“Constantly, I think to myself that I would like to be reborn…”
Do you ever wish you could change and transcend the limitations of the body you were given? Phos' journey in Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni) is a compelling exploration of a person who desires to change themselves, both physically and mentally. Studio Orange's adaptation of Haruko Ichikawa's manga is unlike any anime you've ever seen. Stunning CGI, visceral yet graceful nature to which it portrays bodies, and a bold analysis of human emotions make it an unforgettable experience.
In the distant future, Earth has been ravaged by six meteors. The meteors broke
off parts of the planet and formed six moons. Earth has been reduced to one single shore and the rest of the planet is the ocean. This single shore is, while beautiful, has entirely infertile land. Only one organism populates the land because they don't eat food from the planet, they photosynthesize. Evolved from the organisms that live in the depths of the ocean, they became beautiful gems who reflect sunlight with every move they make.
Creatures that live on one of the moons known as Lunarians travel down to Earth to capture the gems for their own personal desires. The prettier gems being the most desirable. As long as the moon hangs above the characters' heads there is a constant feeling of fear for their lives, in turn creating constant tension for us as viewers as we can never be sure if a character may be swept away or shattered into pieces (and no amount of perceived plot armor will stop them). We constantly see a full moon in the background of the show with gems framed below its vastness as if it is preparing to encroach upon their temporary safety.
Land of the Lustrous tells the story of the youngest of the 28 gems, but they’re all immortal so being younger than a thousand-year-old being is still quite old. Our main character Phosphophyllite brought to life by Tomoyo Kurosawa’s exquisite performance that is able to get to capture such a wide range of emotion and tone, is inherently relatable thanks to a lack of seriousness and plenty of recognizable mannerisms.
Phos ranks near the bottom of the “Mohs Scale” used in real life as well, which dictates how high or low a gemstone’s hardness is on a scale of 1-10. In the society they live in, if you’re born with a low hardness then you have no choice but to take on a role suitable to you, but if you have a high hardness you’re expected to protect the others in combat. And because they’re immortal, roles are permanent. Unchanging. It’s a roulette that’s spun for the gems, spun for us all. It doesn’t matter what body you get because you’ll be stuck with it. It’s up to you to decide what to make of the body you’re given. However, Phos is so useless in their society that they fill no niche or role. Thanks to their upbeat and irreverent personality they’re able to live optimistically, if pointlessly. It's a stark image of the unmotivated youth, struggling to find direction or even motivation. An image that I resonated with immediately. And more than likely you will too or, at the very least, you'll appreciate the direction Phos takes to better themself and help their fellow gem suffering from a similar struggle, Cinnabar.
At the beginning of the show Phos is descending into pointlessness (almost like an actual rock), berated by the other gems for a lack of talent. They say things like “Are you good for anything?” and “You don’t do anything at all”. It’s all played off for laughs, if a bit mean-spirited, but the truth is, Phos only has a 3.5 which is so low that they’re not even allowed to fight. Phos would fall to pieces if they were shot by just one of the arrows the Lunarians use. Phos comes to hate the limitations of their body, regardless of how desirable the Lunarians find their peppermint green color. And there are other gems who envy Phos for their desirable color, of course without Phos fully understanding that they have qualities worth being jealous of. This is just one of the many ways the show incites introspection, saying that we all have some notable qualities no matter who we are.
While Phos doesn’t technically break themselves, throughout the show they throw themselves into danger with the desire to be broken, hidden beneath their silly personality. Through being broken with intense physicality and repeatedly being put back together with a light but audibly satisfying sheen, Phos grows to become a new person from who they originally were. After all, if the gems lose a piece once broken, they lose an equally sized chunk of their memory. So occasionally after a battle, one of them may forget the name of the other, but in the more drastic cases later on in the show there are harsher consequences.
In one of the most chilling moments of the show, Phos is beckoned to danger by an unseen force (assumably her desire) that says “You must change.” It’s that horrifying feeling we all have at one point, and Land of the Lustrous delivers fear-inspiring moments like these every now and then, but most of them come in the later episodes. These moments successfully connect the viewer to the central character and their turmoil by giving them vivid fever-dream visualizations. Phos’ journey is the main narrative throughline of the show, and thank god for that because seeing them grow and learn more about their world makes for a rewarding adventure indeed. The main character isn't the only suffering from inner turmoil. Every gem has some sort of anguish that torments them. Even Diamond, with a hardness of 10.0 who Phos idolizes, feels great envy for the slightly tougher Bort. These subtle nuances to each character aren't shoved onto us either. They’re minor details, subtly woven into the script so that the generally upbeat mood doesn't become melancholy, but it's enough for you to pick up on so it will feel rewarding to see their progression in the background of Phos' story.
Make no mistake, this is not only a compelling journey through the main character’s struggle against themself, or even about the three-dimensional supporting cast that serves as foils to Phos. It's about bodies, how they deserve you to live in harmony with it rather than in spite of it.
Bodies are treated as sacred totems in Land of the Lustrous. To place them in the purest form possible, gender is removed entirely, each gem referring to the other with they/them pronouns only (as I have thus far). They’re quite literally artifacts that glisten in the sunlight. The gems are constantly framed with vast negative spaces to highlight how valuable their beauty and vibrant color is to the desolate world they grace by inhabiting. Also, the director repeatedly frames the gems in symmetrical shots as if they are the focal point of a work of art, hanging in a fine art museum. Even the more enigmatic supporting characters like Bort and Antarcticite are portrayed with beauty and elegance through their immaculate fighting style that each gem uses. The fighting choreography appears as graceful as a ballet dance but has the visceral impact necessary for them to take on a fleet of eldritch creatures. The action is unlike anything you’ll ever see. And it’s brought to life amazingly with the most stunning CGI I have ever seen in a TV series. The previous works of the director Takahiko Kyogoku includes another CGI oriented show (Love Live! School Idol Project) and it really shows because he’s improved on that show’s animatronic dance numbers in just about every way. Action scenes are where the director shows us his best abilities, and they only get more impressive as the show progresses. The “camera” work during action scenes is so dynamic. The smooth camera motions coupled with the fluid movements of the characters makes for scenes that devour your attention entirely. Even during the scenes with less motion, the gems are still quite vibrant. Their vividly colored hair and reflectiveness that causes light to bounce off of them makes the show, at the very least, always eye-catching.
The respect that each gem’s body is treated with makes it all the more distressing when they’re shattered in combat. This, coupled with intense visual and audio feedback, makes the combat to be some of the most thrilling action I've ever witnessed. Even though the gems are immortal, there is still a fear for their lives, if they are broken and become immobile then they will be trapped in their bodies forever. Endlessly. Arguably that is a fate worse than death. Even worse, the Lunarians may repurpose you into a weapon or jewelry (as seen in episode one).
The orchestral soundtrack backing most scenes maintains the mystifying tone of the show and is fantastic throughout. Music swells during combat and during some scenes, it matches the instruments the Lunarians play when they come down to capture a gem. Sound effects are also incredibly satisfying on the ears; the sheen of a gem being put back together after a tough battle, the airy wisps of the cloudlike Lunarians, the clinking sound that can be heard as gems walk across the marble floor of their home. Lustrous is never harsh on the ears yet it has an intense audible impact. Both the opening and ending credits are quite good. The ending Kirameku Hamabe especially shouldn't be understated. With fear-inspiring images of the moon, the poison metal alloy that flows around Cinnabar, as well as a few references to the later turns the story takes, the ending perfectly encapsulates the darker themes of the show. To contrast this, the song that supports the visuals evokes hope.
Beyond just being an audio-visual wonder, Land of the Lustrous is an analytical masterpiece. The director brought excellent talent to the table, but the source manga by Haruko Ichikawa deserves credit for being rich with symbolism. Thankfully, this carries over into this compact but well-paced adaptation. Not a second of screentime is spared. When we’re not being delighted with the funny and whimsical script, mesmerized by the visuals, or sometimes all at once we’re being delivered the themes through visual imagery.
The thematic throughline in Lustrous follows the idea of change. The changing of one's self, the change that Phos and their fellow gems desire. As such, concepts like death and rebirth are constantly showcased with symbolism. When are gems are broken, they’re placed in black bags that strangely resemble body bags. It’s as if they’ve died are being remade once the doctor puts them back together. This intrinsic connection the show shares with death also explains why each gem wears a black tuxedo resembling funeral attire. As if they're all in a constant state of mourning for the pieces of their comrades (and selves) that are lost in battle. The show is also doused in Buddhist imagery at nearly every corner. Whether it be the enigmatic “Sensei” that all of the gems respect and rules over them like a deity, the ritual-like behaviors and designs of the Lunarians, and the frequent references to rebirth. If you know about the Buddhist philosophy, you’ll know the goal of the religion is to relinquish the body that carries your soul so you can be liberated and proceed on to Nirvana. There’s even a scene in which a certain character is supposedly reborn as a small animal to more suit the karma that they obtained in life. It can’t get any more clear than that. But in action, like everything Lustrous does, the results are absolutely mystifying. Seeing all of these different concepts clash together with great visual quality and artistic direction makes for one of the most bewildering yet beautiful experiences ever.
No details added to Lustrous were done so without reason, everything is purposeful. Everything is necessary. It may have helped that I was learning about Buddhism in tandem with Lustrous’ tv airing, but knowing of these themes definitely enriched my experience. Keep in mind, there are many interpretations with such an abstract and ambiguous story like this one, so you may find different meanings in the show from the ones I did.
