Land of the Lustrous
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Land of the Lustrous ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Land of the Lustrous ?
At its best, anime can offer us innovative concepts that stretch our imaginations. Land of the Lustrous drops us into one wild premise: “what if rocks were people?” It's a neat blend of science and fantasy, where humanoid denizens retain the exact properties of their gemstone counterparts: their color and opacity, their desirability to be carved into jewelry, and most relevant to the plot, their hardness on the Mohs scale. It's a fantasy that retains just enough truth to lend credibility to its world-building attributes, creating the type of environment that readers will want to stick around in, at least until they discover all its secrets.
Episodes one and two are each named after characters: “Phosphophyllite” (or Phos for short) and “Diamond,” but this early on, it's not the characters compelling me to keep watching, but the world itself as a whole. A uniquely polished CGI style renders this world of ever-present beauty and lurking danger in full detail. From the sun glittering on the ocean to the light filtering through the gem peoples' hair and dappling their shoulders, there's beauty everywhere. Even the Lunarians, who emerge angelic from golden clouds to hunt the gems for jewelry, appear as statuesque gods. As Phos complains about the mundane (or so they believe) task of creating an encyclopedia of everything in this land, I am immensely jealous at the opportunity to observe and document each gorgeous phenomenon.
Our story begins in media res. The gems have been fighting for their lives against the Lunarians perhaps since their creation. Their sword-based fighting style looks great in CGI, with slow motion choreography that accentuates the gems' elegant combat. Everything's well-animated and the lore is at once beautiful and mysterious, but I'm still having trouble relating to these characters at this point. Their saving grace may be how they relate to one another, as the gems we've met seem to be coupled off. And while this society lacks a concept of gender, it certainly retains an idea of love. Diamond and Bort (a type of industrial diamond used for manufacturing) have a fierce, protective bond that Diamond speaks overtly about to Phos. Later, when Phos is in a critical situation (were it not for episode two, we might think it was their final moments), they think only of Cinnabar, the other loner on this island that they had started developing a deeper relationship with. I was less concerned about losing Phos than I was about losing a potentially strengthened bond between Phos and Cinnabar. If anything's piquing my interest about the gems themselves, it's their clear interest in one another.
Relationships take time, but the real pull comes from the way that Land of the Lustrous unravels the mysteries of its world in tantalizing morsels. Paired with the lore at the beginning of the second episode, a new Lunarian weapon seems to hint at answers to these questions at the bottom of the sea. There are so many perils out there for these gems, who are constantly being splintered, shattered, and repaired once again. How has this fragile race survived this long, and how did they learn to heal themselves? Where do the Lunarians come from, and how did they find this place? Is this simply a battle of attrition that will go on forever? Even if this show hasn't proved itself yet, these are the questions worth sticking around for.
Land of the Lustrous is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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