After hearing some good things about the short but sweet anime Princess Jellyfish (or Kuragehime in Japanese), I decided to check it out last week. For those of you who don’t know, Princess Jellyfish is the story of a college-aged young woman named Tsukimi living in an all-female apartment building (no boys allowed, in fact). However, the women of this apartment aren’t just any women; each one is considered to be an otaku (similar to geek, but if you want the full definition click here). Playing on geek/otaku stereotypes, Tsukimi and her friends are socially uncomfortable and not very fashionable which makes for a very interesting situation when Tsukimi unintentionally befriends Kuranosuke–an outgoing young man in love with fashion who happens to parade around as a woman.
I usually try to pace myself a bit with series, but this anime was just so entertaining that I ended up watching a marathon of it. Admittedly, it did have some things that had me scratching my head as a feminist though. The story does have ugly duckling elements to it, but I’m actually not going to talk about that since that calls for a rewatching so that I can really analyze it. What I am going to discuss is the subplot of Princess Jellyfish that had my toes curling.
SPOILERS!! Some spoilers ahead!
Most the women viewers see in this anime are unemployed and almost all of the employed women shown are models, a more traditional, female occupation. Not surprisingly, almost all of the men introduced over the 11-episode series are employed. Nevertheless, I would have let this aspect slide without comment if it hadn’t been for one thing–or should I say one character? Four episodes into the show, in comes the one and only female character involved in business, Shoko Inari, who arrives on scene to discuss a business proposition. While Inari’s official position in the workplace is never revealed what is made clear is her unofficial job: if her business needs to get an influential man under its control, Inari lets her hair down, unbuttons her shirt to show off some cleavage, and goes out to seduce him. Ouch. Did this show have to bring in the old, negative stereotype that women use their sexuality to control and manipulate men? This is the type of stereotype that makes women out to be untrustworthy and implies the only way a woman can get something done is through using her feminine wiles. This is exactly what the show expresses as Inari even comments that the reason she has the job she does is because of this trick of hers.
Granted, Princess Jellyfish does play up some negative stereotypes like those about otakus for comical purposes, but I felt much more humor from the scenarios about otakus (and I consider myself to be a geek) than I did about this one surrounding Inari. The entire subplot reeked of the seductress plot. Inari tries to seduce Shu–Tsukimi’s crush and a man involved in politics–to make sure he supports a business proposition. Interestingly, in this scenario the roles are switched; the woman is the one trying to manipulate the naive man into bed, even going so far as to try to get him drunk to do so. (That’s not to say this scenario never happens in reality, just that the usual case is reversed.) When that doesn’t work, Inari uses a date drug technique and while she doesn’t actually have sex with Shu, she sets it up to appear that they did. This leads innocent Shu to believe he’s been molested.
Unfortunately, this whole plot line just seemed like nails dragged against a chalkboard for me. Putting aside the fact that the only business woman is a seductress, I just don’t particularly like seeing serious problems like date drugs portrayed like this. It just felt like a joke to me, down playing something that’s a sensitive issue. Then add the seductress business woman element to it and we’ve officially crashed and burned. In the end, I was disappointed with the subplot of Princess Jellyfish.
(As a little side note, this month marks the first year anniversary of Gagging on Sexism! Thanks to everyone who has been supporting the blog and I hope to continue bringing you all interesting analyses and helpful reviews in this second year.)