Before closing, it's worth mentioning that as the source material is still ongoing, this anime does not have a complete ending. Enough plot lines ended on a satisfying (if incomplete) note, and a few new ones were opened to give you a sense of the direction of the next season will take. The story is not over so I will be patiently awaiting the second season, but until then I’ll be happy to dig through the show’s lore and alternate meanings as there is plenty of rewatch value.
Land of the Lustrous is, for the most part, a joyful adventure that may even inspire laughs, but let your guard down too long and the Lunarians will steal away all you hold dear leaving you devastated. At its heart, it is a pure and simple story about how impossibly flawed we are as people. How we'll always search for means to become better, endlessly until we finally reach the end of the cycle. Whether or not this series has all of the answers, you'll want to listen to the tale it has to tell about the questions.
Absolutely beautiful, Houseki no Kuni sadly flew under the radar of a lot of people due to the lack of initial hype, but I hope this changes over time because this anime really deserves a lot of love.
The setting is so interesting and full of mysteries and unknowns to discover, what happened to the world to become like this? Who are the gems, or the moon people that seem to be after them? Houseki knows how to make the events ocurring hooking to watch and it's such an enjoyable experience from start to end.
Along with the intriguing story we also have a fantastic cast
that brings it life, the characters are inmortal humanoid gems with the qualities that represent them (like Diamond being the hardest mineral, but relatively easy to break in comparison), their interactions are interesting, varied, and at the same manage really funny when the situations requires it, this anime handles very well the comedy and it fits nicely without breaking the mood of the scenes. Phosphophyllite (or Phos in short) is the protagonist and goes through fantastic development over the duration of the series, becoming a very memorable character.
Now it's time for the art department and I will be honest here: if every CGI anime has to look like Houseki, god, I want so many more of them! The animation is amazing and had some scenes where I just had to replay them of how good they looked, and the excellent cinematography that goes with it just makes it even more impressive, with some shots that left me speechless. The use of this type of animation is also really fitting considering the constitution of our characters and for details like how they can break depending on the situation, which looks better with this style.
The music is also a strong factor of the series, always fitting with the tone of the scene and improving them, the theme that plays when the Lunarians appears gets an special mention from my part because it never failed to make me shiver, so unsettling. The opening and ending themes are also great in both song and visuals and grew on me as the series progressed, definitely playlist worthy.
Houseki no Kuni was an unique and fantastic experience I really recommend everyone to try out, you won't regret it.
The GRRM Reaper once posited the Furniture Rule: that at its core, literature is an exploration of the human condition; the rest is fluff, furniture.
Houseki no Kuni begins as a simple story of immortal, genderless life forms, the Gems, with each individual based around a gemstone from which they take their physical characteristics. They are being hunted down by Lunarians for what seems to be collector’s fancy. Slowly, the story moves on, teasing the layers of mystery of its world and a more intriguing aspect of the entire dynamic unravels, one more conducive to philosophical discourse. The introduction of a third faction, the Admirabilis, elevates
the nature of their conflict and is poised to bring the series higher should its story continue.
The CGI nature of the show doesn't really take away anything from the narrative but rather enhances and prepares it with its CGI portrayal of the three factions telling a story: the Gems, with their janky yet solid movements, aimless and unmotivated beyond mere survival; the Lunarians ethereal and eternal, purposeful in action; and the Admirabilis, frills and filaments galore, excess made manifest, seductive and ephemeral.
Underneath the trappings of a fantastical concept, however, Houseki no Kuni is a thesis of how our place in our world is intricately intertwined with our purpose. It's a story about identity.
It's a story of Dia, valued, vaunted, a tier above other gems, yet struggling to find a moment in the light under the vast, dark shadow of a peer better and stronger.
It's a story of Cinnabar, self-exiled, isolation poisoning the mind, bereft of a shoulder to lean on.
Most of all, it's a story of Phos, aimless slacker, wanting to do more than just making an encyclopedia that has no equivalent value assigned by other Gems. Phos wants to fight, swept up in the idea that Gems prove their worth in the only way their circumstances allow: fighting the Lunarians. Phos' initial value was demonstrated when, devoured and broken to bits and pieces, the grim, though temporary, fate evoked nothing but cruelly nonchalant reactions from fellow gems.
How can someone so brittle prove their value when, to paraphrase Einstein, the fishes are judged by their ability to climb a tree.
Houseki no Kuni’s approach to the problem is a rather straightforward one. Instead of changing the playing field to a pond, our little fish is given an opportunity to be better, losing parts of itself in the process. Part of its identity must give, in the hopes that the best version of itself can be achieved. And that hopefully the best version of itself is its truest self. Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen.
And I must say, this conflict of identity and the show’s solution ties in fully with the larger, grander aspects of the narrative: the three factions, each crucially lacking traits the other two possess. Can the three factions be so much more together much like how Phos had become much more than the Mohs scale of hardness? We'll see.
For now, enjoy one lost little fish trying to scale a tree, struggling to find the right balance lest it loses sight of who it is.
Over the last few years or so, it seems that the discussion regarding the use of CGI in anime has grown all the more prominent, and for perfectly good reason too. It appears that more and more shows are using CGI to greater affect, which is generally brought with much disdain with anime fans. For shows that use CGI in accordance with the use of traditional 2-D animation, the end result is usually one that comes across as jarring, as the two modes of animation juxtaposes awkwardly with one another, with scenes that end up feeling clunky or strange. It usually ends up dragging me
out of my immersion of the show, since it doesn’t make visual coherent sense, and often the CGI sticks out look a sore thumb, with this season’s Inuyashiki being a prime example of that, constantly intermixing both modes of animation haphazardly into its action sequences. With shows that are fully CGI, this jarring contrast is pretty much eliminated, but many suffer from poor production overall since the CGI is often rather ugly looking, with the two recent adaptations of Berserk being the king of this! Both shows feature some of the most poorly produced CGI action sequences I have ever seen, where most of the time it looks like two puppets awkwardly rubbing up against each other instead of them fighting! And there are many other shows like this too, so it’s no wonder why fans look at CGI with such disdain and actively try and avoid any shows that utilise it, which is perhaps why this season’s Houseki no Kuni, or Land of the Lustrous if you will, was so under looked within the community, which is a shame too, since, to make a frankly overused and terrible pun, Houseki no Kuni is the gem of the season!
Much to mine, and many other’s surprise, Houseki was a breath of fresh air, not only from typical CGI oriented anime, but for anime in general, with a wonderfully creative setting, lore and personality-filled characters! While Inuyashiki was a disappointment, Houseki is the salvation to said disappointment, with each passing episode, making me fall in love with this show all the more, and why it certainly is not perfect, provides me with a seasonal show I actively looked forward to watching each week, which hasn’t happened since Dragon Maid earlier this year. But, I’ve babbled on for too long now. Let’s actually dive in!
Set in the distant future, Houseki no Kuni tells the story of a group of genderless gems, all of which have differing personalities and characteristics, who, along with their master, a bald monk with insane powers, have to fight off against a race called the Moon Dwellers - a race of strange creatures who descend from said place to capture the gems! The series sees our main protagonist, Phosphophyllite, come of age in this world, slowly becoming more independent and stronger as the series progresses. Houseki has this way of immediately immersing me into its atmosphere and world, not only through its wonderful use of music and beautiful looking scenery, but just from all the little details the show provides too. The fact that each gem has specific characteristics, and are classed in accordance of their strength, the fact that they can be broken into tiny pieces and stuck back together again, that they can lose their memories if certain body parts are missing, that they have to hibernate over winter as they grow weaker and tired, and that they can potentially be combined with other elements for different affects are all things I can appreciate in making the show way more interesting and fascinating to me, and these elements are often used in creative ways for either characterisation or as elements for advancing the narrative. It’s the use of these creative elements that makes Houseki such a wonder to watch, and helps to differentiate it from much of its ilk; its these elements and ideas that I can’t get anywhere else, but they are not simply played as gimmicks either, but as an integral aspect of the setting and narrative.
Additionally, the show has this overbearing sense of mystery, and almost whimsical sense to it as well. Much like our protagonist, Phos, who knows nothing of this world, so do we as an audience, so we experience the world and learn new things about it as does Phos, which not only helps us grow more attached to this character as well, but the rules and mysteries of this world are dished out to the audience in a consistent pace, keeping the narrative interesting and fresh. Moreover, the show has several mysteries as well, such as what the true nature of the Moon Dwellers actually are or the state of humanity, evident in a scene where Phos is trying to recollect the events that transpired earlier in which she (yes, for the sake of convenience I'm going to be referring to the gems as "she"; I apologise for being a CIS white male and assuming gender) can’t remember as she had lost some of her body parts, but mentions the word “human” which greatly alarms that of the Sensei, the guardian and father figure of the Gems, giving us insight into the seriousness of the memory Phos has, and sliding little hints to the audience about the true nature of the Sensei character himself. The show even dabbles in some philosophical ideas too in the fifth episode, regarding what it means to truly be human and what it truly means for someone to die, as the very concept of death is foreign to the Gems, and while it is not explored to much substantial merit, the show does throw around this idea, making the Gems feel more believable with a greater sense of purpose.
