It’s time again for another one of my Anime Challenge Weeks, this one actually being a real week. Seeing as it’s summer and I no longer have any responsibilities, I have shortened my Challenge Week time from two weekends to just seven days. Kicking off my first Challenge Week of summer is Wonder Week, the week of fantasy. To start it off, I watched Land of the Lustrous/Houseki no Kuni. This show was hyped up quite a lot last year for its use of CGI that was actually good. This is going to be one of my better reviews, as I am going to be going more in depth than usual on where this show was most strong and where it fell flat.
It is a world of fantasy. Gender no longer exists. Everyone identifies as rocks.
Welcome to the world of the Gems. Supposedly everyone is genderless (even though most everyone looks like young, flat chested girls with very nice butts). The Gems are very different from humans and fight against supernatural beings called Lunarians. The main character, Phosphophyllite, is left out of the fight due to being weak and clumsy. The story’s premise is very interesting and shows a lot of promise, but it ended up being an absolute mess. The plot had no structure. Every episode introduced more unnecessary subplots that were rarely resolved. I can only guess that the studio ambitiously believed they could get a second season and wasted their first season on world building with no plot that just becomes a convoluted mess of subplots. Characters and world concepts were introduced at random times and it really felt like they were trying to cover as much of the manga as possible by throwing things in. Also, due to most plots not being explained, much of what happens makes no sense. The series relies too much on its fantasy elements, expecting the viewer to suspend all disbelief and just accept everything that happens. For this review, I’m just going to go down the list of everything that stuck out to me in the story.
One thing that was always on my mind was the character of Kongo-sensei. If Sensei is so powerful, why do the Gems do all the fighting while Sensei sleeps half the time? Sensei constantly blames himself for the loss of Gems, when all he did was sit around doing who knows what while the Gems put their lives on the line.
The idea that memories are stored in different places of the body and can be lost because of that was very interesting, but all it did was create several plotholes. The most massive is that Phos should not have lost any memories of the ocean attack. By the time the Lunarians showed up, Phos had already lost their legs. Any memories of the attack should have been stored in another part of their body. Memories also seem to be randomly and arbitrarily stored in the body. I find it very convenient that losing both of their legs made Phos forget only the attack and one person. Even after losing half of their body, Phos still remembered everything important and only seemed to forget a few Gems and all of the history. One last plothole caused by this is that Phos remembered everything about Cinnabar, except their name. Most likely out of pure convenience. Phos forgetting CInnabar seemed to only be there for shock factor, since it turns out Phos continued to have not forgotten anything important.
It is never really explained what Inclusions are. I understand that they are in the Gems bodies and decide whether or not they are compatible with a certain material, but I don’t know why or how. This lack of explanation causes Phos’s alloy to make no sense either. Why did it act on its own in the beginning and what gives it its stretchy properties?
Adding onto the alloy, Phos seems to conveniently have different amounts of alloy at their disposal when the plot calls for it. There is a scene when fighting Shiro that Phos says they’ve run out of alloy, even though they’ve clearly been shown to have much more in other scenes. This is only done to introduce Alexi’s condition, which is completely pointless and is a nonsensical plothole on its own.
Shiro was never explained, so it makes no sense why he split into tiny Shiros or why he suddenly disappeared.
It is mentioned once that a Gem can cut off their hair and use it to fill in parts of their body. This is interesting but creates a big plothole later on. I’m going to take a second to first say that the introduction of Padparadscha was out of place and completely pointless. Seriously, I get to the last episode and I’m thinking hopefully this show can at least end nicely but noooo it has to bring up yet another out of place subplot that ends up creating more plotholes. The idea behind Padparadscha is that they were out of commission due to several holes in their chest. What else does Pad have? More hair than any of the other Gems! Why did they never think to use Pad’s excess of hair to fill up their holes??
This is a small plothole but it completely baffled me. How the hell can Cinnabar blush?? They are rocks! There is no blood in them for them to blush with!
My last nitpick isn’t really a plothole, just really annoying. What is Sensei’s secret? It’s obvious that the studio was trying to get a second season and decided not to reveal that secret, but I honestly can’t understand how a series as convoluted and messy as this one could possibly get a second season. And if it does, the travesty that this first season was is enough to keep me from ever touching another season. Final score for the story: 3/10
The animation is really the only aspect of this series that was done well. Due to the 2016 reboot of Berserk and other horrible uses of CGI, this type of animation has gained a very bad rep in the anime community. Many people automatically think that any CGI is bad CGI. Houseki no Kuni proved everyone wrong. Using CGI fit very well with the series. It gave the characters a depth and shine that made them really look like gemstones. The animation is consistently fluid and beautiful. I also think the directing was excellent, especially in the Shiro and Dia chase scene. By using very few cuts, the viewer is fully immersed in the action. The fight and chase scenes were thrilling and probably the best point of the series. Final score for animation: 9/10
The idea behind the characters is fairly interesting, but unfortunately has been scene in other popular shows like Steven Universe. Each of the characters is based off a different gemstone and their character design reflects that. While the cast is very diverse, every character is extremely one dimensional. Each Gem’s personality can basically be summed up in one word. Dia had the deepest character, but that’s not really saying much. They are mostly presented as an airhead, but they are later shown to have a lot of internal struggle when Phos teams up with Bort. For everyone else, there is little to no character backstory. Most of the character development feels forced, especially Phos. The change from useless troublemaker to stoic MVP was enough to keep me interested but in hindsight was not handled very well. I can understand what caused Phos to change, but it felt too sudden and extreme. If Phos had been changing gradually over the course of the series, it would have felt much less forced. One last thing, since I’m not really sure where to put this. Phos and Cinnabar are the only ones shown in the opening, even though Phos completely changes halfway through the series and Cinnabar remains just as minor as anyone else. Final score for characters: 5/10
The soundtrack was mostly unremarkable. The opening did a good job of setting a tone for the series, but the rest of the music was very generic. It felt like a copy paste of any other soundtrack out there, with some tracks sounding exactly like other popular ones. Not much to say here. Score for soundtrack: 2/5
The art here goes hand in hand with the animation, also being very well done. The character designs do an excellent job of matching the characters. It is all very colorful, shiny, and appealing to the eye. Characters like Shiro and the Admirabilis were extraordinarily designed and added to the fantasy feel of the series. Score for art: 4.5/5
Now we get to a new category just for this week. How good of a fantasy was the show? For Houseki no Kuni, magnificent. This has one of the most original and intriguing fantasy worlds I’ve seen in a very long time. Nothing in this world is like ours, and it makes you want to explore more of it. Unfortunately, the anime spent so much time building up its world that the plot was thrown under the bus. The plot felt like it would become whatever it needed to be just to explain more of the world, and even though that made the story a complete mess, it gave us a beautiful and fascinating world that I am not going to forget for a very, very long time. Final score for fantasy: 10/10
In the end, I have mixed feelings about Land of the Lustrous. As a fantasy, it is excellent. But it hardly has a story and I got to a point where I couldn’t really focus on the show because of how much I had to keep track of all the plotholes. I was disappointed and not disappointed at the same time. If this series had not done something as bold as it did, it would have been a massive failure. The use of good CGI is the only thing that kept the show from crashing into the ground. Final score for Land of the Lustrous: 6.5/10
As always, thank you for reading my review. Coming up next for Wonder Week is another show that has been hyped up the wall, Overlord. I’ll see you all then!