Land Of The Lustrous – Complete Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 303 minutes approx.
Women are precious to us men but I’m sure they would be less appealing if they were actually made of jewels. An odd concept to fathom? Welcome to Land Of The Lustrous.
In a futuristic world lives an immortal race called the Lustrous, seemingly genderless people who are the living embodiment of the different gemstones. If their bodies break, they can be repaired. They live in peace on a remote island under the tutelage of a monk named Kongo, who also teaches the ones with the hardest bodies to defend themselves against attacking forces.
This is necessary as moon dwelling beings called Lunarians regularly invade their world to harvest the Lustrous to turn them into jewellery and other forms of decoration. The youngest Lustrous is Phosphophyllite – Phos for short – and as the most brittle she is not fight for battle, making her unpopular with her peers. Instead, Kongo assigns Phos the task of creating an encyclopaedia for the Lustrous which takes her on a unique journey.
Land Of The Lustrous is an ongoing manga created by Haruko Ichikawa, which has been running since 2012 and offers one of the more original premises in quite a while. In fact, the character designs of the Lustrous are so radical in that their hair shimmers with the same texture of their eponymous gemstones that it was felt the best way to bring them to life was via CGI animation.
Alarm bells might be going off at reading those dreaded words since CGI driven anime has been a polarising issue among the anime fandom. It has worked well enough in big budget films like Oblivion Island but for the more modestly funded TV shows, success has been rare. However, CG studio Orange have hit the right balance between CGI and 2D animation that we often forget the CG presence for the most part.
More on this later, as the visuals only make up a part of what this show has to offer. As mentioned above, the source manga is still going with nine volumes published thus far, and this single cour run only covers the events of the first five. The result is something of a sprint in terms of narrative and character development beyond Phos, although her mid-season change is alarming swift.
Phos is essentially every shonen hero trope in an androgynous body – the Lustrous dress in feminine clothes and have female hair styles and voices yet are non-binary in showing no outward features like breasts or male loins to quantify a specific gender – starting off as an ineffective outlier before becoming the all-powerful saviour of the tale. It’s a bit of a spoiler yet easy to presage from the onset.
Slightly ditzy, with a buoyant and playful personality, Phos is eager to join the defence leagues but she can’t even run without breaking a leg. She is frustrated at being given a menial task like writing an encyclopaedia and is mocked for it, but it at least makes her a friend in Cinnabar on the night watch. It takes a while for others to warm to Phos, like the aloof and tough as nails Bort but this is part of her journey.
Initially not a lot seems to happens as story progression is very “stop-start”, a possible casualty of condensing the manga material for a short run, with issues being resolved with some haste. The first turning point for Phos comes after being tricked by a slug creature revealed to be an Admirabilis planning to hand Phos over to the Lunarians to secure the release of her brother.
However, the Admirabilis attack the Lunarians and decide to save Phos, leaving her with some agate to build some new legs, which help Phos run much faster than before. Later, when Phos can’t sleep during hibernation she joins Antarcticite on duty, during which another Lunatrian attack occurs in which Phos loses her arms but this time with startling results that change not just her entire future but her personality too.
Unfortunately, it happens as quickly as it took me to type that sentence, which becomes the form for the last batch of episodes, hurtling through the storylines and belated info dumps on the background of the Lustrous towards the bathetic finale. It’s not just the Lustrous we need to learn about but the Lunarians as well – who they are, what they are, and why they are so hostile towards the Lustrous.
One rather glaring plot hole involves the taciturn Kongo, the lone male in this tale and controlling force over the Lustrous, all unexplained of course. He’s a man of mystery to the end but the biggest worry is that he is capable of destroying Lunarians with a click of his fingers Thanos style, yet he lets the Lustrous do all the fighting and only shows up when it’s hopeless? Why isn’t he teaching them his magic skills instead?
Generally, the storylines are quite intriguing but require more time to be explored, for which twelve episodes is insufficient. We are left with more questions than answers, and with no second series currently on the horizon, this is a frustrating way to leave things. But, making the journey a little easier is the aforementioned standard of the visuals, providing a positive outlook for the future of CGI anime.
The gamine, lissom figures of the Lustrous with porcelain faces and chunky, luminescent hair straddle a fine line between 2D design and CGI model, but on closer inspection. The rendering is much smoother. This also applies to the physical movements – the cast actually run properly here and not with weird flailing arms synonymous with anime, whilst the action scenes come alive through swooping cinematic camerawork.
Land Of The Lustrous shouldn’t live or die by it visuals and largely it doesn’t with some well thought out plots and curious premise, but the rushed nature of the storytelling and open end stops it from being truly exceptional.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Spanish Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animations
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – *** ½
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