There’s even a genuine sense of narrative stakes and ambiguity too, not only from the idea that we never know when the Moon Dwellers will attack next, but the general sense of uneasiness the narrative presents too. There’s always a sense of danger in the air; a sense of looming dread and fear, which permits itself into much of the narrative, which actually does a good job at making me fearful for each one of the Gems, and there is a genuine sense of sadness and melancholy when one of the Gems is defeated and taken away. You feel the weight of this loss, as the other Gems do, making it all the more powerful when these moments in the show do occur. The show does leave many questions unanswered however, and some plot points haven’t yet been resolved as the manga is still running alongside the show, but what the show does cover manages to provide a solid foundation for a second season to greatly build upon, with enough time in this season devoted to establishing the world and the way in which the gems work in said world, all of which is solid enough to stand by itself I believe.
Perhaps the show’s biggest strength is in its characters and their charming and fun interactions between one another, and, despite not each one receiving development or attention, their unique personalities and characteristics result in some wonderfully funny moments and scenes which makes the characters rather likeable, and these were some of the best moments in the show for me. They all have delightful chemistry, and one of the best examples of this great character dynamic is a scene in which all of the gems freak out at seeing Phos’ newly gained abilities and seeing how each different gem reacted was pretty damn sweet, adding onto their respective characters. All of the characters, in some form or another, is given some level of introspection and time to breath, allowing the audience to understand their perspectives on the world, from Yellow Diamond’s perception as a result of being the eldest, to Antarcticite regarding her unique, and isolated role during the winter, all adding onto our understanding of the world. There are plenty of characters I could talk about, but I’ll just discuss the characters with the most bearing on the plot.
Phos, our main character, is one in which is a representation of a child growing up in harsh world, and learning to mature in that time. Being the youngest of all the gems, and wanting to grow and prove herself, she eagerly jumps into action in order to do so, resulting in many accidents in which she has to either be saved, or put back together. You may find yourself kind of annoyed by how much Phos messes up at first, since it seems that almost every episode she ends up having to repeat this process, but these mistakes end up shaping the person she will become in the future and aiding her development. As the series progresses, and she realises the gravity and danger of fighting against the Moon Dwellers, after seeing one of her friends perish protecting her from them, her character embarks on a change into maturity, with a much more serious demeanour than before. In the final episodes of the show, she even reflects on her past self, stating that she was jealous of her immaturity, reflecting in her change of character as a result of the harsh reality of the world. Phos character, while perhaps coming across as maybe rather obnoxious, especially in the beginning of the series, was still able to make me laugh a numerous amount of times and I could excuse most of it on the grounds of her age and lack of knowledge about the world. Her character is pretty reltable as well, since we too have been in postions where the world seems to treat you like a child, and that feel of wanting to desperately grow into maturity is one Phos manages to encapsulate rather well. She is also pretty damn likeable, I would argue anyway, which helps the audience to become more invested in her character from the get-go, and the mental trauma and hang ups she faces in the latter half of the series is genuinely interesting. Much of Phos’s drive in the narrative, mainly in the earliest parts of it anyway, was her desire to help a fellow gem by the name of Cinncibar, a gem who secluded herself away from the rest since her body secretes a poison. While you may find yourself kind of frustrated at first since this plot point is kind of negated for a while, it does see some kind of resolution in the final episode of the show.
Another character whom gets a nice amount of development is Dia. Aside from being best gem in the series (seriously, I wanna hug her so damn bad) Dia’s development, and character arc in general is all about proving to herself, and to the person whom she loves, that being Bort, that she is more than capable of looking after herself and in the tenth episode of the show, there’s a wonderful moment where indeed she does do so, when fighting off against one of the new Moon Dweller types, cementing her character as one that is grounded in the narrative, and has a lot of emotional weight behind her too, so much so, that I generally care for her whenever she is in danger or feeling melancholic, and many of the characters presented in the show are like this too. Whilst many are fairly simplistic, again, they feel like genuine people in this world, and have enough in the way of distinguishable personalities to carry the emotional weight of the show, while also showcasing different levels of complexity and depth, such as in the case of the Doctor of the gems, who we learn later on pursues the art of the gems in order to help her long lost friend, or in the case of Antarcticite when she hugs the sensei, believing nobody is standing there to see her do so, revealing a softer side to her character than we were led to believe at first. The characters in this show are easily the strongest element and is the main reason why I had so much fun watching this show.
In terms of animation, Houseki is pretty damn solid overall! The CGI in this show looks damn amazing, and move with not only a lot of fluidity, but also quality too. They move gracefully when in combat, and it never comes across as jarring or clunky in the slightest. I also just love the designs for each of the gems too, in particular, their hair. I love the way in which it sparkles, gently illuminating the gems’ uniforms, with perhaps Dia looking the greatest in that regard. The fight sequences are also of a damn great quality, with dynamic and interesting cinematography, and just the way the grass is animated too, and how beautiful it looks, are all small things that I can appreciate, and, again, help the world feel more alive and vibrant. The OST for the show as well does a fantastic job at immersing me into this world, with its often whimsical and mystical tone, complementing the sense of ambiguity the narrative tends to encapsulate. The opening track as well does a great job at capturing the feel of the show, mainly used to represent the loneliness and isolation of Cinncibar to master fall affect.
In conclusion, I loved Houseki quite a fair bit. It’s narrative and world is immediately captivating to me, its characters all feel memorable and have wonderful chemistry between one another, grounding them in a sense of believability, and the animation is some of the best I have seen from a CGI production. Surprisingly, the director of Love Live, actually directed this show too (goddam Love Live will follow me until the day I die, I swear), and he did a good job, especially when we compare the CGI in both respective series, and see how much of a jump Houseki was in overall quality. While certainly not a perfect show, Houseki represents what I love in anime, and that is passion. It feels as if so much love and work was put into this production, and it really does show in many faucets of the show, and I would greatly recommend this. While I didn’t go into as much detail as I usually do when reviewing a show, as I wanted a potential new viewer to watch this show without knowing too much, there is still a lot of potential things to discuss regarding the narrative, with the biggest one being the obvious allusions to that of Buddhism the show seems to have, which I never even touched upon, and a deeper speculation into the sensei character and who he truly may be. Houseki, is truly the gem of the year in my opinion, and sadly one that will be greatly over-looked, but hopefully I may have convinced someone out there to give this show a shot… maybe. (Just remember to say that Dia is best gem or else I'll sleep under your bed at night!)
It’s unfortunate that many people overlook and under rate CGI based series, me included. But after reading the synopsis and watching 4 episodes, I’m glad I made the decision to watch Land of the Lustrous. I guess you can say this is the…Hidden gem of the season \(\~_~)
Out of all the anime that aired this Fall, Houseki no Kuni caught my attention the most. With its oddly intriguing story along with the setting and characters. The characters of this series are gems. You know, Diamond, Jade, Alexandrite, and the other ones. Each gem has a certain hardness, how easy they can break. One of the
very weak gems are our main characters, Phos and Cinnabar. I did not do any research so I have no idea about how each gem acts and their exact information. But the anime does well to explain enough the characteristics of each one.
Basically the Gems or Jewels task is to fend off against like, Moon Dwellers? They constantly fight the gems to kidnap them for the purpose of decoration. Of course, being gems, it’s understandable. With this, Land of the Lustrous does well to present an action packed, scenic filled, colourful, atmospheric anime for us to enjoy.
Unfortunately for Phos, her task doesn't come with badass fighting scenes, her (I know they’re genderless, so i’m just gonna refer to these as girls cuz they're more feminine than anything else) job is to write down notes for an encyclopaedia and make history. Not so fun is it. Being an easily breakable gem, Phos had it coming.
The soundtrack is quite amazing with its catchy opening and insert songs. The sfx used as well is amazing and the overall music just fits perfectly.
The animation is definitely a strong point, despite the CGI that it has. It flows nicely and the action scenes and cinematography is spot on.
I am pretty tempted to read the original source to see how it differs, but I do hear that the adaptation is pretty well made, so no complaints there.
The voice acting performance of course is very good as well, each character has an appropriate voice for those characters. It fits and it makes me feel for them more.
My enjoyment for this series is beyond the roof. To the calm, SOL feeling situations, to the action packed and serious scenes as well. Although the tone shifts could make people see this series differently, I do believe it has a more positive impact than a negative one. I enjoy each character and the different types of jewels and the use of their “hardness” rank. I love how some gems are fragile and some aren't and they use that nicely in this anime.
Overall this anime needs more attention, just because something is cgi, does not mean it can’t present a good story driven anime with good characters within a good setting. Houseki no Kuni deserves a lot more. If you have time at all, I really do recommend watching this anime, because It won't be a waste of time.
At the time of writing this review, four episodes have aired.
I've finished catching up to the manga (60 chapters) and will be purchasing them shortly.
STORY: Gems in humanoid form fight unknown entities known as the "Moon-People", their hardness and gem type dictating their overall strength and ability to fight. The story has a very distinct feel to it, but I'm not surprised only about 20k people have this show currently listed. Although great in my opinion, it's rather niche. If you're into sci-fi type stories, this is for you. Don’t just write it off as some “Steven Universe” rip off, because 1) it was
made before S.U., 2) it’s a worthwhile view/read. Later on in the series it will get a but off the rails and the feel of everything is turned on its head. Needless to say, dark. Despite the drastic shift in tone, I still would highly recommend watching until the end. The pacing is about one or two chapters per episode, and I find it fitting. It doesn't seem drawn out or too fast, which is great, especially for a twelve episode series. The tone shift that will occur in later episodes will without a doubt ruin it for some viewers. It all feels very left field for some, which is understandable. Just a point I wanted to bring up.
