land of the lustrous

  • Genre : Drama, Action, Science Fiction, Symbolism
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: Orange


Kids are just the worst aren’t they? It’s always the youngest one’s that get in trouble and drag everyone else down with them. No matter how hard you try to keep them safe, they always end up getting hurt. And once you’ve manage to make them better, they go out and get hurt all over again. It’s like they never learn. And they’re always impatient, wanting to do things and try things, when you tell them it’s not wise. Then they give up way too easily. No matter how much you try to protect them, some bad things are always beyond your control and it’s the little ones that suffer. Then all you can do is try to comfort them. It’s always like that. You give everything you have and they end up questioning you. But what else can you do, you love them after all.

I did it again. I created one of those symbolic synopsis of the show that somehow manages to be misleading while giving pretty much no information. I’m sorry about that. I can do better.

In a distant future, on a world populated by sentient gem structures, young Phosphophylite wants to help her brethren in the fight against the Lunarians who harvest them for their beauty. Unfortunately, Phos is fragile and unsuited for combat so they must find another place in the world. Will this search for belonging reveal more than they ever wanted to know?

Land of the Lustrous ep1 (2)
shadows of birds over Phos is a recurring visual

Gosh, where should I start with this one. I guess we should get the easy stuff out of the way. If you haven’t seen Land of the Lustrous, you still may have heard that it is one of the best examples of CG in anime. I’m not entirely sure about that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good but I prefer Ufotable with it’s more judicious and blended use of CG or Oranges later offering Beastars, that was absolutely breathtaking.

The CG in Land of the Lustrous is good but does fall into the uncanny valley at times and movement is occasionally jagged. The said, you could argue that the odd rigidity of the character models is a choice and a smart one at that since they are in fact made out of mineral and a certain stiffness should be visible. But as it’s not completely consistent, it does break the illusion a bit.

The acting is similarly a little too deliberate for me. This time, I have zero doubt that it was a choice and I understand it. In fact, I will just say that this is personal preference. Objectively the acting was great and fit the tone of the story well.

And that is those are and only not great things I have to say about the production. The rest is stellar. The designs are fantastic. The music is amazing and the animation is impressive.

Land of the Lustrous ep8-12 (6)
showing animation in stills is tough

There is this great emptiness to the settings. Wide open fields, huge mostly empty skies, an unending almost barren ocean and a single spartan building. Normally I would clock this as a cost cutting measure but in Land of the Lustrous it was a symbolic visual element that had a visceral effect difficult to explain. That emptiness, those huge open spaces that reflected a sense of timeless and unchanging eternity. It was both pretty and lonely. A little frightening and yet ultimately devoid of purpose.  Haunting and sad and yet comfortable and attractive. It’s been a while since I got so much meaning out of the backgrounds of a series. The only ones that compare to me would be the Garden of Sinners movies and they didn’t do it as successfully or Shin Sekai Yori but those were more difficult to appreciate.

The character design can only truly be appreciated once they break. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. Even after watching 12 episodes in the span of 3 days, I wasn’t numbed to the impact of seeing a person shatter. And those flashes of bright shining iridescent colour on stark white just hold your eyes and refuse to let your attention wander.

Land of the Lustrous ep5-7 (8)
this will haunt me

And then there’s the music. This may be my favourite score ever. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a soundtrack full of bangers that you should listen to in the gym or something. It’s atmospheric mood setting music but it’s both odd and classical at the same time. It fills you with this sense of something huge and wistful happening at all times. And it’s just so pretty. Kudos to Yoshiaki Fujisawa, I think this is his best work to date.

Oh my…and that was the easy part. Even I’m a little weary of what’s to come.

Land of the Lustrous ep1 (6)
surely everything will turn out great

I’m not sure I’m able to review the story of Land of the Lustrous because you see, I don’t know what it’s about. I know what it was about to me but that’s almost meaningless. Fitting I would say since the search for meaning in what is an ultimately meaningless existence and the necessity of creating it for yourself is one of the themes that I associated with the series. But it’s not the only one and honestly, you could easily have the opposite reading. That existence itself is inherently imbued with a meaning that comes from something beyond oneself and one can only appreciate it through faith…

The fact that both of these readings sound true to me is what makes the series special. It’s strength is in it’s ambiguity and it’s capability of adapting itself to the viewer without loosing its identity. Because although the message may be completely up for interpretation, the series itself has a wistful yet loud and proud voice that is unmistakable.

