Welcome back to Anime Pocket Reviews! It feels like these are becoming more regular than ever, thanks in the most part to some wonderful 1-cour series.
With that in mind, we have a great APR this time around. 2 series, 24 episodes, but these are some seriously heavyweight shows, starting with something particularly special…
Princess Jellyfish (2010, S1, 11x24mins)
Slice-of-life, Comedy, Romance
“Well Mom. I finally met a princess here in Tokyo. A very strong, very beautiful, male princess.”
The story follows Tsukimi Kurashita (bottom row, second from left), a 19-year-old jellyfish enthusiast NEET who, despite her mother’s promises, is yet to turn into a princess. She lives with her other unemployed, equally outcast otaku friends in the beloved Amamizukan, a small apartment building in Tokyo with a strict no boys rule. One day, while feebly trying to work up the courage to save a jellyfish at a local pet store, she – along with her beloved jelly – is saved by a beautiful, outgoing hipster girl, the exact opposite of her confined self. After their chance encounter, the wondrous girl keeps appearing at the otaku’s house, much to the resident’s initial discomfort. What’s worse is that when she stays in Tsukimi’s room overnight, she discovers that the hipster girl is actually a cross-dressing boy named Kuranosuke Koibuchi (center) – the rich, illegitimate son of a high-ranking politician, who is determined to be friends with her.
Basically Plot: Tsukimi, a young and unconfident jellyfish fanatic finds her life turned on its head when a beautiful hipster forces herself upon her and her anti-society, anti-male friends, only to reveal that she is in fact a he!
What a surprise this little series was! I went into this series knowing nothing and expecting nothing, and from the first moment onwards – thanks to one of the best intros I’ve ever seen in an anime – I was blown away by this show. At 11 episodes, it is smaller than the average show, but even considering that I don’t think I’ve got through any series as quick as I have this one. I had watched all 11 episodes in three days!
Princess Jellyfish is, without doubt, the happiest show I’ve ever seen. It has an innocent, almost indie vibe running throughout, and I think that has a big part to play in creating a real sense of freedom in Princess Jellyfish. However, it won’t surprise you to hear that the main highlight for this series is the two main characters, and particularly Kuranosuke. Having a free-spirited, cross-dressing boy as a lead character takes ‘something fresh’ to a level unmatched by anything else. Princess Jellyfish is a show full of love, without necessarily shouting about it, and a lot of that comes from Kuranosuke. Tsukimi is a really good, classically uptight young woman character also, and while initially it took a little time to understand the other three known residents at Amamizukan – characters who are not even developed to the point of full names – you end up enjoying them just as much by the end.
The story, in keeping with the vibe of the whole show, almost floats through plots without any real force or drama being thrown into them – attention instead turning towards the exciting characters. That might sound like a criticism, but considering that the few times early on where the show prodded at the idea of a full-fledged love story were Princess Jellyfish’s rare weak moments, it’s probably for the best that it steered away from anything too heavy. Also, like many manga adaptations, there are moments that are touched on and then overlooked, and some minor things that appear to change in the background without reason, but this is not a story that is too focused on telling a tale, so for the most part it gets away with it.
I get the impression that this was a small-budget anime, but despite this, the animation in Princess Jellyfish is of the upmost quality. The character art is some of the best I’ve seen – the show as capable in bringing out the unattractive style of the NEETs as it is the jaw-dropping beauty of Kuranosuke. The backgrounds are beautifully human and detailed, also, while the animation plays a good role in the comedy side of the show, which for the most part was good, but wasn’t necessarily the show’s strong point.
Overall, Princess Jellyfish has to be one of the most interesting and unique shows I’ve seen in a very long time. Not only that, though – this is certainly one of, if not the most pleasant show I’ve ever seen. A wonderful mix of Otaku comedy and classic anime rom-com, starring a beautifully animated collection of characters, and two leads that are worth the price of entry and then some. This is a must-watch show for anime and non-anime fans alike, that is guaranteed to open your heart and put a smile on your face!
ANIME RANKING: #21 – A fantastic score for such a small show, Princess Jellyfish ranks as one of the best 1-cour series (11-13 episodes) we’ve ever seen! Not only that, this series has beaten giant and massively popular series such as the Fate franchise, slightly similar series Paradise Kiss and comedy giant Nisekoi!