ART: Similarly to the manga, it has a very cool, stylish, and clean-cut art style that is very appealing right off the bat. Although not extremely detailed like other manga in the current market, the style has such a unique atmosphere that others lack. I feel like a lot of people dislike the 3D, as they look back to the ONA's 2D animation and find it better than what we received. However, I find it rather fitting. The ONA showcased lackluster animation, which, though most likely would have stayed more true to the manga (and allowed for more expressive animation), looked relatively odd. In the new artstyle, the hair's shine and the facial expressions are actually gorgeous, and the character mannerisms are cute and energetic. I can't wait to see how they adapt the more..."exciting" parts of the manga.
SOUND: The sounds of clanking and cracking that the gems produce are VERY nice, as it, well, sounds like gems. The voice acting is very relaxing, smooth, and high quality. Phos' voice is rather irritating, but it's fitting for their character. I’m a native Japanese speaker and I have to say that the actors are really into their role, and their emphasis on certain phrases or lines just makes the character acting so much more effective in my opinion. Especially Phos, as they have a very childish way of speaking and the VA does an amazing job of portraying this. The others aren't as noteworthy, but are stellar performances nonetheless. In terms of music, gorgeous. The OP and ED weren't favorites at first, but now they've grown on me and I LOVE them both. The OST used in the series is really nice, especially the battle theme. I can't wait to hear what other songs come out of it.
CHARACTER: Staying true to the manga. Some characters' colors are being changed from the originals to better reflect the gem they're based off, and personally, I find these versions much more appealing. (Diamond, Morganite.)
ENJOYMENT/OVERALL: Recently, I finally got around to binge-reading the manga, as I had started a while ago but never finished. Of course, I can't say much on that (spoilers and such), but I can't wait to see how they adapt some characters and their designs, as well as more exciting action scenes later on. I love Phos, I love the story, I love the sound...But Houseki No Kuni will only be receiving a 8/10 for now, as it has yet to display to me the peak of what it can accomplish with this adaptation. I hope to see a season 2, as I'm sure the 12 episodes that will be airing cannot cover most of the manga as it is.
TLDR; If you don’t like the CG or aren’t intrigued by the plot so far, you might as well skip as it’s very niche.
I have to say... As of writing this review only 4 episodes have aired, but I'm confident enough to say that watching this anime is a very uncomfortable experience.
If you don't already know (like I did at first) this is a CGI based anime (think RWBY and the like). Now, I have no problem watching anime or shows created in this style, but there were a lot of issues with how this was executed, which really detracted from the show. But more on that later.
Story - 4
The main premise of this show is that there are these humanoid gems that are assigned specific jobs
based on their hardness and gem type. Our main character, Phos, is the weakest gem and is assigned the task of recording new information into an encyclopedia because she is too weak to fight. Meanwhile, the gems are being attacked by beings known as "Lunari" who want to use them because they're valuable or something.
The plot seems simple at first glance, but it actually is quite convoluted. I blame this on the fact that there are many characters and when there are many characters, it becomes difficult to focus on the big picture. I honestly still don't know what the main objective or plot of the story is.
The only redeeming part of the story is the fact that it sticks to the world building. I think it would be very easy to ignore the world the characters live in and pretend as if it doesn't matter, but it's refreshing to see each episode incorporate parts of the world and its volatile 'nature' into the story.
Art - 1
This is the biggest problem in the whole show. I know that art style is very rarely important enough to affect the quality of an anime, but this is one of the exceptions.
I will concede that SOME parts of the CGI animation are done really nicely, to an almost impressive degree, but unfortunately it does not make up for how often the CGI isn't that great.
You will begin noticing this from the very beginning of the first episode. The show is LAGGY. Characters will in one moment be flying across the screen, kicking bad guys in the face, and then in the next be struggling to move their arm 10 degrees. It's honestly really annoying and it happens A LOT. Even in some of the more important scenes.
The worst part is that it tends to lag on the character's facial expressions, making them look stagnant at places or just awkward. It kind of deprives the viewer from a part of the character experience because half the time a gem is trying oh so hard to move her lips before they cut to someone else.
Then there's the fact that some characters just look better than others. Not in terms of design, but in terms of quality. I mean, I don't understand why the gem master has to look better than our main character. It's like looking at one character without your glasses on and then looking at another with them on. That's the only way I know how to describe it.
I will admit that I'm the type of person who believes that CGI in general, in its current state, is not pleasant enough to look at. Live action movies can get away with it because for the most part, the scenes with CGI are brief enough that you don't notice the flaws or there is only one thing that needs to be animated. Making a show out of it is just... ugly. Making a show out of it and having it constantly lag is annoyingly ugly.
Sound - 4
I can't tell if this is a problem with the CGI or if the voice acting just isn't that great. The characters often sound lifeless, but it may just be because the CGI is so terrible at times that whatever the VAs are saying doesn't match up with what we're seeing.
The OP and ED are great though. I'm not sure if they fit the show in particular, but they're catchy.
Characters - 5
Like I said earlier, there's a ton of characters. They're all mostly tropes with a few things that distinguish themselves from each other. They're not bad, but not really memorable either. Overall it's pretty average.
Right now, I don't really enjoy this show. I blame it mostly on the CGI and I feel as though it were in a more traditional style, it would be easier to watch. I don't think it's a terrible show, but I do feel as though the CGI turns people off, as it should.
The fact of the matter is that the show is not strong enough on its own to hold up this new style. The plot is okay, but it's not memorable. No one is going to look through their watch list and remember the story in vivid detail. No one is going to be making highly analytical posts about this show. The CGI doesn't add anything to the show, but there are about a million little details a traditional style could add.
At best, the show will entice viewers to read the manga, which artistically represents what this show is about while still preserving the quirky designs of each character.
I am writing this review because I believe I hold an uncommon opinion. Don’t worry, it’s spoiler free. Allow me the time to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, a little boy was shopping at a mall with his mother, when he passed by a brightly lit shop window sporting an inviting neon sign at the entrance, labelled simply “Candy.” The display case under the sign had a large, swirly lollipop in it, each swirl being a different color. Eager to satisfy his taste buds with the sweetness of a candy he has never ever seen before, the boy tugged on his mother’s coat
collar, begging for her to buy him the seemingly delicious treat.
The mother, not even bothering to look at the price tag, took a single glance at the ridiculous lollipop and told her son, “It’s not worth it, I’ll buy you something else.” Being a stubborn little boy, he sat down onto the floor and refused to move a single step. Exasperated, the mother led the boy into the shop and paid for the candy.
The boy, overjoyed at his victory over his mother, licked his lollipop with vigor. After a few licks, he noticed the lollipop didn’t taste proper. Taking a look at it, he noticed that he’s been blending the different colored swirls with his disobedient tongue. Despite realizing this, the boy noticed that there was nothing he could do to salvage his ruined lollipop. Not knowing what to say to his mother, he finished it silently.
Later that night, the mother asked the boy, “how was that lollipop?” The boy, not wanting to admit his own wrongdoing, plastered a smile over his face and replied, “it was great.”
What is the moral of this story? There are a few.
1. Just because something is new and fancy, it doesn’t mean that it’s good.
2. A weird blend of themes and flavours will not always leave a good taste in your mouth.
3. Mainstream consumers do not want to admit the faults in their initial judgement.
<Artstyle and initial thoughts: 10/10>
How does this relate to the anime Houseki no Kuni? It should be quite clear. The “innovation” in this series is the usage of CGI. In the brief history of anime I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, there has not been an instance where CGI was used well. Naturally, a show that executes a controversial style well would receive positive attention. Admittedly, the artstyle for this show suited its purposes well enough, so I have no complaints. In fact, talking strictly cinematography, art and sound, this show is unparalleled at creating an immersive atmosphere. Now, if that’s the case, why did I imply that the show “isn’t good?” Speaking of the show’s purposes, you’ll see soon enough.
This show is complicated in many ways. Plot, characters, setting, all of it. Allow me to clarify. Complex shows are not intrinsically bad, in fact, that’s far from the truth. However, shows that end up complex due to blatant execution issues are BAD. Not even god tier art can carry such an aimless, thoughtless story.
<Setting and Plot: 3/10>
Let me start with the setting. The worldbuilding in this show is highly fantastical, and the explanation behind how everything ended up the way it was sounds like something a 13-year-old whose idol is his geologist grandpa would come up with. Sure, it’s ludicrous, but there’s nothing wrong with a good laugh, but I digress. The premise of the show is surprisingly amazing for philosophical explorations on rational sentience and immortality. On top of that, the CGI artstyle compliments this setting very well, leading to some extremely beautiful scenes. Sounds like fun and lollipops, right?
No. Here comes the plot. The first two episodes work to introduce the characters and the world, but it suffers from a major writing issue. It leads you to believe that this show is a social commentary emphasizing on the hierarchical nature that results from self contained communities, and how each character suffers as a result of their own mental insecurities and lack of identity. That doesn’t sound too bad, if it actually followed up with what it set itself up as.
After a series of slimy (ha, ha.) events, you find yourself in a confusing spot halfway through the show where you start to wonder where this show is going. Remember what I said about the setting being an optimal one for philosophical exploration of unique themes? You actually get some of that. Just three lines of dialogue unrelated to the plot, then the show wants you to forget about everything that happened in the first half of the show in favour of some shounen style character development, which is carried out for the remainder of the show, to my massive disappointment. Sadly, the first half of the show provided weak narrative exposition at best and pretentious, irrelevant babble at worst, and this was actually the good half of the show.
