#1 Amazing CGI
I have said some harsh words about CGI in anime, but in my review of The Magnificent Kotobuki, I expressed that I felt CGI could be done well, so long as it isn’t in the hands of Gemba.
Land of the Lustrous comes to us from Studio Orange and it is gorgeous. CGI is used to great effect to create a unique artstyle with characters that look vibrant and unlike anything else in anime. Their movement also feels right and the CGI lends itself to big action scenes with impressive visuals. I was especially fond of how characters break apart and crack when struck, it’s a really cool effect.
Land of the Lustrous constantly reminds you that it’s not a conventional anime, but it completely eclipses the likes of Kotobuki or the Berserk remake that try the same, without any of the misplaced pride.
#2 A mysterious world (of gems)
Land of the Lustrous has an interesting story and one that I hope will receive some follow-up, as this 12-episode anime, admittedly, leaves its storyline unfinished.
The main characters in this show are all themed after gems and minerals. There are a group of girls who reside in an old academy and serve an enigmatic, priest-like man only known as “The Master”. Their lives are constantly threatened by an alien force known as the Lunarians, who hunt these gem-girls down to turn them into weapons and, allegedly, decorations.
The Lunarians are an interesting foe. They are beautiful and elegant, almost angelic, but they are so enigmatic and unknowable, their actions so seemingly pointless in their cruelty. Some entities like The Master and a third race briefly encountered early in the show seem to have some greater understanding of them, but are cautious about sharing this information.
The girls themselves are likable and well-designed, but it’s eerie to think that they fight a daily battle just to survive and there only a few dozen of them left for this purpose. It’s subtly macabre to see them shattered into pieces during big battles and harvested like a crop, or to see the girls happy when they defeated a Lunarian who used weapons made of gemstones so they can put a bit of their friend back together. Even when shattered into tiny pieces and turned into arrowheads, these girls are still technically alive.
I got very interested in the lore of this show and its interesting characters. The plot even develops a bit of intrigue towards the end, which is another reason for why I’d like a sequel.
#3 Phos’ character development
Phos is a useless gem. Her hardness is negligible, so the slightest bump is prone to shattering her into pieces, leaving her without any combat potential whatsoever. She is also clumsy, lazy, and confrontational, so she doesn’t have any job to do and isn’t taken seriously by her peers.
I was initially surprised with her popularity online, until things went horribly wrong. Despite being only 12 episodes, a lot happens throughout the story and a lot of it begins to scar Phos mentally and physically. This leads to a very tragic tipping point midway through the story that I do not want to spoil, after which Phos is never the same again.
The Phos that emerges from this was an amazing character and made the second portion of the show feel completely different. And, what I really appreciate here, is that this change is constantly acknowledged. Characters have different reactions to Phos’ transformation and she herself struggles to cope with the trauma she endured as part of her character arc.
I addressed in a recent article how too many shows treat their big emotional moments as fleeting, but Land of the Lustrous does this perfectly and that gave me tremendous respect for its characters and story.