If you liked this you’ll love: Nana – Starring one girl looking to find herself, who finds herself befriending someone with an enviable amount of free spirit, Nana is another story that blends female friendship with rom com elements. Given that I’ve never seen a show as pleasant as Princess Jellyfish, there are some differences in style and tone – Nana coming across as more serious in story and certainly more romance-inclined – however both these shows share some of the best animation we’ve ever seen, along with a heartwarming story about finding yourself in a friend. One of the elite-five here at The Culture Cove, we can guarantee fans of Princess Jellyfish that they will love Nana!
Noragami Aragoto (2015, S2, 13x24mins)
Action, Fantasy, Comedy
“You’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes!”
Wait! Check out our review of season one here!
The sequel to 2014 series Noragami, Aragoto begins by focusing on struggling god Yato (center) and his fierce adversary, the god of war Bishamon (second from left). Once an uncompromising, daunting god, Bishamon has become a loving carer of lost souls, taking in any and all wandering spirits as her regalia. Whereas unworshipped Yato has just the one – Yukine (second from right), whose relationship with Yato has become stronger since season one – Bishamon has countless people under her wing. However, caring for so many comes at a price, and when her health starts to deteriorate as a result, panic starts to rise at Bishamon’s headquarters. Following that, Yato mysteriously goes missing as his dark past comes back to haunt him, dragging his friends into an investigation surrounding the corrupted god of fortune Ebisu (far right).
Basically Plot: Following on from S1, Aragoto begins by following the rivalry between an increasingly growing god in Yato and a steadily fatiguing Bishamon, before Yato’s dark, shrouded past begins to truly catch up with him.
The first series of Noragami was excellent – a fantastically vivid action comedy that was a strong with its dramatic story as it was with its slapstick humour. Aragoto picks up exactly where the last series left of in terms of storyline, and while it does the first series proud, it doesn’t quite hit the same levels of excitement. The main reason for this is the story, which despite being 13 episodes long felt quite small. This could obviously be construed as a good thing – I flew through this series at a good pace – but more than anything I believe it highlights the main problem with this series: It’s not a 13-episode series, it’s two series of six and seven. The two stories – Bishamon and Ebisu – were strongly separated, with Bishamon’s reaching a clear conclusion before Ebisu was even mentioned, probably a sign of the original manga creator Adachitoka’s story creating, something I think I mentioned in my review of season one. While the first series felt as if it had a multitude of stories overlapping, plots focusing on internal and external struggles for the Yato trio – too many, in fact, to fit in the first season – season two followed the bland framework of ‘here’s a new character, he’s bad, join together and beat him’ twice over.
That being said, the actual execution of said storyline is as good as in season one. The Bishamon story was good – Bishamon was a standout character from the first season, and she is developed further in season two, becoming the clear stand-out from Aragoto. Also, while not having any interpersonal problems involving the main trio certainly made the story weaker, the burgeoning friendship between Yato and Yukine was good to watch in itself.
Aragoto delivers all those core components that made Noragami a success. Fantastic colours dance in a series with a strong, working mix of simple comedy and dark action. It was always going to be hard to match the quality of the first season, and while Aragoto is a worthy follow-up, and will certainly please fans of the first season, there’s no denying that the story this time round is noticeably weaker.
ANIME RANKING: #29 – Despite delivering a similarly strong series, Aragato’s poorly plotted story causes Noragami as a whole to drop one spot, swapping places with Fate/Stay Night: UBW. However, it still sits comfortably in the top half, ahead of shows such as Assassination Classroom and far ahead of mature action series Black Lagoon.
If you liked this you’ll love: Mob Psycho 100 [Adapted from Noragami S1 review, APR 26] – While this is more in tune with S1, both of these excellent shows share a very bright animation style and good balance between strong supernatural action and simple real-life comedy. While Mob might be a bit more eccentric than its counterpart, fans of Noragami will certainly find enjoyable similarities between these two fantasy series.
This is the first time in nearly 10 APRs – since Danganronpa and the colossal Yuri on Ice – that we’ve had an episode featuring two 1-cour series. Around 20 anime series have been reviewed since the last time that happened! There were other series that could have been here also, but these two series, both ranking in the top 30, were far too interesting to dilute. Also, Princess Jellyfish is the highest ranking new anime series since its earlier recommended series Nana stormed into 4th in APR 27! It’s certainly getting exciting for us right now!
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 33 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring one of the most popular school rom-coms of all time, Ouran High School Host Club!