Land of the Lustrous is a Fall 2017 anime primarily rendered in CGI. It is based off the manga of the same name by Haruko Ichikawa. The series follows jewel people in a seemingly otherwise uninhabited land as they struggle to survive constant attacks from Lunarians, their enemies from the moon. Land of the Lustrous is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Who It’s About
The cast is comprised of humanoid gemstone creatures, most distinctly feminine in appearance but all genderless. (You know. Because they’re rocks.)
Each character’s namesake is their comprising mineral. For example, Amethyst is made of, well, amethyst. And Cinnabar is made of Cinnabar. You get the idea. These gems live on the remains of a future Earth, seemingly the dominant organisms of the land, each performing an assigned duty under the watch of the fatherlike Master Kongo.
often paired together for patrols, but the brash Bort has become more independent as a result of their own talent, insisting that Diamond need not fight, as they will only be a hindrance. Realizing their inferiority, Dia continues to work at finding ways to be useful to Bort and the others.
Besides these four jewels, there are several others, each with a unique personality and story. However, most of these characters’ are only hinted at, as this season focuses primarily on Phos. Master Kongo, despite not being a jewel himself, serves as the jewels’ mentor and protector, helping them survive in the face of attacks from the Lunarians. He possesses great power able to wipe out Lunarians in a second, but he is prone to weariness, leaving the jewels to fend for themselves at times.
What It’s About
For centuries the jewels have lived in fair solitude, though that is only in regards to their own land. Lunarians, creatures from the moon, constantly descend and attack the jewels, as they are fond of their colors and properties and enjoy using them for luxury adornments and weaponry. Many jewels are given the task of patrolling the land to watch for sun spots, which signal Lunarian attacks.
The story follows Phos and their coming of age story as they grapple with their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Phos dreams of helping battle alongside their peers against the Lunarians, but is not allowed to due to their fragile nature. Sensing Phos’ desire for a job, Master Kongo finally tasks the young gem with creating a natural history encyclopedia of the land, ordering Phos to catalogue both the known and the unknown. This seemingly mundane task leads Phos to develop a friendship with the loner gem Cinnabar, who they ask for assistance, and also brings them to discover secrets about the land they live in.
Who It’s For and Isn’t For
- Anyone disappointed by the CGI in Berserk 2017 that can appreciate well-executed CGI — seriously, this is some beautiful animation and composition
- People who enjoy stories more focused on characters as opposed to plot
- Viewers fond of subtle mystery elements or interestingly-choreographed fights
- Steven Universe fans, though the similarities are only surface-deep
- Anyone looking for a complete story that wraps up neatly
- Fans of linear storytelling
- People who prefer fleshed-out antagonists
- CGI haters
- People with low tolerance for pouty, impulsive, and self-absorbed characters (AKA Phos)
Ultimately, while this is a gorgeous and unique show, it is not for everyone. It takes a couple episodes for it to find its sea legs, and even then a lot of what happens is not really explained. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and just accept the events of the show point blank, you’ll probably have a good time following Phos on their journey of maturity. But if you’re looking for a show with more concrete rules and lore regarding its world, this might be a bit too frustrating for you.
There’s no question this show is an important milestone for CGI animation, but that doesn’t instantly makes the rest of its contents palatable to everyone. Tomoyo Kurosawa delivers an outstanding performance as Phos, adding in small groans and gasps that are all distinct in sound, and the score itself contains some appropriately eerie tracks, but the plot is not given quite the amount of time it needs to completely stick a landing of any sort. Actually, by the end of the show, I’d say the landing is not even on the horizon and that the story is still very much in the leaping phase.
Land of the Lustrous is something of an acquired taste — you have to be willing to swish it around a bit first, but anyone able to tolerate its unique flavor will likely walk away quite satisfied.