Do you like repetitive, meaningless fights with no emotional implications or plot strings attached to it? This was the case with most of the fight scenes in Houseki no Kuni. The typical end result of each fight is that our main character "develops." You'll see what I mean.
Don’t we all love that classic slice of life “conclusion,” where a stupidly dramatic event drastically alters the characters beyond recognition, in a weak attempt to add dimension to the cast? Wait a second, I hate that. Referring back to the plot section, I mentioned that the first two episodes set the show up for a character oriented exploration? I guess it wasn’t completely off the mark, if Dora the Explorer is your type of “exploration.”
The supporting cast is usually defined by a single, one dimensional trait that dominates their entire character. This is evident in Diamond, Cinnabar and Bort. The rest of the many characters are not worth mentioning. There is some very weak development by the end of the show, but this was not the anime’s focus.
My dear Phosphophyllite. You developed so much, its almost as if you underwent a chemical change (pun and sarcasm intended). This character’s journey of self discovery was the aim of the show, yet her changes are not only inconsistent with her former self, ridiculously dramatic, but also violates the laws of chemistry. The sequence of events that led up to who the character became by the end of the show was definitely the result of inadequate planning and incompetent writing, evident by a chain of stupidly dramatic incidents that served no other purpose than to turn Phos into a more dynamic character.
Perhaps you don't agree with my criticism that Houseki no Kuni's characters lack depth, if you've seen the show. It's difficult to argue this point without spoiling anything, but I'll say this: our only knowledge of Phosphophyllite is her current desires and motivations, which progress from a linear lack of self worth to a sentimental attachment to a certain dead character following a short time skip. Both of these plot devices lack narrative backbone and portrays Phosphophyllite as incredibly shallow and her actions extremely simple. There was not a point in the show where I questioned the motives or psychological states of a single character, because this shallowness is present in the entire cast. There simply isn't enough information or character exploration in the show.
My last point lies in my disappointment that the basic premise of immortal people was not evident at all in the characters’ behaviour. In fact, every member of the cast acts like a 21st century high school student, which ruined the immersive atmosphere the art desperately tried to create.
<Final Thoughts and total score: 5/10>
It may be clear by now, but my biggest issue with this show is the obvious lack of direction in its narrative, mismanagement of dramatic structure and insignificant ending. I am aware that the anime does not adapt the entirety of the manga, but hey, I’m just reviewing what’s here right now.
Would I recommend this show? If you’re interested in sitting through a 12 episode tech demo, be my guest, but don’t place many expectations on the storyline to provide a compelling analysis of a theme, or the characters to bring any entertainment.
I will reiterate that the art was beautiful. There is no denying that. After all, isn’t a big, swirly, colorful lollipop enticing? Just don’t forget, mommy warned you...
Now I have finished the series, and it has brought me great enjoyment. There are moments that I laugh, I cried a bit and cursing Phos for being so useless or so annoying. But slowly, I realised Phos character is so relatable.
It is very common for us youngsters to dream an ambitious dream, while not realizing how much effort and pain one have to go through before one can achieve that dream, and eventually hit hard by the reality. It usually starts off as "it's so cool, I want to be like that." to "I am not good enough." "I wish I could be
that good." "why couldn't I become as good as 'that someone'."
Many of us might not truly accomplish something even though we thought we had tried our best. Or there are moments we felt so helpless and just wish to hide and take cover, think that the pain will go away by itself, while in fact, the pain stayed. We are too eager to become adult, but when we truly become one, we start to miss our naive days as a spoiled child.
I particularly like one of the headers the publisher used for the manga series:
"A beautiful story of the strong, yet fragile, Gems." 「宝石たちの強くてもろくて美しい物語。」
I find the CGI anime very fluid, compare to what I have seen previously in other anime (you know them), Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni) doesn't have that awkwardness that often, and the background are animated very lively. 'Such a lovely island' is what I first thought when seeing the bird view shot. The complex camera movement makes the fight scene looks luxurious and breathtaking as if you are one of the arrows approaching the Gems, or the sword in the Gems hand.
To be true, the music is the thing that kept me watching the series. I have like the music composer since his "Eccentric Family" days. Although I didn't know it was the same composer when I watch the first episode, but the music was so intense and bring the essence of the scene out, I felt like I must check out who is it, and came across a familiar name, which I am happy to see him in this project, because he did it well in "Eccentric Family". I love the tune in episode preview the most, and I believe it is also the main theme music of the series.
I have seen a lot of people say they hope the character or animation stayed the same as in their previous PV, but I personally like the 3D design better.
The CV did their job nicely, well, excellent job. Whether it is Phos's yelling, complaining, Diamond's caring and gentle voice, or Bort's harsh and fierce tone. I find them nicely blend together.
The most enjoyment I had for this season was from Land of the Lustrous. Some say the character development is a bit too slow, personally, I think the events are necessary for the character. Therefore the story should not go quicker than this. Drop the series simply because they spent time planting the hints here and there in the first two episode (what we call world building), is gonna make you lose the upcoming candies.
Overall, a hidden gem of the season! Definitely, recommend a watch, be patient with our main protagonist, Phosphophyllite. He/she, well they're all genderless. The story truly has a meaning, try at least 3 episode, you will then start to understand the theme.
I will only say that as a "veteran" anime viewer I look for things that feel original and a departure from stories and devices that I have seen many times already. This is why I decided to check this and boy, I enjoyed it so much.
Take into account: this story is darker than it seems and based on an ongoing manga. The anime does not provide a final closure for the story. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot and certaily recommend it.
Intriguing. There is a central mystery to be solved and many other things we don't know. But the story so far is progressing
at a good pace and giving us new bits of information every episode. Also Phos, the main character, is going under certain development. I've read that there are surprises coming our way and I have my theories about it, so I am excited to see what will happen.
I love the use of CGI here (this is a 1st for me), I started watching only for the pretty. The show is visually stunning, some action scenes are plainly jaw-dropping. The sceneries are awesome and the gems are shiny and wonderful. I don't mind that they look a bit rigid being CGI, I would expect a crystal to be sort of stiff, so for me it works. The story and dialogs are more than enough to make me feel they are full of life.
All the gems have distinct personalities and I like Phos, the main character, she is weak but stubborn and desires to be a useful part of society, she struggles and is not there quite yet. It feels relatable.
It started as a light entertainment with lots of eye-candy. But after episodes 3-4 the story gets more intriguing, the characters predicaments more complex, and I was hooked.
Overall : 10
I have to give it a 10 since this anime has left a lasting impression in me. The production values are high, the quality of animation (and music, and voice actors...) is superb (unless you truly dislike CGI). The story is innovative and characters are fleshed out, although we only follow major development for the protagonist, Phos.
Note: I have not read the source material (manga), so this review will be based on the anime alone.
The only word I could use to describe the world of Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) is “bizarre”. It certainly takes an amazing amount of imagination and a dose of craziness to come up with an unique world like this, but I can’t help but feel that this is also exposed as the anime’s weakest point. It took a lot of time and effort to explain even the basics of how the world works, and even then the world feels difficult to understand. This is
not helped by the fact that unlike sci-fi or fantasy worlds based somewhat on reality, the viewer can’t populate the background of Houseki no Kuni with activity. It's just a barren world that is hard to believe in.
This overly simplified world is contrasted with a huge ensemble of mostly forgettable characters, often appearing for only a few seconds at a time. This is not helped by the fact that they have long and convoluted mineral/gem names, making them even less memorable. When a character is promoted to the center of the story, they feel as if they serve no further purpose than to forward the plot, and (with the exception of one) become irrelevant within two episodes. The main character Phos is the only one with any semblance of development, but while its shift from from beginning to end is striking, barely anyone else mattered.
The ending is obviously incomplete. While there is a nice connection to the beginning, ultimately it shows you the door to its manga continuation more than anything remotely satisfying.
It's a unique story for sure, but as a whole I don't feel like it's gone anywhere in these 12 episodes, and an overall disappointment.
The art of Houseki no Kuni is marked by its generous use of 3D animation, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it presents the textures and reflections of the gems very well, and makes for some VERY dynamic fight scenes, but on the other hand, facial expressions and tiny movements (such as head tilting) feels rigid and unnatural.
That said, this is still probably one of the best and most extensive use of 3D animation I’ve seen so far, and it would be hard to imagine some of the scenes (especially towards the end) without it. But I wouldn't rate it as an unmitigated success -- whether or not it's good is still pretty much up to personal tastes.
The OP and ED are nice, memorable tunes that aren't too generic, but it's the OST and insert songs that shine here. There's an varied selection of styles, and many of the tracks fit the mood of the scene nicely.
In the end, Houseki no Kuni is a puzzling anime for me: Puzzling world, puzzling story, puzzling characters, and a lot of it remains unresolved till the end. I would suppose the Manga would provide a lot of answers to my questions, but as a non-manga reader, it's hard to give it a more satisfactory score until the second season is out.
Like most people, I was at first skeptical about this anime because of it's art style, but I'm not the type of person who doesn't give things a chance, so I decided to try it. I'm on episode 5 now and I've gotta say, the art only compliments the characters more.
