Houseki no Kuni

Title:Houseki no Kuni
Land of the Lustrous
宝石の国
Overall:Rent
Keywords: , , , , ,
Notables: KOMATSU Mikako
KUROSAWA Tomoyo
The Houseki are semi-humans with the characteristics of gems--some are very hard and tough, others less so. They fight the Lunarians, who covet them as decorations. Phos is a relatively soft Houseki who is of little use in battle and has been consigned by their leader, Master Kongo, to compile an encyclopedia. She meets Cinnabar, a Houseki outcast, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship.

12 episodes
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent Stretch [series:3440#628]
(12 (all?) episodes watched):

This is a strange show, as you might have guessed from the synopsis above, and describing it is difficult. It seemed like total fantasy to me, but ANN says it is taking place here on earth at some point in the future. The show definitely deserves some points for novelty; these girls (Master Kongo, who is apparently a sort of monk or priest, seems to be the only male) are basically living gemstones. The concept of two losers striking up a friendship is kind of intriguing. But I was left too confused to enjoy this show as much as I might have. Why do these gemstone girls exist in what seems to otherwise be a pretty normal natural environment? How were they created? What, exactly, are their strengths and weaknesses? What can they (and can't they) do? Who are the Lunarians (and why do they look like Samurai era warriors)? At least the two main characters are introduced fairly well and seem likeable. But does their situation make any sense? It's not unheard of for an anime to have a bizarre premise--but it never really explains why that bizarre premise was needed, and why the largely same story couldn't have been told without it. After episode two and three (and a weird experience with a giant snail, of all things), I was left wondering if Land of the Lustrous might fall into that category.

I was thinking about dropping this show, but I watched episode four and it was better. We get a halfway decent explanation why a snail became involved, and what the origins of the Lustrous might be (but if humans have disappeared, what is Master Kongo? And why send out 'patrols' of these girls if he is so powerful against the Lunarians?). Perhaps I keep watching because the premise is so weird that I feel I must know what the explanation of it is. Phos has grown some personality over time (and so has Kongo), though Cinnabar, who it had seemed would be one of the main characters early on, has hardly re-appeared since then. The Lunarians are just as inexplicable as ever. Just a strange story that doesn't seem to worry whether the viewer understands it all that well, but is modestly interesting nevertheless.

Phos grows not just one personality but a second one as well, after she seemingly becomes brutalized by the destruction of a fellow gem girl. She has attained all sorts of fighting abilities and become a formidable warrior, but at a high psychological cost. She hasn't gone anywhere near insane, but something has definitely been lost. That is unusual and makes me curious. I had little idea what sort of conclusion we were approaching. Things take a strange turn in episode 11, which threatens to overturn everything we thought we knew about the good vs. evil struggle between the gem girls and master Kongo against the Lunarians. This show was widely named as one of the best of the Fall 2017 season by reviewers at ANN.

My response to episode twelve was 'Is that it? Is it over?'. My thinking as I watched was that surely a 13th episode must be forthcoming as Phos and Cinnabar agree to do something daring, and Master Kongo is about to tell Phos something that will no doubt be shocking. But the episode began without the usual OP sequence, which is usually a sure sign that this is the final one, and the page at ANN listed titles of only 12 episodes. Nor was there any message of a second season being forthcoming. Yet I was disappointed rather than angry. This show ultimately had such emotional depth to it that I feel that if it were to end right here it would still be a good show which was well worth watching. When you have built up that sort of creative 'capital' you can afford to have your conclusion be no conclusion at all.

Last updated Thursday, August 09 2018. Created Monday, October 23 2017.

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