Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni)

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni) 2017

Land of the Lustrous seems to be cited fairly often as a show that can change minds when it comes to anime and CGI.

I guess I’m fairly hard on CGI that I feel isn’t integrated all that well with trad techniques in the anime world, but I wouldn’t consider myself as the sort that would instantly dismiss a text due to its use of CGI either.

All of which is to say that I didn’t need convincing 🙂

The blend is great and so visually Land of the Lustrous is beautiful – the colours are vibrant and the ‘shatter’ effect is heaps of fun. Having comparatively less detailed backgrounds and settings really added to the contrast too, from the grass, to the sea and the snow. I felt bad kinda looking forward to how (visually at least) each stroke of misfortune might end up looking for the characters.

Others have said more interesting things about the visuals than I have and I doubt I’ll add anything ground-breaking about the story or characters either, but while the anime features lots of action-sequences, Land of the Lustrous is definitely character-driven.

Everything revolves around Phos and her struggle to find purpose. Many of the disasters that strike her community (generally a cyclical war between three cultures) come from her failures, choices and desire to do what’s right.

Creator Haruko Ichikawa has also given Phos plenty of great lines when it comes to injecting the comedic element, which definitely kept me smiling.

There’s also clear development for our lead character too – actually, let me pause for a sec. I’ve said ‘her’ before but in fact, Ichikawa describes the gems as being genderless and suggested as much to the translator for the English release, so it’s they for Phos and co, and maybe sometimes in the original some masculine pronouns are used too – but my Japanese is non-existent, really, so I can’t be sure.

If you like a mystery woven in around an interesting and (for now?) narrow setting, then Land of the Lustrous should also satisfy on that level. I don’t want to go into too much detail now, due to my usual fear of spoilers, but I’m keen for a second season so I can learn more!

And not just about the main storyline and the history of the gems, or the master’s connection with the invading Lunarians, but also folks like Padparadscha who I hope has a main role in the future.

Not sure whether Orange have more Land of the Lustrous on their plate for the near future, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

5 Stars

Cool hair – so much of anime is about hair, I think.
I guess (visually at least) ‘LotL’ has some fanservice re: costume and framing, but it’s not really the focus overall.

Appleseed (Appurushīdo)

Appleseed Appurushīdo (2004)

Okay, so it’s going to sound like I’ve got an axe to grind when it comes to early CGI… and maybe I do, I guess?

I do remember being thrilled with the visuals when Appleseed (2004) was brand new but the work of such early innovators is sometimes sorta ‘punished’ when the industry develops and we look back, which is a bit of a shame because it’s still put together so well – the opening sequence is a nice example of this I reckon.

However, when I look back on this particular version of Shirow’s magna I still find myself preferring the 1988 OVA. But in 2004, you still get great fight sequences and a fair amount of time devoted to the problem of the bioroids.

There’s also some conspiracy elements and backstory-surprises in there, along with the other classic cyberpunk tropes, but the big finish with the tank attack allows the filmmakers a chance to evoke some powerful Godzilla-like moments and really amp up the sense of doom.

To get an idea of what I mean by Appleseed’s ‘dated’ look (if you’ve never seen this film) the whole thing used to be on youtube, so you can certainly see the early/cel-shaded (and still pretty smooth overall) CGI animation in action if you like.

3 Stars

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Inosensu)

Following up a landmark work like Ghost in the Shell (1995) surely would have been daunting – and maybe exciting too – even for an ace team that worked on the first film.

And if you’re thinking of watching Innocence, I reckon you’ll quickly see where this one takes a lot of steps to both differentiate itself from its predecessor while at the same time feature enough links to the past to satisfy most viewers.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Inosensu) 2004

The first thing I noticed was the colour palette – while GITS used lots of blues, greens and white throughout, Innocence relies on browns, orange and yellow quite often.

The other obvious thing fans of the original will notice is that CGI is fairly heavily integrated to the 2D animation here. For me, this is a bit of a deterrent actually, as I feel too much of that early-2000s CGI just doesn’t gel as smoothly, at times looking a bit like game graphics rather than feature film visuals.

Of course, that’s a little unkind – it’s still arresting imagery. And often the shadow and lighting are fantastic from scene to scene, and while things like the super slick cars stand out, the parade scene is truly stunning.

However, since the storyline didn’t grip me as I thought it would, I found myself more inclined to focus on the visuals and thus notice when they didn’t always feel ‘right’ compared to what I’m used to with newer film.

Still, it was fun to see returning characters – like Togusa (Kōichi Yamadera – who you may know as Spike from Cowboy Bebop) and of course, main character Batou (Akio Ōtsuka, who I recognised as Captain Nemo from Nadia).

And where the story falls down a little for being a somewhat like collection of impressive scenes rather than a driven cyberpunk/thriller narrative, there’s still something compelling about Batou’s morose determination – though I wished we’d seen a little more of him post the climactic scenes.

If you’ve never seen Innocence maybe consider doing so; because while I don’t think it’s a classic, there really must have been a lot of love and labour put into this ‘stand alone sequel’ (as Mamoru Oshii intended), and not just due to the budget.*

3 Stars

*You might notice Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki in the credits – I believe he was contacted to help finance the film’s giant budget 🙂