Land of the Lustrous Series Review: Beautiful But Not Without Flaws

Overview:

Land of the Lustrous kind of took me by surprise during the Autumn 2017 season as its CG animation made it stand out from the crowd but for once in a truly beautiful manner. The story follows Phos, the youngest of a group of living gem stones who are hunted by Lunarians who wish to break them up and take them back to the moon. Phos, being incredibly weak, has no job or purpose though over the course of the season will undergo a startling transformation.

Review:

Previously I discussed Phos’ transformation as a character and the cost in a feature post because while watching this is the part that consistently stood out to. Phos wasn’t just bitten by some radioactive spider and then getting a training montage and poof, superhero material here we are. Instead, Phos’ personal growth and transformation are characterised by the extreme loss of identity and the pain that self-awareness can bring as well as the understanding that just getting stronger doesn’t mean things will work out okay. It is a powerful idea and one that is delivered in a glistening package.

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Land of the Lustrous was one of my favourite shows of the Autumn season because it felt unique. Part of that is because of the visuals and animation. These characters won’t be confused with characters from any other show (at this point) and the world they are in is truly vibrantly alive. However, I’m not enough of a sucker for pretty visuals that just looking sparkly and pretty would be enough to really capture my interest for the season. Phos was also a major draw as a character who started out semi-annoying but by mid-season had become one of my personal favourite characters of all time. But what really sells this show for me is that despite this really being Phos’ story, hers is only one story that is ongoing in this world and though we only see glimpses of the other stories when Phos’ journey intersects with the other characters, it all creates a sense that this world we are seeing is genuine and complex (even if a lot of the characters seem quite simple at a glance).

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However, that leads logically to the show’s greatest weakness and that is that 12 episodes barely scratch the surface of anything. The only real narrative arc that we’ve seen is Phos seeking and finding a purpose and while that was glorious it leaves the audience with so many unanswered questions about the gems and the Lunarians and the weird snail things that appear for about two episodes and then cease to have any presence in the story. Basically, this show is crying out for more. More time to develop these ideas and this world. More time for the story and characters to evolve and find their way. Just more of everything.

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And there’s a lot that this show has in it that you are going to want more of. The ridiculously cute moments between the pairs of gems or when they were chasing the 108 puppy things around are just adorable. While this might seem vapid in the context of the rest of the story it shows you how normalised the gems are to the events unfolding around them. They live a very, very long time and their lives have been fairly much stagnant. They throw themselves into these small moments of joy in a way that you would expect of a six year old to go from tears to full smiles in the space of handing them a chocolate anything (yeah, don’t let me baby-sit your kids, it will end with chocolate for sure – and tears but that).

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Then there’s the action sequences. Episode 10 in particular showed an extended fight sequence that crossed multiple locations and just found the perfect mixture of nail-biting tension and fantastic movement and fighting. But all the fights, as brief as some are, managed to impress visually and ramp up the tension of their episodes. Also, unlike so many other shows, our main characters are never guaranteed victory or protected by plot armour. Loss and failure loom large as themes and pave a lot the way for Phos’ transformation so you can never tell the outcome of a battle before it begins.

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The supporting cast are fantastic if slightly under-utilised and at this stage quite a number are still fairly background with little known about them. However, while the focus has definitely been Phos, other characters such as Bort, Dia and Cinnabar have all been given some decent depth as characters and Alex, Rutile and Sensei were starting to get a bit more of a look toward the end of the series.

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While the opening theme probably won’t be one you are going to bop along to, it fits the show really well and like everything else it is gorgeous to look at. The music and sound within the episodes is something really well integrated into the story and the ideas it seems to be trying to convey. There’s some heavy religious undertones at times and the sound direction (particularly when the Lunarians are on screen) most definitely reflects that. But even just the sounds of the world are beautifully portrayed and help to bring the setting to life.

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Basically I loved watching this. My only real issue is that it ends without resolving everything but it didn’t leave me howling in frustration either as it did bring Phos’ journey to a reasonable resting place. Please let there be another season of this and in the meantime I would definitely recommend giving this one a go when you can if you didn’t watch it while it was airing.

Episode Reviews:


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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15 thoughts on “Land of the Lustrous Series Review: Beautiful But Not Without Flaws

  1. Another show I really want to see at some point, but currently have no access to. It does bother me a bit that you say that in the end the series doesn’t seem to resolve everything, but the show sounds so cool, that I would be willing to take a chance on it. It’s just that I have now seen quite a number of animes that either don’t resolve anything of leave to much in the open in the end.
    Oh well..that said: I still think from everything that I have read here, that this is a series that I would highly enjoy 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was quite enjoyable to watch and a little bit different. And, at least Phos’ story seems to come to, if not a resolution, a decent point for pausing and reflecting. So if you focus on their journey, the story is pretty satisfying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hopefully there’ll be a second season to tie up the loose plot threads from this one. It’s been getting decent sales, and the manga got a huge boost when the anime started, so hopefully they’ll make another sooner or later.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found myself extremely bored during this anime. Now reading your review I want to give it another shot. I stopped on episode 6 and I appreciated the twists that came with the narrative but found the MC to be extremely annoying. I see that I probably missed out on her growth by stopping halfway which can always be a danger. It is a beautiful anime though. The hair is awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phos isn’t going to work for everyone. I didn’t much like Phos in epiosde 1 but they kind of grew on me and by the end of the show, I really appreciated the character journey they had been on. That said, if you don’t end up connecting with Phos, other than looking pretty, there isn’t a huge amount of appeal to this show.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully reviewed. I agree on all points, an excellent fantasy show hindered by its length.
    With shows like this I wonder whether it’s better to wait for more manga to be released first for a more satisfying show or whether it will get more longevity by gaining popularity now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m one of those who would prefer that they had a finished story before starting. I feel that pacing, foreshadowing and everything else works better if they know where something is going. That said, if there’s a plan for the source than it should really matter. The only question is whether we’ll ever get another anime series out of it or whether we’ll have to read the source.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do hope it gets another series because as much as I love the story, the characters and the world, I think it is also a really important step in animation for anime.

        All the CG animated anime I have watched before have been very lackluster and as they usually try and combine it with traditionally drawn anime it just makes it look even worse. Houseki no Kuni is really beautiful with a unique character design that has really captured the audience’s interest and I hope it paves the way for other series or even other studios to try different styles.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. While I still wouldn’t want to see all anime go this way, I think it certainly adds variety to animation styles and this anime managed to be really beautiful rather than an eye-sore as so many previous attempts at CG have been.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I apologize again for having to end my patronage for now. I need time to get out of debt. Once I’ve dug out of this hole, I’ll probably start supporting you in money again. In the meantime, I continue to read every post of yours (except for a couple I don’t want to get spoiled on yet!).

    Liked by 1 person

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