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.

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando)

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) 2019

As I’ve said before, I don’t mind being a year or two behind the pace when it comes to new shows because I tend to miss both the hype and the reactionaries.

However, I did catch on that a lot of folks enjoyed this when it came out, and I can now add myself to the ranks.

The Promised Neverland is edge-of-your-seat stuff, with memorable characters and formidable villans indeed, with a largely dormitory setting that manages to have enough variety to keep things interesting visually, but also, retain a heavy sense of claustrophobia, I reckon.

While it’d definitely be safe to say that this is a horror anime, and that it has a few other genres mixed in, I think psychological thriller/suspense is probably the one that jumps out at me. Very few characters have clear motives and it seems like everyone is, at one time or another, keeping secrets.

It was nice not to know exactly how something would play out, as well as be surprised a couple of times too. I can see how ‘Mom’ was voted as a fav villain and while I was hoping for a different resolution to her storyline, I remain excited for the delayed second season early next year.

I don’t want to write too much more, in fear of spoilers or hints, in case anyone is planning on watching The Promised Neverland but I will add that if you’re not keen on seeing kids suffer – a lot – then maybe give this a miss. Having said that, it’s not relentlessly grim… but it’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. Cool opening theme too!

5 Stars

(Mamoru Kanbe also directed ‘The Perfect Insider which could be said to be in the same ballpark re secrets, mystery and suspense).

Note: I should have mention before, but Sister Krone’s design is not great. She’s an actually character with a mini arc but design-wise, yeah, too evocative of minstrel shows.

The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru)

The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru) 2015

Okay, so in an effort to avoid spoiler-territory I’ve been wondering how to phrase what I guess you’d call a ‘content warning’ about this one – something you’d see on the cover of the DVD, basically. Here in Australia, my copy says that The Perfect Insider contains “strong themes and sexual references” but that’s not very specific, of course.*

Instead, I’ll note that while indeed there are certainly shows and films that are far more harrowing, The Perfect Insider is still concerned with the worst of humanity.

But in other ways it’s a classic murder-mystery that uses the “locked-room” premise to tell its chilling tale. What is a little different here is that the detectives aren’t in law enforcement and instead we’re solving the crime with a university professor, Sōhei Saikawa and one of his students, Moe Nishinosono.

I do like police procedural a lot but it’s also nice to have a break, though this isn’t Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove either.

Yet the story does take place in an isolated setting and the production team has to address mobile phones and their impact on isolation as a plot device, since as society’s technology develops, I guess writers have to spend more time closing it off in realistic manners. And, considering The Perfect Insider is based on a novel from 1996, mobile phones might not be the only changes you notice if you’re familiar with the book. (Having said that, I haven’t read the novel, Everything Becomes F, but I believe some of MORI Hiroshi’s other stories featuring the same characters have been translated into English.)

In my obsession to find links between texts I wondered if this sequence wasn’t a clear nod to Lum.

Hmmm, as seems to be normal for me, I’ve barely touched upon the actual series so far – so I’d better do that now.

The Perfect Insider has the pacing and character-focus common to a Mystery, rather than the action of a Thriller, and I know some folks consider the series dialogue-heavy but I really enjoyed that. There’s some fun verbal sparring between the leads too and all the way through I was quite curious about the central mystery, so that worked for me, as did the pay-off for the most part.

Visually, don’t go in to this anime expecting a lot of flashy things but I loved the colour and lighting throughout, the character designs stood out for me too and there are a few great sequences like this one:

The show can be a little gruesome, and while that aspect is not relentless, there is the element I alluded to at the beginning of the review to keep in mind if you’re trying to decide whether to give this anime a shot.

I suppose you could argue that there were a couple of detours that didn’t add a whole lot to the central questions but they are generally character-building. There was one POV choice that I think didn’t work and I’m curious about the novel there, but again, I won’t mention specifics here re: spoilers.

I could possibly watch The Perfect Insider/Everything Becomes F again in a year or two, just to see how many more clues and hints I can pick up on this time around. I reckon detective or mystery buffs out there will figure things out before I did, but as is often the case with a murder-mystery the question of ‘why’ can be more gripping than ‘who’ or even ‘how’.

4 Stars

*I could circle endlessly around what I want to mention, I guess. Ideally, I’d just write: “this is a great murder mystery but be aware that it contains [aspect]” yet I still think even that much would constitute a spoiler here.

Get ready for the 1990s to be echoed a little in the cigarettes
This shot was interesting as the composition hid nearly everyone’s faces – but it didn’t feel like a red herring kinda, “let’s cast suspicion moment” either.

The song for the end credits maybe doesn’t suit the mood but it is pretty great nevertheless 😀