime about designing fashion.
I My Me! Strawberry Eggs: Story where misunderstandings stemming from cross-dressing twist a relationship.