It's extremely interesting and has many twists revolving around Phos and his/her friends. Sadly I'm still confused by Phos's gender, so I'm referring to him/her both ways. I always feel connected to Phos and the people he/she approaches, everything about it beams creativity and uniqueness.
In all, you should definitely watch this brilliant anime, look past
superficial things like art, and you just might get hooked like I have.
Outstanding anime, this is my absolute favorite of this year along with Made in Abyss.
The premise of the story makes it sound like something you wouldn't expect at all after you're done watching this. It's really misleading, making people think this would be another "cute" anime centered around girly characters. Oh it's everything I just described and so much more.
It starts slowly, developing the main character takes a good chunk of episodes and initially I felt unsure as to why were we supposed to get attached to her. You understand why very soon.
Throughout the story
it did a job of explaining the nature of this setting and how it comes to be, though be wary of cliffhangers, they're an absolute killer. It does a good job of making the world immersive raising questions after an episode. Even after this first season, one of the entities remains a mystery to the viewers that aren't familiar to the manga, and in a very good way.
Wow! It's CGI, expect way better than we've seen before. I loved every minute of it, and there are some outstanding shots in the anime that do the manga a lot of justice. The cinematography is outstanding, especially in one particular episode (you'll know which soon), they've outdone themselves and whoever tried CGI before. Good job to studio Orange.
Ahhh, loved the OP. It's very calming, a soothing voice. The ED is just as good, do listen to the full version of those on Youtube, really nice.
The voice acting is very good, especially the main character and the best girl of the show, loved them. Battle sounds, overall scenery and the music is done really well and it blends in with the scenes.
It has a very nice cast of different characters, each with their own virtues, humor and troubles. Not all of them are well developed in this first season, time constraints in mind, but those that do get a lot of screen time are very enjoyable, and funny.
This was a great experience, and I intentionally left the character section somewhat empty as I would love for you to go in without any spoilers in this show, it's outstanding. I loved every moment of it and will be jealous of you for having the pleasure of watching it for the first time.
Time and time again, I could feel strong emotions on nearly every moment they made. It's not like story is getting unexpected, it's like you are having ripples in your tranquil heart. The world is exquisite, but also full of mystery.
For me, the most interesting plot I love to watch is the interaction between Cinnabar and Phos. Their conversation didn't tell much story, but their facial expressions and behaviors did. That's some great ways to make plots attractive.
The sea shore scene in episode 5 is epic.
This is an underrated anime that someone who likes world of beauty should watch.
I managed to miss this one last season and just caught up with it over this weekend; I had nothing better to do last night, so I thought I’d investigate the first episode of the weird CGI mineralgirl show.
…and then marathon-ed the whole thing from start to finish. Literally sat there without getting up for anything like it was a five hour movie. It’s brilliant; I had no idea there was something out there that could so easily topple Made in Abyss from my AOTY spot for 2017, but there it was (and I really liked Made in Abyss).
not already aware, the very basic premise is that a small society of immortal, androgynous mineral-people are fighting a thousands of year long war against creepy, shiny buddhist ghosts called ‘Lunarians’ who want to kidnap the mineral people and take them away to the moon. …even if it wasn’t also brilliant, it has originality going for it in spades! Should you have the ability and time, I strongly recommend you at least give the first episode of this a try, so here are some (spoiler free!) reasons to do so;
First of all, the hybrid 2D/CGI animation is gorgeous in a way that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Anyone who avoided this one because of a prejudice against CG animation, please give this one a chance! I think the slightly surreal and artificial setting helps, but the way the show takes advantage of the underused strengths of CGI and the seamless blending with traditional 2D is stunning. I’ve always been a big advocate of the Polygon CGI shows and movies, but the natural movement and expressiveness of the models in HnK make the characters in Sidonia and the new Godzilla look like awkward plastic mannequins in comparison.
It’d be easy to point to the fantastic gem effects as the biggest strength of the CG stuff, but to be honest it ended up being the ‘camerawork’ that really impressed me there. There’s a scene in particular in Episode 10 where a character is running and hiding from a pursuer, that’s done in a single long, unbroken take following them around the room; it massively ratchets up the tension in the scene, and it’s something that just wouldn’t have been practical to do in 2D with the time and budget constraints of a TV anime. There are also several action scenes that reminded me a lot of the best 3D manoeuvre gear fights in the recent run of Attack on Titan, but the CG elements that make that kind of movement possible are much more fluidly incorporated here in HnK.
This isn’t CG for the sake of saving money or cutting corners. This is properly harnessing the ‘new’ tech to do things you couldn’t achieve with the traditional methods.
Second is the writing. I’m generally not a huge fan of single-cour shows; the vast majority of them feel to me like two-cour scripts that have been viciously hacked down to 12 or 13 episodes. The pacing is often odd, character development gets weirdly accelerated or suddenly cut off, endings come out of nowhere or are disappointingly anticlimactic. It’s only very occasionally that something like Death Parade comes along, where a single cour manages to feel like a complete and satisfying experience. Houseki no Kuni is definitely getting added to that short list.
There are characters in this show that get introduced and have complete arcs across 20 minutes of screen time that I cared more about than protagonists from shows that ran to 50+ episodes across multiple seasons. The simple but memorable and conveniently colour-coded character designs do a lot to make every one of the fairly large cast distinctive, but the writing and direction is a masterclass in characterisation using small moments and minimal dialogue. Unusually again for a mostly CGI show, there’s always a lot going on in the background in HnK, and even the most minor characters all get to display plenty of personality in their expressions and reactions to events, rather than just standing around like inactive NPCs in a video game.
The protagonist, Phosphophyllite (Phos, for short) in HnK is a joy to watch. Superficially, they come off as a stereotypical ‘cheerful well-meaning klutz’, but there’s a subtle introspective depth to them right from the first episode that sets them apart from your run-of-the-mill MC. They start out the show as the youngest and weakest of the group, but the fact that this is a group of powerful, ageless immortals where you could be the useless youngest and weakest individual *literally forever* gives the standard underdog story an edge of hopelessness that really made me feel for poor Phos right out the gate.
Phos’s character development over the course of the series… Well, I’m not going to spoil anything at all on that, but it was definitely the most compelling character arc I’ve seen in any anime for a long while. Again, HnK managed to do more with Phos in 12 episodes than I would have thought possible in that limited runtime.
On top of all that, it has some great comedic moments through all twelve episodes. The personality clashes between the various characters often play out in a way that’s totally hilarious, and every joke also ends up giving you more of an insight into them at the same time. The integration of comedy with more dramatic scenes is also done almost perfectly, something which a lot of shows that try to blend the two can stumble on (I’m looking at you, Mahoutsukai no Yome). The comedy always feels natural, and never ends up undermining the drama like I’ve often seen elsewhere.
Third is the art direction and music; Houseki no Kuni is gorgeous, and not just ‘for a CG show’. For me, it’s right up there with Made in Abyss for the best looking and sounding show of the year. The island setting is beautiful, but at the same time bleak, cold and vaguely ominous, and the silent, shining, smirking ‘buddhist angels’ that make up the Lunarian antagonists of the story are unconventionally terrifying.
The muted colours of the backgrounds are contrasted by the brightly coloured crystalline hair of the gem-people, the style and exact shade of which was chosen well enough that I don’t think I over had problems telling apart the otherwise identically-dressed characters.
These character designs remind me a lot of one of the best things about Kemono Friends; in that show, each character’s personality was really cleverly crafted to match the nature of the animal represented in the design, and here they do a similar thing with the real-life gemstones the characters are made of. The gem is reflected the character design, the character design is reflected in the personality of that character, and it gives the whole thing a sense of consistency and verisimilitude.
The music is also fantastic, switching between upbeat ‘adventure-ey’ orchestral stuff for the more relaxed antics of the main cast, chilling ritualistic percussion for the terrifying Lunarians, and some really beautiful pieces on the Chinese Erhu and piano in some of the melancholy moments. Unfortunately not on Spotify (yet!) but I’m definitely going to see if I can get a hold of this one to listen to independently of the show; it’s that good.
…I should probably stop typing now before this gets any further out of hand than it already has. So sue me, I really enjoyed this and I want to spread that around as much as possible!
TL;DR: Houseki no Kuni is great. Put aside any preconceptions you have about CG animated shows and go watch it.
Gems are regarded as precious things. There are a plethora of these beautiful, varied jewels, each with distinct colors to catch the eye. Out of this shimmering rouges-gallery, the most popular one may be the diamond.
Diamonds are overvalued. They may shine bright but aren't as uncommon as some like to feel they are. However, they are special for some reason or another, above most other gems. Houseki no Kuni, or Land of the Lustrous, really is a diamond in such a sense, fittingly enough. Not the hardest gem or material ever conceived, and more like the character of Diamond in the show, where despite
its hardness, some cracks can certainly show. However, there is a certain charm, a certain beauty to this series, and in fact, a certain catharsis that comes to myriad individuals who have often doubted CGI shows and the inclusion CGI in anime in general, as well as to the people who saw that it could be done right, without a hitch. That last part may not be entire true; a diamond is not without fault. This show is a Diamond, after all, which feels odd given its initial reception.
