Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night ‒ Episode 5

Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night ‒ Episode 5

© JELEE/「夜のクラゲは泳げない」製作委員会

I thought the other day that it was time to circle back to Yoru’s original conflict. While she makes a solid comedic foil for the rest of the cast, her most compelling moments as a protagonist were all in episode one, so I think she’s a character who needs some inner turmoil to really shine. I also thought that if a couple of kids calling her drawing “weird” was enough to stifle her creativity for years, then how in the unholy hell was she going to survive putting her art on the internet? Have you seen the internet? It’s packed to the brim with assholes who will start beef over anything, including entirely made-up things that only happened in their brains. Yoru attaching her illustrations to a suddenly viral music project is like throwing a newborn baby into a pit of hungry lions, but also the lions have knives strapped to their paws.

Or at least, that’s what it would feel like. In a refreshing move, the negative comments Yoru gets about her art are pretty mild, especially for YouTube. Stuff like “too bad the art’s kinda sub-par” or “the eyes look weird” aren’t nice, but they’re nowhere near the level of vitriol that random chodes will sometimes leave in comment sections like little fish turds. Even though Yoru isn’t receiving a ton of hate mail, death threats, or personally directed diss tracks when you’re insecure about your self-worth, even the mildest criticism feels like an indictment. To Yoru, every negative reply is confirmation of her fears, evidence that she really doesn’t belong with the far more accomplished members of JELEE, and proof that she’s an impostor. It’s a deeply universal feeling, and I appreciate the relatively restrained way it’s executed here. Speaking from experience, terminally online hatred rarely ruins your day the way a single, innocuous criticism can.

I also appreciate that Yoru doesn’t just get discouraged; she also gets kind of resentful. Objectively, Kuroppu’s fanart of JELEE-chan is a compliment, expressing their affection for Yoru’s vision and choices for the character’s design. Yet when she’s stuck in her self-deprecating head space, all Yoru can see is the metrics below the drawing, winding exponentially upward while her work is called a weak link. Suddenly, that compliment from a fellow creative feels like an insult, a flex, or a usurper out to replace her in the one role where she’s found solace. Her resentment is misplaced, and she knows it, but your least generous thoughts are rarely something you can control. Sometimes, a crummy, irrationally mean thought will get stuck in your craw, and no amount of positive affirmation from your friends or collaborators will get it unstuck.

That said, it’s becoming a bit of a pattern for Jellyfish to do a great job articulating the characters’ feelings but not quite nail their resolution. Like Mei and Kiui’s debut episodes, Yoru’s conclusion here makes sense on paper. If she feels insecure about her work, the only actionable answer is to work on it: practice, study, experiment, pick up new tools – the stuff any artist of any discipline has to do to get better. That’s a solid solution that fits with the show’s grounded approach to drama, but it comes just a little too quick and simple. There’s no real turning point or emotional climax to punctuate Yoru’s decision, nor any focus on the specifics of what she’s trying to change about her art. All we get is a montage of her working and collecting books on illustration before she delivers the ostensibly improved piece that everyone loves. It’s not so much a fumble; it is just an oddly easy way to cap off what was a deliberate and well-paced exploration of her headspace.

Maybe they sped through the conclusion to get to that scene you see in the thumbnail, aka the kiss that brought Jellyfish back to my social media feeds with a vengeance. While there had been some very obvious ship-teasing in previous episodes, I hadn’t commented on it much because, frankly, we’ve all been here before, and nothing the show was doing before now suggested that the chemistry between Yoru and Kano would amount to anything beyond winking subtext. Now, though? There’s no way to interpret Kano’s kiss – and how both girls react after it – as anything other than blatantly romantic. Reeling that back into the realm of Gal Pals would require Olympic-level backpedaling, the likes of which Sound! Euphonium could only dream of.

I don’t know where the show will go with this new plot beat, but it’s done enough to earn my trust that it’ll approach a potential queer romance with some amount of earnest sensitivity. If it doesn’t, well, it’ll be auspicious that it started with an episode about online discourse, and the knife-lions in that pit will get some gun-tigers as company.


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