Land of the Lustrous has become a sleeper hit this season, capturing fans' hearts and minds with its fantastical world and one-of-a-kind style of 3D animation. This week in anime, Micchy and Steve explore what makes this series such a gem.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Steve Continuing last week's discussion, Love Live! finally got a Ruby episode! I'll admit it took me a bit to get used to her new shinier hairstyle, but I—
I've just been informed by The Management that this week's column is on Land of the Lustrous, not Love Live!.
give me a moment to switch gears aaaaand
I see Steven Universe: Automata has you as much of a wreck as me after this last episode?
A BIT YEAH. I've been charmed by these cute rocks since week one, but I never expected the show to turn into such an emotional rollercoaster.
In hindsight, I should've expected lots of feelings after the first episode ended with Phos promising Cinnabar to find them something worth living for. But Phos's smug faces distracted me for a good while.
The show has always managed a deft balance of wacky humor and quiet melancholy, with Phos's antics most consistently lightening the mood. Which is why their tragic moment at the end of this week's episode hurts so much.
i miss these days
Phos is a neat character: dweeby, cheeky, and a bit of a lil shit, but also self-sacrificial to a destructive degree. I'm impressed by how well the show's balanced the different facets of their personality.
They're a sardonic little shit, and I love them. Phos is basically the gem version of Kumiko from Sound! Euphonium, down to sharing the same voice actress and facial expressions.
They're so earnest and desperate to be useful, to the point where they'll legit consider destroying their own limbs (and the memories held within them) to become like the harder gems. And every time Phos breaks, a little bit of my heart does too. ;_; But yeah, Phos is Kumiko reincarnated as rock candy.
The Lustrous, aka the walking talking gem people, aren't human, so they can survive as long as enough of their crystals are salvaged and brought back together. So Pho technically can survive having their legs and arms removed and replaced with other materials. But the real question that the show is beginning to propose is: how much can Phos lose of themselves before they're no longer Phos?
Ah, yes, the ol' ship of Theseus riddle.
Early on in the show, the prospect that Phos might have turned into a slug is played for laughs. But now such a radical change doesn't seem so unlikely.
Meanwhile we've got Antarcticite, who flips out when the moon people take chunks of their body, specifically out of fear that they will lose their memories of their supervisor Kongo-sensei.
Yeah! Even tho they're technically immortal, the gems still have a lot to lose of both themselves and their relationships with each other.
Since all the other gems hibernate during winter, Sensei's the only person Antarcticite ever interacts with, so every memory is precious to them.
I'm just...so upset. I literally spent the whole weekend thinking about Antarcticite.
It's something like a parent-child relationship, the way Sensei cares for them.
So when they're faced with the possibility that they might lose even a little bit of that relationship... ;_; Being Antarcticite is suffering, it turns out. Shit gets lonely when you only crystallize at subzero temperatures!
This serious soft butch mineral deserved so much more happiness. ;_;
THAT SCENE IS GONNA BREAK MY HEART FOR THE REST OF TIME
The show is gorgeous, especially when depicting rock body horror.
It's STUNNING to look at, arguably the finest 3DCG anime production to date.
It might even work better for it, at least in some respects. There's a really impressive use of perspective, lighting, etc. throughout, even if the character animation can get a little wonky. And I can forgive the awkward character moments since, y'know, they're rock people.
Besides, how can you fault the show for including this adorable bit?
One of my favorite details is how their translucent hair casts light on their shoulders. It's exactly the kind of effect that would have been near-impossible to replicate consistently in 2D TV animation.
I mean, I could post screencaps all day, it looks so good.
I could easily fill the rest of this column with LandLust screenshots, and I doubt anyone would complain.
The 2D-animated teaser for the manga a while back handled the crystalline look with sparkle effects. The glitter works for the style they were going for in that PV, but the translucency in the TV anime really is something else.
It certainly COULD have been done that way, but the dynamism that 3DCG allows Studio Orange to use to its fullest is consistently stunning to see. The action scenes are vibrant and full of dramatic camera movement, while the quieter scenes are flush with color, depth, and mood.
It also scratches my itch for waify people sword-fighting, which has gone largely neglected since Utena.
Now now, the show's not all about skinny rock people; the snail's got curves!
Ventricosus certainly echoes my thoughts on the Lustrous.
I will admit, it is a little amusing that the androgynous rocks all have such bubble butts, but that's neither here nor there.
It is an interesting point! They're canonically genderless, but their designs are undoubtedly more femme than masc, and they're all voiced by female seiyuu, so there is still that slant.
Gender or no, Phos is still hella gay for Cinnabar.
Crystal formation is gay culture.
But that aside, where do you see the story going from here? You're caught up with the English release of the manga, correct?
I've only read up to the first volume of the manga! As I understand, next week's episode should cover the very end of the third volume, so anything beyond that is not yet published in English. But yeah, there are A TON of mysteries surrounding the Lustrous, their Land, and Everything Beyond.
Everything we know so far about their world points to how friggin' amazing it is that they're even alive. They're born on a faraway shore, where most crystals shatter before attaining anything close to humanoid form, and even though they can technically live forever, they're still very much at risk of something like death. It's such a human show, it's killing me.
The story so far has been exploring very human themes, like love, the search for purpose, depression, family, selfishness, and so on, despite there being no "humans" (as we know them) in the show. It's looking at humanity post-humanity, and it seems like splitting ourselves into three different species hasn't done much to stave off our inclination toward war and selfishness. Even if it's unintentional, the remnants of humanity still shape this world. There's a hint that the Lunarians' goal might be altruistic, and that they're only trying to reunite humanity into one species again, but is literally tearing apart the Lustrous the best way to do that?
Not to mention how they literally brainwash and enslave the snail-people.
Also who even knows what Kongo's deal is.
Kongo's deal is "why are my kids like this jfc"
Land of the Lustrous: looking for humanity in the inhuman, and also dumb sight gags. How is this show so silly yet perfectly melancholic?
There's just so much care in how the world and characters are put together, shard by shard. It's in the grand fights against creepy Buddhist statues in the sky, but it's also in the small character moments like Diamond picking up Phos.
It's in the grand scope of the landscapes, but also in the small details, like the black mourning clothes they wear to fight, and the white wedding dresses they wear to sleep.
Or if we're taking an Eastern look at it, the white funeral shrouds they wear to sleep—folded right over left, the way you'd dress a corpse. Man, talk about winter and spring as death and rebirth.
The story is full of subtle wry commentary like that, which is why it's so fun to think about. But the core of everything is Phos's desire to change themselves so they can help others, and how their journey to do so will hurt them and those they love. Like their shattered limbs, it's as beautiful as it is tragic.
It's just so incredibly thoughtful and well constructed, really not like anything else in anime. Closest thing I can think of is Casshern Sins, which is all about robots contemplating mortality as they corrode and break down.
That's why this week's climax feels like a turning point for Phos. They're stronger than ever, but their cracks are larger than ever, now preserved in gold like kintsugi. :'(
The beauty of the irreparable, that's really what defines Land of the Lustrous for me. By which I mean destroys my heart. Look, I'm trying to keep myself from spamming cry emotes all over this column...
I don't know how much Phos has left to lose, both physically and mentally, but I have a suspicion it's only gonna get worse before it gets better. I'm rooting for them all the same.
Me too, Phos.
Well that's kind of a downer note to end on.
I'm sorry, it's 2017 and even people reincarnated as sentient rare minerals have depression now. Nothing to do but remember the good times and the good faces. Land of the Lustrous is a one-of-a-kind story and a one-of-a-kind anime. You owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
Just don't blame us if your heart comes back in a million pieces.
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