In the early days of Fall 2017, this shimmering beauty was not watched by too many, and its reception was lukewarm at best. I distinctly remember a score of 6.98, a score that most in the community would mock given how it seems like anything under a 7.15 is considered to be a waste at best by the community at large, with exceptions to those who see something others clearly don’t and are oft not outspoken. You could say that throughout the the better part of its run, this show really was a “hidden gem”, slowly getting better and better, ever more popular, and better-received by the day. Obviously this isn't the case anymore thanks to all the passionate fans that spread the news of this lustrous jewel throughout the 12 or so weeks of its run. Now, it is more akin to a “dark horse”, ironically enjoyed given the vocabulary thus far. Would I claim this is the best of the year? Certainly no. There are a handful of choices that stand out and shimmer even more beautifully, however that is a small handful of gems, not all of which truly got to shine in front of everyone underneath all the rough this year had provided.
Gems are oft valuable, tremendously so. Their value is virtually everlasting. Meanwhile, more than half to more than three quarters of a year’s anime offerings are left in the dust within half a year, either deprived of their insignificant value by time, or with none to begin with. Whist Houseki no Kuni’s value is certainly not everlasting, it is one of the few from 2017 that will be fondly remembered for at least a couple years to possibly even a decade, as many gems should. Yet despite how marvelous this jewel turned out, its luster didn't entirely shine initially. It cracked, and it wasn't as beautiful. However, as stated earlier, much like its protagonist, Phosphophyllite, its pieces were picked up, and it hardened, turning from a blight few cared of, into a far more respected work of craftsmanship. It became even more beautiful, intriguing, and varied as well, much like said character. This applies to the visuals and the narrative at large, even if not all the prices were really put back together.
Said character, Phosphophyllite, reminds me of an exaggerated version of myself. Lazy upon most tasks found to be terribly uninteresting at best and mind-shatteringly stressful at worst, more than willing to get out of said tasks to the chagrin of the one who assigned them, mocked and challenged by many colleagues, frail, quick to aggravate, understood well by a particularly feminine individual considered to be keen on fictionally romantic situations, and sought after by a specific few for a specific quality. My persona reflects this to a large degree given my wording, though my ordinary self embodies much of this as well, with some applying to one part of me than the other. Indeed, this kind of protagonist embodied some aspects I disdain of my two selves, so warming up to it had to happen, which was thankfully effortless to accomplish the more I related on the whole. Not to knock many of the other, mostly less interesting characters with fantastic chemistry with this one to the point of leading to myriad moments of sheer hilarity. However, it is rather apparent that Phos is the true standout of this show, above all else, with the visuals, and the slimy creature, Ventricosus, who managed to perfectly fill most of Phos’ roles in episode 3 to the point of convincing many, including myself that she actually was Phos. The admittedly decent, yet immense and relatively unexplored cast was ultimately saved from mere relative decency by Phos almost exclusively thanks to the charm Phos has and the chemistry it and the other gems have, which is unfortunate, though other anime that concluded this season with an unexplored cast and a main character that grows a ton and learns about the world, have fared far worse in this regard. The fact that Phos develops in ways that affect it detrimentally as a living being as more of the Phosphophyllite we once knew is stripped away, including any sense of satisfaction of accomplishing anything anymore, is also engaging, even if sometimes it feels like we only really see the results of the development, feeling as if we skipped an episode dedicated entirely to said character growing weary and possibly depressed after the new powers acquired after a situation that sparked this gigantic change in Phos’ life.
Another monumental aspect of this series’ charm and acclaim, as well as the largest point of the overvalue is the visual department. The CGI character designs are certainly fantastic, especially in terms of the shimmering and detailed hair that dictates which gem each individual is. The hair sometimes goes above and beyond, such as with Diamond’s hair that constantly shines multiple colors and creates a heavenly light in the dark. I do find it odd that the series focuses more attention on their attention-grabbing derriere than even Code Geass and Sword Art Online, especially when all of them, despite most of them being abjectly feminine in nearly way, are considered genderless. Even worse, the models have absolutely sluggish frame rates, and when they move in tandem to the well-done environment, the difference in frames feels awkward to put it politely. However, the choreography in the fight scenes is rather impressive, and combined with the dynamic camera movement a CGI series allows, as well as the stellar designs and interesting effects of the anthropomorphised gems and materials, it isn’t a surprise that this show is heralded as a fantastic action show, let alone a fantastic CGI action show. Special praise must also be given to the visuals of the ending theme for its magnificent 2D visuals that are unlike anything I have seen, to the point where I cannot accurately describe what kind of two-dimensional visuals they are, other than magnificently colorful and charming. I can certainly say as well that the issues the first episode presented, visually speaking, got relatively ironed out over time minus the frame rates in the models, like when we reserve 2D for that fantastic ending credits sequence or for impact-related dust clouds and whatnot. Not to sing this series’ praises in terms of visuals as much as others have, but when we see improvements being made to an already visually unique series, especially one done almost entirely by three-dimensional computer animated models, it is certainly cathartic, notably as of 2017, to agree with the visuals looking splendid on the whole. Combining everything with some interesting and trippy moments of introspection with great directing by Takahiko Kyogoku, the team at Studio Orange did a really interesting and relatively fantastic job here.
And whist the narrative is rather inviting and willing to slowly reveal more over time, including themes about what humanity was like in the distant past, about life, and how immortals still have plenty to fear much like mortals do, among other things, there are some fundamental issues. For one, for a 2.5/10 hardness rating, Phos is so fragile and weak at times that I could almost swear she was 1.5; even a 2.5 wouldn't break just for stepping on a rock. It also raises consistency issues with how fragile or study Phos is, especially when another gem with a slightly higher rating can take so much more and is infinitely stronger. Also, you have to learn via commercial break and return eyecatchers that the hardness rating is out of 10 unless you already have such knowledge; while it turns out that ultimately, the Mohs scale makes it so that even a .5 difference is monumental, most viewers would be uneducated on the subject and this would need to be told by the series in order to really buy this, which they aren't. Given how memory is stored in the actual gems within every fiber of their being sans their hair to the point of every single shard comprising of memories, how do they consistently gain new memories, and given the seemingly finite amount of space, and their immortality, how can they continually gain new memories for all of eternity? They don't seem to physically grow. When Phos loses her legs, she manages to retain nearly everything important and only really lose memories of one individual and a location she had seen for the first time? Up until the halfway mark, the gems seemed to have photographic memory, and even afterward they mostly do, so it seems like Phos and other can't remember some things for the sake of convenience or emotion, as contradictory as it seems to what impressive memory they seem to display. Given that there are two amethysts that are numbers 33 and 84 respectively, how many of each exact gem are there? The yellow gem has lived for thousands of years, over 3,500 in particular, so you are left to ponder of the age of the likes of Bort and Sensei, who are much wiser and more battle ready? Has sense lived for tens of thousands of years? How long has this conflict gone on? Are none of them tired of life barring CInnabar, who is only sick of everything due to how no one respects it or can find a use for it given its hazardous condition? How exactly does this gooey material all gems have inside them really connect the missing pieces together, and how come we never see any of it splash out when a gem gets slashed or downright shattered into a cornucopia of shards and pieces?
I could go on and on, but the point has long since been made clear as crystal; that being: all of this serves a grander dilemma in that we do not know well enough how this species of gems work, as an inhuman amount of aspects about them are contradictory and unfathomable to try to answer. Not to mention other issues like how only one of them has any semblance of knowing how to use a projectile, and none of them have ever tried that or coming up with experiments to allow long-range combat on their end to possibly surpass the projectile-heavy weaponry of the Lunarans. There aren't too many problems with the active narrative in terms of holes, errors, and progression (at least in the first half), barring a few conveniences and contradictions mentioned earlier and not mentioned at all, as well as a few real issues towards the end, but when it invites you to learn as much as it does, and you try to think of everything, or beyond the most obscenely basic understanding of how the gems work, you end up with myriad questions the series cannot tackle about the world-building or the novel species it is depicting. It would be like a high school biology teacher trying to explore how humans work in an attempt to invite others into such knowledge, yet she only understand a minute aspect of their biology and psychology, infinitely less than the still limited knowledge we already have acquired within the best two centuries about our species, leaving you disappointed as you already know more about the subject than she does by the time you’ve taken the midterm, and there are no more classes on the subject at your school. One could counter back with “the series doesn’t need to know everything, it even admits that it doesn’t”, however most stories that explore a fictional species do so enough for you to get the gist of things without delving deep enough and doing things that make you question everything about said species. This clearly wasn’t one of them, and it suffered for that. The fact that they sorta dodge showing us some of the processes involving healing other gems only makes this burn even harder, and the ending is certainly nothing satisfying, amounting to a “we made it this far and covered ground; wait for more or read the source material”. And you wonder why I'm such a curmudgeon.
Oh, and also, while the show does present a few interesting themes to explore, including how these characters deal with immortality, don't be surprised when they start leaving those in the back-burner at best or drop them like flies at worst. It is another glaring flaw in this show preventing it from being one of the crown jewels of the year.
There are other positives I want to throw out there to really sell that despite the major problems the show has, it is still a laudable show, particularly involving the character arcs Phos and Diamond go through, but I cannot really mention much without spoiling them other than the premises of said arcs. I already mentioned Phos’ so Diamond’s is about learning to get stronger and do things on its own, which while executed almost how you would expect, there is a brutal twist to it near the end of episode 10, to leave it at that for you to speculate. I cannot really do the narrative any more justice in a spoiler-free review, so let me just say that the humor is gut-busting to me and that the show does throw in a few wild surprises in there, some of which nearly had me rolling on the floor in terms of comedy. So now, let me transition into what I feel truly shines as the best aspect of the show: the music.
