There are few roles in anime as belittled as that of the crossdresser. Though there are exceptions — normally women in males’s garb — who escape mockery, most crossdressers in anime are topic to fixed harassment and generally outright transphobia.
Princess Jellyfish, launched in 2010, is an oft-forgotten anime and a love letter to the eccentricities and rejects. One in all its essential characters, Kuranosuke, is a completely unapologetic socialite crossdresser who stumbles upon Tsukimi, the social recluse essential character. As Tsukimi says, Kuranosuke is “A strong, beautiful, manly princess” who makes use of his self-confidence to show that crossdressing is not a joke, however as a substitute a part of his persona that can be utilized to create extra compelling tales.
To grasp why Kuranosuke is such a refreshing tackle the crossdressing trope, it is necessary to have a look at how that trope is usually utilized in anime. Crossdressing right here tends to fall into one among three classes: for humor, for plot, or due to precise character choice. The primary class may be very acquainted. A boy attire as a woman both by selection or by means of pressure, which is depicted as amusing both as a result of he’s degraded or as a result of different male characters are drawn to him.
This sometimes occurs with women by accident attracting undesirable romantic intentions, however is essentially reserved for boys, because it’s seen as extra humiliating for a boy to decorate as a woman than vice versa. For instance, Secret Princess includes a male character who’s pressured to decorate as a woman and is then sexualized by means of panty pictures and completely humiliated all through the complete sequence.
The second class is when a personality cross attire for plot. As an illustration, Haruhi has to decorate as a boy all through Ouran Excessive Faculty Host Membership with a view to repay her debt, whereas Strawberry Eggs requires a person to decorate as a lady to get a instructing job at an all-girls faculty.
Lastly, a personality could select to crossdress out of purely private selection. Mayumi from Fairly Boy Detective Membership elects to decorate as a boy with a view to be part of a faculty membership. A few of these characters have a real want to go as a special gender — Rui from Gatchaman Crowds maintains a agency crossdressing persona whereas out in public — whereas some are completely open about their gender, comparable to Astolfo from Destiny or Felix from Re: Zero. It is necessary to notice that some characters on this class are outright or strongly hinted at being transgender, comparable to Ruka from Steins;Gate, who makes use of time journey to really develop into feminine at start. Sadly, even crossdressers by selection or transgender characters are usually not proof against being harassed or being handled as a joke, comparable to Ruka really having her skirt lifted.
Nevertheless, Princess Jellyfish will get crossdressing proper, treating characters with respect and never demeaning their private decisions. Kuranosuke falls into the third class of selecting to crossdress, however can be comfy figuring out as male. The place he differs from Astolfo or Felix is his essential function within the sequence and the way his crossdressing provides to his character slightly than getting used as merely an amusing trait.
Princess Jellyfish itself is a couple of group of social misfit girls referred to as the ‘Amars’ who all reside collectively, banded towards males typically and something that threatens their reclusive life-style. Tsukimi is without doubt one of the Amars and has a specific fascination with jellyfish. One night time, after a failed try at going to an aquarium, Tsukimi goes by her favourite pet retailer, solely to find that the lifetime of her favourite jellyfish has been put at risk. She fails to clarify the issue to the male shopkeeper, which is when she runs into Kuranosuke, an intensely fashionable man who Tsukimi errors as a lady.
As a consequence of this opportunity encounter, Tsukimi finally ends up going again to the condominium with each Kuranosuke and a brand new jellyfish. She permits Kuranosuke to remain the night time and solely discovers that he was crossdressing when she sees him with out a wig. Thus begins the story of Kuranosuke making an attempt to befriend and assist the Amars as they struggle to save lots of their condominium constructing from being torn down.
Kuranosuke chooses to crossdress out of a want to distance himself from his rich and closely political household, in addition to to really feel nearer to his estranged mom. He’s recognized to be highly regarded and manages to appeal his means into any group of individuals, even the Amars, who initially mistrust his fashionable look. The one one of many Amars that Kuranosuke chooses to disclose his gender to is Tsukimi, and she or he respects his want to not be uncovered. Kuranosuke is just not mocked for his decisions, and neither is he portrayed as perverted or used as an object of humiliation. The misunderstandings between him and the Amars rise solely due to their social variations.
Probably the most turbulence over Kuranosuke’s life-style comes from his family. His brother Shū is embarrassed by Kuranosuke’s habits and his father is an brazenly illiberal particular person, not desirous to even see his son. Nevertheless, Kuranosuke isn’t made right into a joke, degraded, or pressured to crossdress for plot functions. Actually, Kuranosuke almost did not crossdress in any respect. The manga artist for Princess Jellyfish initially wrote Kuranosuke as a fairly woman, solely changing the character when the editor recommended it as a contemporary thought. As a crossdressing man, Kuranosuke has the possibility to be much more confident in his character; crossdressing was seen as a chance to make a personality even higher — a optimistic affect on the story as a substitute of only a trope.
Romance is usually denied to anime crossdressers, both as a result of they’re side-characters or too busy being the butt of the joke. There are apparent counterexamples — Haruhi and different largely feminine characters — however the relationship between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi is a slow-paced growth between two individuals who would usually have ever met. Kuranosuke is instantly comfy with Tsukimi, as proven by him taking off his wig and costume proper in entrance of her, and their relationship over the present turns into one among Kuranosuke realizing he can use his confidence to assist Tsukimi see how pretty she really is. Whereas this begins as purely beauty, Kuranosuke quickly realizes how gifted Tsukimi is relating to stitching, and finally helps her sweep an area vogue present and set up her personal model.
Tsukimi’s relationship with Kuranosuke helps her break freed from the social misfit label she has imposed upon herself as his self-assuredness begins to rub off. In return, Kuranosuke is ready to escape a superficial society and develop into a part of a gaggle of individuals the place vogue and social standing do not matter in any respect.
By the tip of the present, Kuranosuke has emotions for Tsukimi, and whereas the 2 by no means explicitly enter a romantic relationship, all indicators level in that course, particularly with the sensation of accomplishment and endearment Tsukimi and Kuranosuke share come their profitable vogue present. Kuranosuke’s emotions of devotion, safety and even jealousy grant him the title of affection curiosity with a level of complexity not often proven to crossdressing characters, fleshing him out extra as an individual slightly than a stereotype.
Whereas Princess Jellyfish is just not with out its points, relating to Kuranosuke and the depiction of crossdressing, this 2010 anime is unfortunately nonetheless leagues forward of many anime being produced right this moment. Crossdressing is just not proven as one thing to snicker at however slightly one thing to just accept as pure for individuals who want that. Kuranosuke says it finest: “I’m a boy. I similar to dressing up in girls’s garments. I’m completely regular.” It simply would possibly take a while for the world to meet up with him.