Gender expansiveness is baked into every volume of Princess Jellyfish. It's easy to spot in Kuranoske, the leading man, as he unapologetically deviates away from the binary by cross-dressing. However, queerness can also be spotted in the female otaku characters. Their fringe of society lives, their othering, and struggle to find acceptance are things transgender, nonbinary and queer persons experience daily.
What I appreciate most about Princess Jellyfish is how unashamedly geeky and subversive it can be. The author and illustrator, Akiko Higashimura, frequently inserts inside jokes and references otaku subcultures. Examples include: young women who drool over old men, cross-dressers, train enthusiasts, and fujoshi (this word literally translates to rotten woman. Often used to refer to women who enjoy boy's love/yaoi, the word is also used to refer to women who deviate away from the pure and innocent cultural expectations of femininity).
The cast of characters is decidedly "other." They do not live within societal expectations and are consequently marginalized. A central plot point is the fight to retain affordable housing. Another key story line features Kuranoske's lack of familial support and acceptance. These subjects are both experiences marginalized groups can easily relate to, the intersection of these often born by queer persons of color.
Princess Jellyfish is not without its problems. The manga can sometimes slip into some non-helpful verbage.
I mean, why be normal when you're fierce as f&*k. This image to the left is from volume one. It implies that trans persons are abnormal. I try to take that slight with a grain of salt though. This is an English translation of a Japanese work. Additionally, there are going to be cultural differences when reading.
There's enough humor and affirming gender expansiveness to get past the above scene though. I've read into volume five and have not seen this difficulty recur. So If you enjoy queerness, gender diversity and manga, you may want to consider trying Princess Jellyfish and deciding how you feel about this campy, lighthearted and beautifully illustrated work.
Again, why be normal when you can be this fierce?
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