The enchantingly melodic tunes of the pieces such as “Lunarians” and immensely memorable and emotion-intensive pieces such as “Danger” and especially “Cinnabar" and "Breaking” make particularly the action scenes and emotional scenes leave even more of an impact than otherwise. Even if some tracks get played too frequently, they simply sweep you into every scene in a way that really invites you in and immersed you. The OP, "Kyoumen no Nami (鏡面の波)" by YURiKA, is among the best this season has to offer, exemplifying a lot of what I mentioned previously about the OST, and the vocals make my love for the song reach ever more. The ED, "Kirameku Hamabe (煌めく浜辺)" by Yuiko Ohara, is also fantastic, and is also one of the more emotionally resonant pieces of music in the series, especially combined with its stellar visuals. All in all, the music is simply fantastic, sweeping, and emotional, and I had no idea what to expect from it overall, nearly getting floored with some of these pieces the first time. Unfortunately, only a handful of tracks really get to stand out this way, but it's still more than many have managed to do.
So, this was Houseki no Kuni. A gem that shines bright enough to become a dark horse of its season and captivate the hearts of many for weeks, as well as set a new benchmark for full CGI anime in the future to strive to live up to. I had a good time viewing and appraising this jewel, even if it isn't as lustrous as its title suggests. So, as always, with all that said, I bid you adieu.
Houseki no Kuni is a story set on an island in a post-apocalyptic world, where a collection of immortal gemstone-based people cluster around the mysterious Adamant-sensei, who keeps them occupied with jobs tailored to their interests and abilities - all except Phosphophyllite, a spoiled child who is too delicate to do the job he REALLY wants to do; fighting the celestial spirit-like Lunarians that are constantly trying to shatter the gems and use them as jewelry. Tasked with creating an encyclopedia to distract him, Phos meets the secluded Cinnabar for the first time, and begins to question what it means to have value.
The story, despite
its character-driven slice-of-life angle, is primarily written as a mystery. Each arc (the first one concluding in episode 5) is concluded with a drastic change in Phos, and that change is used to give Phos a new perspective on the world he lives in and the secrets Adamant-sensei is keeping.
Unfortunately, the first episode is a wobbly start, and the story doesn't do a good job of communicating that it's a worldbuilding mystery of the same class as Kemono Friends or Girl's Last Tour; in those shows, the mystery as at the forefront, constantly reminding you of the question through key references and the protagonist's own interest, but in Houseki no Kuni, Phos blithely goes on his merry way uncaring of the seemingly perfect world around him, buying into the status quo completely. Unless you're asking the questions it wants you to ask (or you've read the more ethereal and painfully lonely original manga), Houseki no Kuni comes off as tonally unstable, despite its straightforward setup.
Despite how badly it's communicated, the story itself is wonderful, and the slow unrolling of the lore with each consecutive episode and conflict is constantly entertaining.
The CG is designed to emulate mid-quality 2D animation, low frame-rate included, so it's a matter of taste whether you enjoy it or not. The cinematography and post-processing is gorgeous, with fantastic uses of colour and wild, chaotic action scenes, but I wish it better communicated the quiet emptiness of the island and the seas around it; I've seen a few people consider the lack of details 'lazy', but it's more like it's not featureless ENOUGH to get the idea across. The underwater segments probably do a better job of this.
Unfortunately, almost none of the beautiful, striking cinematography and sakuga is in episode 1 (barring MAYBE the very lovely scene of a broken Phos), and the Adamant-sensei 3D model is...not very pleasant close-up, but otherwise, the characters are all attractive, with gorgeous and expressive facial animation. Absolutely pinpoint perfect sound design combined with character animation communicates that these are extremely heavy gemstones, as light and human-like as they look when they're not in motion, and the way the lighting accentuates their gem traits is stunning. Overall the best-looking show this season, if only just based on personal taste.
This is my first review, and English isn't my primary language, so excuse some of the grammar mistakes.
To be honest, I feel like this anime's a bit underappreciated. While some of the things presented in this anime might not be suited for everyone's taste(such as the concept behind the gems and the 3DCG animation, which I'll discuss later on their respective parts), this anime has adapted the manga quite well and faithfully. The manga itself was quite good, and I'd recommend reading it after the anime finishes airing as it shows other things that might not be shown on the anime due to the limited
episodes(unless they decided to adapt a second season).
The main concept of the story revolves around immortal and genderless gem people fighting against the moon people who tries to take them away for decorations, which is quite the unique take on 'fighting against unknown forces' plot that's normally often used in other series(either anime or manga). However, when you look deeper upon it, the series also has a life and death symbolism embedded on it, making the series more interesting than it seems on the surface if you noticed them. I feel like the description is a bit misleading, as the encyclopedia part actually doesn't do much to the story itself, and the main story itself is best described as a 'coming-of-age' story, as the main character(Phos) develops as they go through various hardships(like a saying: misery builds character) while trying to help another character(Cinnabar/Shinsha). Being a manga adaptation, each episode represents 2-3 chapters of the manga, which is a fine pace for me(though I was initially a bit concerned on how far it'll adapt).
The characters are nice and expressive, and the scenery is very well made. The animation is also quite fluid as well, especially during the battle scenes. While 3DCG can be quite polarizing for some people, it can look great if done right, as this anime proves. Because of that, I don't think this anime deserves hate solely because it's CG.
One of the reasons I decided to watch the anime is how they would sound like, and when I saw the lineup of the voice actors, I had expectations, and they delivered. The voices suit them, and the soundtracks are quite nice as well; they fit the events going on the story.
The characters have distinctive appearances(with the gem people looking like the gems they're portraying, even having traits corresponding to them), as well as unique personalities to boot. Some of them can be quite prominent on one point but later aren't shown much, however the story revolving around them gives enough impression on how they look and act. Overall, each of them has their own charm which makes them likable, even though some of characters have more/less screentime than the others.
This show manages to be both refreshing and deep at the same time, and in a good way. With the previews, each episode will leave you wondering about what happens next. The show also has a good amount of humor despite not being a comedy, and what makes them great is that they don't seem out of place, which adds more to the enjoyment factor.
Like said above, while the premise might not be for everyone, I still highly recommend checking this anime. The story might seem a bit slow at first, but it eventually picks up.
I'd give this 9.5/10, since it's a great adaptation of a great manga, but MAL doesn't allow decimals here. I hope they'd adapt another season eventually, but I think it won't be revealed so soon, especially since the anime and the manga haven't been finished yet.
The CGI eye-candy of the season! But this series has more than just looks going for it! While it does take a few episodes to really get into things, there is a wonderful mystery to the world and a welcome depth to the main characters. At first it seemed liked the main character Phosphophyllite would be just another annoying lazy one-dimensional protagonist, but she at times shows a surprising complexity that one would not expect from such a lazy whiny freeloader. It wasn't until episode 3 that I really started to see this anime something other than eye-candy, and by the end of episode 4
I was so invested in the story that it had snuck up on me to become my most anticipated series. Definitely worth a watch!
BEAUTIFUL. STUNNING. GORGEOUS. LUSTROUS! This anime, by far, is the most beautifully animated series I have ever seen. It is a shining example of how 3D Animation is the future of anime. I have seen a lot of beautifully animated series in my life, but this one, in my humble opinion, out shined them all. It was easily the biggest draw of the anime. I can't ever remember a time where I would rewind just to watch a character run. But, the animation combined with the motion and camera angles made even running, a spectacular sight.
of the high level of animation, the battles were superb to watch. Especially in later episodes, as the protagonist, Phos, develops. Additionally, the character design was fantastic as well. The gems (who to me seem like girls, but are gender neutral) are all given these incredible hairstyles that are almost translucent. They were as beautiful as real gems to look at, especially Dia.
I also really enjoyed the unique premise of the anime, which as you know from the synopsis, follows 28 characters who live alone on the Earth fighting off the Lunarians who want them as decorations. This threat loomed constantly over the girls who were deeply bonded by centuries together. So, even though they were immortal, you still felt the loss if someone was taken, through the other characters. There is a mystery to this anime, that I can't wait to see unraveled in a season two.
However, that speaks to an issue with this anime that more and more animes are starting to have: Cliffhanger endings to seasons that don't give any kind of feeling of resolution. It hurts the story when creators look to angle for a second season by not properly wrapping up the first season in any meaningful way. What if you don't get a second season? Cliffhangers are irritating by themselves, but when done in lieu of any kind of ending whatsoever, it's deeply damaging to a series. This same thing is found in Land of the Lustrous. Either set up two main driving plots and finish one and leave the other for the second season, or just end the first season properly.
However, the creators got what they were looking for, because I enjoyed this anime so much, and I want to know what happens next, that I will definitely be looking out for season 2.
As far as the characters are concerned, I liked them all, with the exception of Bort. The supporting cast was filled with likable characters like Dia, Rutile, Alex and Kongou. But, Phos is easily my favorite character of the season, and the way this anime handled her maturation as a character was well done. You watch as event after event changes her in serious ways both physically and mentally. While physical changes in anime are regular, you rarely see mental changes in MCs that totally redefine the character. Most MC's finish with the exact same personalities that they started with, no matter what traumatic events or swerves they suffer. Not so with Phos. The changes to her mental psyche are a big part of the anime and an example of proper character development.
Outside of yet another cliffhanger non-ending, Land of the Lustrous was a fantastic anime, the beauty of which I can't stress enough. Definitely check it out.