Land of the Lustrous – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Phos, the youngest Houseki, must create an encyclopedia of natural history in a risky world where Moon Dwellers hunt their kind. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
*It came to our attention after the original copy was written that the Japanese terminology used to refer to the characters, and the way they talk to each other, implies a more genderless form. The implication being that while the characters have a slender, female-ish appearance and voice, they are meant to be androgynous in nature. To reflect this the review has been edited to refer to the characters without male or female pronouns.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Land of the Lustrous is the 2nd of this Fall’s full CGI anime outings. And it looks amazing. There’s a beautiful art style here depicted via CGI, exuding elegance in its background design and character art.
Linny: The animation is definitely impressive for anyone willing to give CGI a chance. The Houseki, crystalline beings, have very interesting designs with hair that resembles something gelatinous and fun. However, their bodies are all very elongated and lanky, which makes them look awkward in certain shots, though that could come down to a matter of personal taste.
Tom: Land of the Lustrous gives itself the arduous task of establishing its unique and other worldly reality. The story doesn’t take place on Earth as we know it, nor with humans as our central characters. There’s a lot here that requires explanations as the concepts are so foreign and removed from reality. Land of the Lustrous largely succeeds, managing to balance its heavy exposition with visual information, and a bit of character exploration, allowing audiences to come to grips with its foreign ideas and unusual concepts. That said, the character work leaves a lot to be desired, and is the show’s true failing.
Linny: It’s fascinating to learn of this unique world occupied by 28 androgynous humanoid beings, who turn out to be crystal based beings, apparently semi immortal, in that they can be revived so long as enough fragments of their crystal bodies are retrieved. The reveal of this knowledge in done in a manner that is both shocking and attention grabbing. And even the Moon Dwellers, the beings hunting them down, are equally fascinating to look at with designs and appearances that ape the sculptures of gods and goddesses from past real life civilizations.
Tom: Turning our attention to the characters, Phos, a plucky teal hair colored Houseki who’s weaker than the rest of the flock, is exceedingly obnoxious. Phos expects greatness without the effort, and while that’s somewhat relatable, they exhibit few, if any, redeeming qualities, making Phos a chore to root for. It doesn’t help that another of the Houseki to receive focus, Cinnabar, is angsty to their very core. Cinnabar’s dialogue is all kinds of cringe, more off putting than endearing or heart breaking as they wail on and on about how there’s no place in their society for them.
Linny: If you’re someone who’s long left their teen years, ‘the age of angst’ behind, you’re going to struggle to connect with Phos or Cinnabar. Phos is such a nuisance, shown to often be a hindrance, preoccupied with getting a ‘cool’ job than being an active, contributing member of the clan. Even when Phos has a bit of a redemption plot line, it isn’t near enough to wipe out all their earlier behaviour. And Cinnabar’s angst and frustration with their own life is so extreme that Cinnabar actually voices their feelings of jealousy that Phos was attacked by Moon Dwellers instead of them as Cinnabar’s been trying their best to get abducted by the enemy and failing. The heavy handed and extreme personality flaws of the Houseki really hinders any potential drama and tragedy, likely to drive away rather than engage an older or mature audience.
Tom: Despite it’s character trouble, Land of the Lustrous looks to be exploring a wealth of individuals, as there are 28 of these precious stone based characters. My hope is, with focus pulled from Cinnabar, and Phos’ character journey changing them, perhaps the characters will become more bearable, or even appealing. Couple my hopes with the intriguing world and attractive art style, I can’t help but be optimistic for this series.
Linny: Here’s to hoping that the introduction and change of focus onto other Houseki, besides Phos and Cinnabar, will be Land of the Lustrous’ redemption as the show boasts such impressive visuals and a world that’s engaging both visually and conceptually that it would be a shame if the show failed due to a weak cast. If you’re open to CGI animated shows set in unique, non human worlds, give Land of the Lustrous a chance.
Land of the Lustrous is available for streaming via Anime Strike.