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Land of the Lustrous

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2017); original title Houseki no Kuni. Orange. Based on the Manga by Haruko Ichikawa. Directed by Takahiko Kyogoku. Written by Toshiya Oono. Voice cast includes Tomoyo Kurosawa, Jôji Nakata and Chiwa Saitô. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

On an ocean planet with seven moons, there is only one small landmass on which live 28 immortal humanoid Gems. With their teacher, Kongou-Sensei (Nakata), they fight Lunarians who periodically come to abduct the Gems. Their toughness and character reflect that of their minerals: thus our protagonist, Phosphophyllite or "Phos" (Kurosawa), is very fragile, so unable to fight and – though somewhat callow, being the youngest at 300 years (the oldest is 3,597) – is seeking a purpose.

When a giant snail set loose by the Lunarians is defeated (after at one point temporarily swallowing Phos), its remnant is released into the sea, whereupon it transforms into an attractive and surprisingly mammalian jellyfish called Ventricosus (Saitô), who tells Phos of her peoples' (as she admits) "vague" legends that this planet was once inhabited by "humans" who fled into the sea when the six moons arrived: their flesh evolving into Ventricosus' people, their bones into Gems and their souls into Lunarians.

Subsequent conflicts with Lunarians make Phos a much more formidable fighter, as their legs and arms are replaced with agate and gold respectively to replace lost gem fragments: but they are also partially Amnesiac since Gems' Memories are stored in their minerals. Kongou is visibly startled when Phos happens to mentions "humans": realizing that Kongou is hiding much from the Gems, the now more mature and subdued Phos vows to find out the truth, even if it means going to the Lunarians. There the season ends.

The above description reads more as Fantasy than sf, but the Manga has taken the story further and revealed stronger genre elements. Ventricosus' legend, for example, is explained as meteors crashing into the Earth, their debris forming the extra moons; the Lunarians use advanced Technology; Kongou is an AI/Robot created by humans (and at least 10,000 years old).

The show effectively uses computer-generated imagery (CGI), with the resulting 3D artwork sometimes being breath-taking – particularly the appearance of the Lunarians, which is derived from imagery of bodhisattvas (Buddhist ideas are also used in the plot). The fracturing of Gems in battle also provides a degree of body Horror.

Gender-neutral pronouns are used to describe the androgynous Gems (this Anime depicts most as leaning towards the feminine; in the Manga many lean to the masculine). To address the pachyderm in the apartment: the manga first appeared in October 2012 and the pilot for Steven Universe (2013-2020) was broadcast in May 2013, so similarities are likely coincidental.

This is a particularly impressive anime whose cliff-hanger ending suggests that a second season is intended, though at the time of writing no announcement has been made. [SP]


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