By KAITLYN HENSON
First glances at “Land Of The Lustrous” and people would not assume much comes out of the story. The animation style is very different from other Japanese anime and this series gets called out for that despite not even watching it. But besides its differences from classic storytelling, “Land Of The Lustrous” could possibly be the most intriguing, most well-developed, breathtaking storytelling of 2017 (warning: there is going to be heavy spoilers for the anime if you have not yet watched it).
“Land Of The Lustrous” (also known as “Houseki no Kuni”) is originally a Japanese manga series created by Haruko Ichikawa and was first published in 2012. Its story based around a world of “gem beings” living peacefully on a deserted planet Earth with the wills of survival. Years after the release of the first manga in the series, anime television studio Orange developed a remake of the story into a complete CG anime series between October to December of 2017.
Its story is fairly interesting to learn about as you watch more of it; following the path of young Phosphophyllite (Phos for short) trying to fit in with the rest of the gems, and desperate to find some sort of meaning to their life (they are referred to as “they”). What I find most intriguing about their story is how much Phos actually changes throughout it, and it goes even further in the manga. Because they are gem people, they are able to break apart and be put back together again, while Phos is one of the weakest and one of the easiest to break (they can lose memories belonging to their missing pieces as well). Throughout the series, Phos ends up losing their legs, arms, head, and eye and had to replace each limb with a different material. Because losing your pieces means losing your memories, throughout time Phos was becoming a different person entirely, with their personality turning to an innocent young person to a broken, dark entity. And not only that, but the experiences and the struggles this unique character goes through at the exact same time changes Phos even more to a deceptive villain-character.
Firstly, their transformation starts to change ever since Phos wanted to help one of their fellow gem people, Cinnabar. Being isolated from the others due to the deadly poison they create, Cinnabar runs the night watch. Phos was devastated by this and decided to help Cinnabar find a more fun job to do. But they are never able to accomplish it after Phos loses their legs to the sea and doesn’t get in trouble for it by Kongō-sensei, the leader and the father-figure of all of the gem people. Not being punished for this weighs down on Phos’s shoulders, especially when winter arrives and that’s when the gems start hibernation. Phos, unable to sleep, is desperate to challenge themselves and is given permission by Kongō-sensei to stay up the whole winter with Antarcite, the only one who is able to withstand the winter conditions. All goes horribly wrong when Phos loses their arms to the ices hoes and must get new ones. Antarcite finds them a gold and platinum alloy but is soon attacked by the moon people. Antarcite is taken away by the moon people, which affects Phos’s mental state greatly. Phos changes the most in this chapter and becomes a much older, more restless person throughout the rest of the winter. At the same time, Phos experiences constant nightmares of Antarcite, which causes less and less sleep. Slowly Phos is turning to a depressive and tired state and still hasn’t made their promise to Cinnabar yet. After the winter everyone was surprised at Phos’s state, and of the loss of Antaracite. Not long after this, the moon people attack the school, but this time it’s a huge monster. But after all is settled, Kongō-sensei is the one who befriends the beast, which confuses Phos greatly. Slowly in time, Phos’s perspective of the moon people grows to Kongō-sensei, and they become suspicious of him. They even abandon their mission to find Cinnabar a better job just to find answers between Kongō-sensei and the moon people, which to me is highly out of character for someone who is supposed to be somewhat of the main protagonist.
But that’s exactly why it happened in the story. A lot more goes on in the manga with Phos beginning to hate Kongō-sensei and becoming so enraged to the point of confronting the moon people themselves and betraying everyone just to save the other gems that have been captured, including Antarcite. They even lose their head and replaces it with a head of Lapis Lazuli, who was manipulative and maintained some sort of evil side to them. This falls heavily on Phos’s character, leading to even working for the moon people and replacing their eye with a synthetic pearl.
I really wanted to shed some light on this intriguing story, mainly on Phos’s transformation from this spoiled, reckless child to this distinctive, manipulative, and possibly evil personality. So many things happen to this character in a short period of time, but the pain and abandonment left by their peers affect this young gem greatly. You can almost feel bad for them and feel every inch of scarring Phos has felt and experienced, from the broken promise to Cinnabar, to the death of Antarcite, and now the suspicions of Kongō-sensei and the betrayal to everyone. And above all that, losing so many of their memories that they’ve literally changed so much, I find that sort of character extremely interesting and very different compared to other main characters. Still, there are a number of protagonists who end up becoming villains in the end, but Phos, on the other hand, has possibly the best turnout of a despicable and broken personality I have ever seen in one story. And the thought of this series being incredibly underrated is critical to me! People should know about this story! People should know about Phos’s story! Above all, there is so much more incredible storytelling packed into this series than just this, so I highly, highly recommend that you check it out, because “Land Of The Lustrous” is truly a breathtaking sight to behold.