(This blog will avoid major spoilers.)
Houseki no Kuni, also known as Land of the Lustrous in English, is both a manga and anime adaptation. The manga is illustrated and written by Haruko Ichikawa, and the anime adaptation was produced by animation studio Orange. Here, I’ll be talking about the first season (and only season as of now) of the anime, though the mangas are most definitely worth checking out too! Before we begin, I think it would be wise to note that in the original Japanese manga, the gem characters are seen as genderless and are referred to with pronouns leaning to ambiguity, though said pronouns can also be seen as masculine. Despite the anime subtitles I’ve seen referring to the gems using she/her or he/him, this blog will use they/them to respect the original creator’s vision.
Plot + Overview
Houseki no Kuni is set in a world void of humans, the dominant species on earth being gems: crystals formed with humanoid shapes, brought to life and given sentience by the microorganisms thriving throughout their structures. For thousands of years, gems have been fighting against lunarians, beings with a Buddhist motif that descend to earth from the moon.
(Photo of lunarians)
Lunarians attack on sunny days, shattering gems with arrows and collecting their shards to turn into jewelry and weapons. The thing is, though- gems cannot die. No matter how many times a gem is shattered, their pieces can be glued back together and they’ll be good as new. The lunarians’s capturing of gems is as close to death as any gem gets, and it’s devastating, especially when they use weapons crafted from the shards of fallen comrades. Shards are collected in hopes of rebuilding those who have been lost. Phosphopyllite, also known as Phos, is the story’s protagonist. Out of the 28 gems in existence, Phos is the weakest, the youngest, and the only one without a job. Phos desperately wants to fight lunarians, going so far as to pester the gems who battle for their job, but Phos’ lack of strength, durability, and skill renders their dream impossible. The good news is that they finally get a job!
It’s filling out an encyclopedia.
Phos has no idea how to fill out an encyclopedia. They procrastinate and ask other gems what to do, but Phos finds their suggestions unhelpful. They try to fill it out, but it’s clear they’re doing the bare minimum, are absolutely lost, and don’t have any passion for it. The plot doesn’t stay on the encyclopedia for long, but it’s expansion into something much bigger feels well-done and natural. The encyclopedia leads to Phos running into an isolated gem, to which they make a promise they no idea how to uphold. The promise leads Phos to working harder, which leads to them going places and discovering things that make them question everything they know about the Lunarians. One of the things I love about this show is how it highlights the fact that all information on Lunarians is unreliable. The only thing the gems know about them is from engaging in battle, in which they very well could only be seeing what the Lunarians want them to see. Because of this, the story’s genre leads into mystery, but over all it’s wonderfully action packed and paced. The season is only twelve episodes, but watching them feels like two whole seasons or hour long episodes. I mean that in the best possible way, too- I got attached to characters, learned more about the world, and invested in the plot all in a short amount of time crafted to feel longer. I’m still in awe about how the writers managed to accomplish such a thing.
There’s a lot of characters in HnK, and I love so many of them! Kongo/Adamant (Name changes depending on the translation), Rutile, Cinnabar… for the sake of conciseness and leaving things for you to discover should watch/read this series yourself, I’ll only be talking about a few characters who I especially loved and showcase highlights of HnK’s storytelling!
Phos is a sassy, childish, energetic, and honestly a bit of a brat. Despite these qualities, I actually really enjoyed having them as the protagonist! They’re written in such an entertaining, kind of charming way, dramatic and in-the-moment. They remind me of a younger sibling! They may be annoying, but they truly don’t have bad intentions at heart. Phos grows so much over the course of the series, and despite how drastic this change is, it doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural. Phos’ priorities change, their role models become different, and their goals shift as they forget, learn, and experience more.
Before we get into the next characters, there’s something important to note; something I absolutely love. The gem characters all have qualities based off of their real life counter parts! The mohs scale is used to determine the strength of a gem. Real-life phosphophyllite ranks 3-3.5 on the mohs scale, so Phos’ hardness is 3.5 in Houseki no Kuni! This means they break much easier than other gems. Structure also plays a factor! If a character is a monocrystal, their body is more vulnerable to impact, as the one gem that makes up their body takes the hit. If a character is made up of multiple, tiny crystals, they can deal with impact better! One of the characters, Cinnabar, is also surrounded by mercury poison. Real-life cinnabar contains mercury! With that out of the way, we can move on.
Dia and Bort have to be my favorite character dynamic in anime. Both of them are diamonds, ranking 10 on the hardness scale and battling lunaraians for their jobs. They’re assigned partners in their job for the sake of efficiency and protection, and though both are forces to be reckoned with, Dia is much more soft spoken and kind whilst Bort is harsh and menacing. Bort tends to shout orders whilst Dia only listens. They think of each other as siblings, though Bort would deny it if asked, but their relationship is… wonderfully complicated. Bort is amazing at fighting, able to take down lunarians before Dia can even lift a finger. Though they’re both a hardness of 10, Dia is a monocrystal and Bort isn’t. When first looking at Dia you would think they’re someone who’s perfect, or someone who at least thinks they’re perfect, but Dia isn’t. They hate their weakness, and they hate how Bort does everything now. Dia is older, but Bort has surpassed them. Dia loves Bort so much, but- sometimes they think along the lines of “If only Bort wasn’t here…” Thinking such things makes Dia think they’re terrible, but they still dislike Bort. Since Bort takes the lead of all the fighting, Bort has come to think of Dia as a liability. Their dynamic is so complicated yet wonderfully done, and it feels so real- like this is a love-hate relationship I would see in reality. There’s one scene with these two that will never leave my mind; they’re so amazing.
The art in HnK is absolutely beautiful. It’s entirely animated in 3-D, something that a lot of anime fans instinctually side-eye. It’s hard to get an entirely 3-D anime to look right, expressive, and pleasing, and the immediate examples of 3-D in anime are of times when 3-D models stick out like a sore thumb against 2-D aspects. Houseki no Kuni, though- it grabbed 3-D animation and ran with it. Orange uses the 3-D medium to its fullest, most notably with the texturing and lighting of characters. Their hair shines and gleams like an actual gemstone, glimmering with light that flickers across their shoulders. Gold and mercury in their liquid form truly looks like shining liquid as well, beautiful yet fitting in with the surroundings. Dynamic shots are used in battles, too, but 3-D is commonly used for that. HnK gets full marks on expressiveness as well- the characters move with so much fluidity and life, and their expressions are well-crafted. They don’t look out of place and draw from aspects of 2-D animation, but incorporated amazingly into another medium. Below are some art examples, but there’s so many amazing shots- these are just images I could get online without giving major spoilers.
The music in this series is absolutely lovely too. The lunarian’s theme sounds so elegant yet imposing, and the themes over all sound so distinct. The soundtrack is definitely worth checking out.
Over all, I really love Houseki no Kuni! I 100% recommend the anime and the manga! Both have their own strengths, and the anime is pretty accurate to the manga with what they have so far. Unfortunately I’m unsure if there will be a season two of the anime, but the manga is still ongoing! Have a nice day!