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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 1: A Visual Feast
- Episodes 2 + 3: It’s Like Someone Broke My Pet Rock
- Episode 4: As Much As Things Change, They Stay The Same
- Episode 5: We Can Rebuild Her
- Episode 6: Not Yet Enough
- Episode 7: Poor Phos
- Episode 8: Phos is Golden
- Episode 9: After Winter Comes Spring
- Episode 10: Bort, Phos & Dia
- Episode 11: I Hate To Say Anti-Climatic But…
- Episode 12: Phos’ Resolve
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