Let me try something. I put off watching Land of the Lustrous for a long time because when it aired, it inspired all these beautiful essay like posts from more talented bloggers than me. I admired those posts a lot. And somewhere along the line, I got the impression that Land of the Lustrous would make me sad. I don’t particularly like being sad. I don’t have patient for drama for drama’s sake. I find that too often narratives will default to cheap tricks or manipulation to get an emotional response from the audience and those end up just annoying me.

Land of the Lustrous ep8-12 (37)
wait, hear me out

Still the unique premise and striking imagery compelled me to at least give this show a chance. It did make me sad. It also made me laugh and had me biting my nails in suspense. It made me scratch my head and desperately want to find out what was going on. It made me care for characters that were supposedly only bacteria and rocks and made me worry for people that cannot be killed. And it made me sad, in a way that made me feel human, and vulnerable and grateful. If dramas were all this nuanced, I would love them.

I find it difficult to think of someone who would not like this series. If the high concept open ended story isn’t your thing, then surely you’ll enjoy the cute characters and pretty colours. If the CG annoys you then the sound design might redeem it. There are moments of genuine silly glee that made me giggle out loud, moments of actual tension where I was scared for what would happen next and moments that were just devastating.

And best of all we get to see it through the eyes of a character that has one of the most intense growth spurs ever. So the vision of the world and the story presented to us grows and matures along with the protagonist giving us a narrative evolution that is hard to come by in 12 episodes. I’m saying I liked the show. I hope you like(d) it too.

Land of the Lustrous ep8-12 (23)
there really are a lot of impressive images

Favorite character: Rutile with Antarticite as a close second

What this anime taught me: Bort is the name for industrial grade diamonds. Cool.

“When I read about the evils of drinking I gave up reading.”

Suggested drink: Jewel

  • Every time Phos breaks – take a breath
  • Every time Phos gets called  by their full name – take a sip
  • Every time Bort gets mad – cower
  • Every time Rutile enjoys their work too much – take a sip
  • Every time Lunarians appear – take a sip
  • Every time Cinnabar gets tsundere – smirk with a sip
  • Every time anyone mentions inclusions – take a sip
  • Every time Seiki gets creeped out – sympathize
  • Every time Sensei looses his temper – cower more
  • Every time Rutile gets called a quack – raise your glass
  • Every time a new gem is introduced – take a sip
  • Every time you worry terribly – calm your nerves whichever way you think is best
  • Every time Sensei falls asleep – take a sip

Land of the Lustrous ep8-12 (9)

I’m going to try to give you an idea of the visuals but it’s a you gotta see it kind of show

8 thoughts

  1. This is one of my favourite + top-rated anime for a reason – it got everyone talking, you wanted to know what happened next, it was beautiful…it just ticks all the boxes without alienating too many people (unless you go into the debate of whether to use third-person “they” on the gems – there was at least one reviewer who used “she” for Phos, if I remember right). That shot of Antarc you put at the end, plus the matching song (Liquescimus), still haunts me to this day, despite me seeing spoilers on Anime News Network before I got to it – why do I have strong feelings about sentient gems that don’t exist? The power of a good series, I say.

    Protip: The OST is on Spotify… (hopefully this works without Akismet interference!)

  2. I actually liked the visuals for a full-CGI show. I’m… not fond of UFO table’s way of treating the camera – I noticed adverse effects as far back as Fate/Zero. (I don’t remember any adverse effects in Garden of Sinners.) Also, I can’t quite explain, but their faces stand out as comparitively coulourless? Not always, and not in every show. But I did notice that on occasion even in Garden of Sinners. Maybe it’s the mix? I’m not sure they have a full-CGI show; they might. Land of the Lustrous was pretty consistent, with me only ever seeing some movements that felt too mathematical. I didn’t think it was as great as people said back in the day, but it was still a personal benchmark for full CGI shows back then. They improved a lot for Beastars, and they’re now my definite favourite full-CGI studio. I’m not sure how much that matters, considering that I don’t like CGI and thus am not really part of the target audience.

    Your favourite characters are near the top of my list, too. Turns out, I’m also quite fond of toxic hermites.

  3. I remember seeing this once.. perhaps at a Con or something.. but I was really drunk. I remember a character shattering and me being like.. “Now is not the time to watch this”
    Maybe it was just Phos breaking.. seems the right colour.. I just have this brief memory. I think there were stairs in the scene.

    That is my only memory of this anime but this brought back that memory , so great job 😛

    1. Phos breaks a lot but she never quite shatters!
      Yeah – This may screw you up if you watch it drunk…

Leave me a comment and make my day!