The Power of Three: Princess Jellyfish

I briefly ran out of reading material … no, that’s not quite right. You all know it’s been a rugged time for a lot of us and I got double rugged when my Internet and cable crashed the Friday night of a three-day weekend.

Yeah, talk about sensory deprivation.

So I jammed some disks in the player and started reading something to relax my jagged nerves.

Princess Jellyfish.

I still haven’t seen the anime, but I love the story told in the manga, starting with the fact that it’s so darned good-natured (which is why I picked it in a time of stress). I also liked the fact that it ran three meta-plots simultaneously: the women are about to be thrown out of their house (Overcoming the Monster), Tsukimi blossoms from little girl to star designer (Rebirth), and both Kuranosuke and Shu are hot for Tsukimi’s bod.

No, they aren’t really hot for her bod. I just tossed that in to keep the sex value high, since sex sells, right? But they both fall in love with her, and that makes a third plot, the Eternal Triangle. You know, two guys competing for one gal, which is itself a double plot, Comedy for the winner (guy who gets the girl) and Tragedy for the loser.

But it’s a whacked-out Eternal Triangle, and that’s one of the things I like about it.

Y’see, to keep tension in an Eternal Triangle, someone has to not like someone.

Usually it’s the gal. Usually she dislikes one of the guys at the start and comes to like him; she likes the other guy at the start and learns to dislike him. It’s that shift in feeling on her part that resolves the plot.

You know a good example of that? Promare, right? Except that in Promare they’re all guys. The genders don’t matter, right? It could be any combination of males and females adding up to three. I don’t care. Do you?

Sometimes the guys dislike each other and they are in outright competition for the gal. From a dramatic standpoint that works, too, but narratively it reduces the gal to a prize and that sort of sucks, when you get right down to it. If you catch me writing one of those – and as a newly qualified member of Romance Writers of America (BWA HA HA! BWA HA HA HA HA! But it’s true.) I might write an Eternal Triangle one of these days – please feel free to shoot me if I make the woman a prize.

OKAY, so here we have Tsukimi, the gal who is paralyzed in the presence of men, Shu, the thirty-something virgin, and Kuranosuke, the pretty cross-dressing boy. And here’s the gimmick:

They all like each other.

Seriously. Shu and Kuranosuke are half-brothers, and they have a real affection for each other that is explored at some depth. They are both likable young men in their own ways, good-hearted and determined to succeed at what they set out to do.

Princess Jellyfish – Anime Review - Anime Dumpling
From right, Shu, Kuranosuke, and their (perverted) uncle

And Tsukimi, who seems to be unable to function in the presence of the male of the species, has genuine affection for both of them, to the extent she’s capable of it. Let me put it this way: they both give her nosebleeds. I mean, serious, spectacular blood fountains.

So now you have an Eternal Triangle where everyone likes everyone. Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot! How are you going to get tension into that?

One way to do that is to make the gal stupid. If she doesn’t notice that the guys are both after her, then who could possibly figure out who’s going win? That keeps tension in the story. But making the gal stupid is as nasty a trick as making her a prize.

(You’ll notice almost instantly that’s the plot of like a zillion harem stories, right? Two (or more) gals after the same guy, and him too stupid to notice.)

Now, the mangaka responsible for Princess Jellyfish is Akiko Higashimura, who is a young lady as fond of her jellyfish as Tsukimi. Do you think she’s going to make Tsukimi stupid? Especially when one of the other meta-plots is Rebirth?

So Higashimura pulled a slick one on us, and I love it, which is why I love Princess Jellyfish. You see, here it goes:

Tsukimi isn’t a prize
Tsukimi isn’t stupid
Tsukimi likes both Kuranosuke and Shu … but she loves jellyfish.

You see what that does? It takes her out of the triangle entirely. Kuranosuke and Shu are competing for her heart … but her heart belongs to the jellies.

She specifically says it: I’m not ready to be married, so I won’t.

In certain ways it’s a non-resolution, but it’s a non-resolution that works for two reasons:

  1. Neither guy loses. Seriously, we’re obviously supposed to like both Shu and Kuranosuke because of their many positive qualities, and it would suck for one of them to be heartbroken because they had lost her to their brother. But they don’t. They both understand Tsukimi and her fascination with jellyfish; if they lose out to the jellies, well, that’s just how she is.
  2. The main plot isn’t really the Eternal Triangle in any case. The main plot is Tsukimi’s Rebirth.

So a non-resolution resolution takes that particular plot off the table without interfering with the main plot line. In fact, there’s a strong suggestion that Shu and Kuranosuke will join Tsukimi and the rest of the gang in their big old house (which is saved by the rich guy, Fish, taking THAT plot off the table, too), living together platonically as friends and making jellyfish clothes.

That there am pretty dang clever, if you ask me. It’s certainly different.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Three: Princess Jellyfish

  1. Somewhat speaking of the importance of the audience liking the protagonist, which you point out is a lot of what Princess Jellyfish is about structurally, do you have an opinion on Legend of Korra? I hated it, but don’t know why. I don’t think the hatred is because of a gay phobia – but it was so bad I kept rooting for the bad guys – which is a sign that I hate the protagonist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let me add something: it’s possible to dislike a protagonist for reasons other than their gender orientation. I really don’t like Okabe from Stein’s;Gate: he’s loyal to his friends but he’s also selfish and full of crap, REALLY full of crap. But speaking as a writer, which is my perspective, you want your audience to find your protagonist relatable, and the easiest way to do that is to make them likable.

      You know who else annoys the crap out of me? Usagi Tsukimo, aka Sailor Moon. She’s a BRAT and genuinely stupid, although in terms of gender orientation she’s a seriously girly girl.


      1. I hated Okabe too! He was such a dick. Again, my dislike of Korra has nothing to do with her sexuality, but is some other factor. I don’t know what it is.

        The opposite of this would be Alita, a character with nothing but positive traits, that was over designed to like.

        Liked by 1 person

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