Shelf Life
Land of the Lustrous

by Paul Jensen,

Hello, 2019! We're back to business as usual just in time for the first releases of the new year, so let's jump right into it. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Land of the Lustrous

On Shelves This Week

Dragon Ball Super - Part 6 BD, DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $44.98|$39.98
Currently cheapest at: $29.99 Amazon|$29.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Goku and the Z Fighters take on Merged Zamasu in a final confrontation before returning to the present to face new challenges.

Extra: All of the episodes in this set are covered by our streaming reviews for the series, and your can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.





Human Crossing - Complete Collection BD
Maiden Japan - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A variety of people ranging from champion boxers to ordinary salarymen take on the challenges of modern life.

Extra: You'll find some old reviews for this anthology-style series here and here, and it was also covered in Buried Treasure. It's available streaming on HIDIVE.




KanColle - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $21.72 Amazon

Synopsis: New recruit Fubuki joins her fellow fleet girls in an ongoing conflict against mysterious invaders known as Abyssals.

Extra: I wrote our episode reviews for this game adaptation back in 2015, and we also have a more recent review of the 2017 Blu-Ray release. You can stream it on Crunchyroll.




Mobile Fighter G Gundam - Part 2 BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 625 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $74.99|$59.99
Currently cheapest at: $48.13 Amazon|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Domon and the other members of the Gundam Federation prepare for a final battle to save the world from certain destruction.

Extra: We still don't appear to have any full reviews for this series, and its average user rating of 6.7 hasn't changed much since the release of the first half back in December. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll.




Pokemon Battle Frontier - Complete Collection DVD
Viz - 960 min - Dub - MSRP $54.97
Currently cheapest at: $35.98 Amazon

Synopsis: Ash and friends return to the Kanto region, where May seeks to participate in the Kanto Grand Festival while Ash takes on the Frontier Brains.

Extra: If you're counting along with the US broadcast structure, this is the ninth season of the series. You'll find it and others streaming on Pokemon.com.




Twin Star Exorcists - Part 4 BD+DVD
Funimation - 250 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $54.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.71 Amazon

Synopsis: As Rokuro and Benio head for their final battle, they must make difficult decisions after learning truth behind their origins.

Extra: This set includes the last episodes of the series, all of which are covered in our streaming reviews. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll.





Shelf Life Reviews

I took a look at Land of the Lustrous for this week's review, and I even managed to get through the whole thing without making a "diamond in the rough" joke. You're welcome.

While I can't say for sure, I imagine a fair number of people might have missed Land of the Lustrous when it first aired in 2017. It's one of those shows that doesn't immediately declare its target demographic, so it'd be all too easy to forget about it and stick to something more familiar or high-profile. I should know, because that's exactly what I did. Thankfully, working on this column occasionally gives me an opportunity to catch up on good anime when I miss it the first time around. Sure, “androgynous rock people fight silent moon ghosts” might be a tough premise to wrap your head around, but it turns out that Land of the Lustrous is a trip worth taking.

The story is set on an isolated island, which is home to sentient, humanoid beings made out of living crystal. While they're effectively immortal since they can be put back together after even the gravest of injuries, they live under constant threat from another species known as the Lunarians, who try to break them apart and harvest them like precious stones. Phosphophyllite, or Phos for short, is a particularly fragile gem who has been tasked with compiling an encyclopedia instead of fighting against the Lunarians. Phos quickly gets sidetracked from that task after meeting Cinnabar, a gem who patrols the island alone at night. Cinnabar carries a corrosive toxin and is therefore isolated from the rest of the gems, but Phos vows to find a more fulfilling purpose for Cinnabar.

While I normally wait until later in my reviews to talk about a show's art and animation, both of those are of particular importance in Land of the Lustrous. This is one of Those Darn 3DCG Shows, which typically come with caveats like, “If you can just ignore the clunky character animation, it's actually pretty good!” In this case, however, I feel like I can recommend Land of the Lustrous without any of those little qualifying statements. I've watched a fair number of CG anime over the years, and this the first time I've felt comfortable saying that this style of animation actually makes the show better. Whether it's the sparkling, translucent appearance of the characters' hair or the way they crack and shatter when they're injured, these crystal people might as well have been tailor-made to play to the strengths (and mask some of the weaknesses) of CG. Apart from a few brief moments of awkward motion, I was generally able to sit back and watch Land of the Lustrous without being distracted by any of the computer animation. The visuals look natural and intentional, and that's exactly what needs to happen if this technique is ever going to be viable from an artistic standpoint.

Of course, there's also a story and some characters lurking behind the headline-grabbing animation. Between the stark, otherworldly qualities of the setting and the non-human nature of the main characters, I'd argue that Land of the Lustrous feels as much like an old myth or fable as it does a modern piece of entertainment. You'll need a bit of patience to really get into this one; it doesn't fit neatly into any obvious otaku niches, and the questions it poses don't always come with clear or satisfying answers. Still, it's an enjoyable series to watch as long as you're willing to meet it on its own terms, and it feels fresh and creative from beginning to end. The writing touches on some intriguing themes and ideas, and the story takes Phos on a compelling journey from being the unreliable new kid to a tough but world-weary member of the team. It's quite a dramatic character arc, too; any strength Phos gains comes at a serious cost, and there are a few scenes that will absolutely break your heart if they catch you off-guard.

I do have a few gripes here, and most of them stem from the length of the series. At just twelve episodes, Land of the Lustrous is too short for the world it's trying to build and the story it's trying to tell. There are a lot of loose ends left hanging around at the end, including seemingly important characters who disappear after a few episodes and sinister secrets that are openly hinted at but never properly revealed. Even Cinnabar, who is supposedly one half of the show's central relationship, gets surprisingly little screen time. While Phos gets a full and satisfying character arc, the overall narrative feels like it's barely gotten through its first act by the time the final credits roll. Unless another season gets made at some point, you may need to look to the original manga for a proper ending.

This Blu-Ray release from Sentai Filmworks sits somewhere between a standard set and a full-on collector's edition. It comes in a steelbook case with a slip cover, and the cover essentially acts as a visual frame for the metallic box art on the steelbook. The overall effect is pretty cool, and it's one of the better-looking package designs I've seen in recent years. Sadly, the on-disc extras are pretty sparse, though there is a full Spanish dub along with the Japanese and English audio tracks. I went back and re-watched a few episodes with the English dub after going through the whole series in Japanese, and from what I can tell it's a solid production across the board. I also have to give both the dub script and the subtitle track bonus points for avoiding using gendered pronouns for the mostly genderless cast without being overly awkward or obvious about it.

Land of the Lustrous may be a bit of an acquired taste, as you'll need to give the story a couple episodes to get going before it really becomes compelling. Even then, it's the kind of series that you need to pay attention to and engage with in order to get the most out of it, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as easy genre entertainment. It is, however, a clever and compelling show, and it'll stick around in the back of your mind for quite a while after you watch it. If it flew under your radar when it first came out, now's as good a time as any to give it a shot.
-Paul[TOP]

That's all for this week. We got our first Shelf Obsessed entry in quite a while during the holiday break, so come back next week to check that out along with our next review. Thanks for reading!


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