Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Land of the Lustrous
Anime Studio: Orange
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Fantasy
Released: May 6th 2019
Language: Japanese, English, Spanish
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Disc Credits and Trailers
No matter what the odds, life will find a way to continue, with young Phos and the other gems as the ultimate proof. Instead of flesh, their bodies are made of living crystal, allowing them to survive in a world too toxic for any human. But their gem bodies also attract a terrible danger: the Lunarians, who hunt the gems and use their shattered forms to fabricate jewellery and ornaments. The gems with the strongest forms defend the others, but Phos is too weak and brittle to fight. Instead, Phos is ordered to compile an encyclopedia; but could that research discover hidden secrets that could help the gems? Join Phos, the toxic Cinnabar, the powerful Bort, the valiant Diamond, and others in a glittering world unlike anything you have seen before.
Longtime readers will know that I’m quite mixed when it comes to CG in anime. As a general rule, if it’s inserted over the top of traditional styled animation, it feels jarring to me, but full-blown CG can be fine if the quality is good. Orange are a studio that focuses on CG animation and have quite a heritage in it. For one, they worked on the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. So, does all that history in working with CG translate to a decent release here? In a word, yes.
Orange have done a fantastic job with the visuals here. One of the things that immediately stood out to me was the use of lighting. It is absolutely stunning and really lends itself to the crystal-styled character designs. The same could be said for the detailing on rock faces and the movement of grass. The strong aesthetics don’t just extend to the non-focal points of the show though. There are a lot of really nice touches when it comes to the cast of characters. Primarily, I’m applying this to the crystal cracking effect that pops up when a character gets damaged. As is often the case with action series, the animation really shines when it comes to fight scenes too, with the fast, fluid movements looking great on screen. Perhaps the most standout though is the scene where our protagonist, Phos, is being rebuilt after suffering some heavy damage in a battle.
I’d say that there are some clear visual influences throughout the series. The animation at times feels like it takes some cues from the RWBY, which is no bad thing given the popularity of the show. Meanwhile, the monster designs are surreal and creepy in a way that brings to mind some of the entities from Evangelion. Again, this is no bad thing, as Evangelion features a lot of awesome visuals. In terms of audio, the soundtrack also feels like it would fit elsewhere; if anything, I could see it fitting in Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns without any issue. There will be countless other fantasy games that it would also work well with, but that one was a favourite of mine, so it’s the first one that springs to mind. You get an idea of the general feel of it though.
In terms of story, the first half of the series is essentially used to introduce characters and concepts. While the ideas are good, it’s once we hit the last few episodes of the first disc that things really pick up. Honestly, Phos is a likable enough lead, and she’s a good choice to drive the narrative forward as she researches for her encyclopedia and tries to grow her own strength. Meanwhile, some of the core concepts – like microorganisms being used as a means to repair characters if enough pieces of their shattered bodies can be found – feel really well thought out, and add to the overall feel of the piece. The show isn’t without humour either, with scenes like Jade’s flashback to interrupting Sensei’s mediation being genuinely funny.
Of course, the show isn’t perfect. For me, the CG animation did have a few issues. For all the nice, subtle touches like the movement of characters’ crystalline hair, there are times that it feels a little off. This pretty much comes down to characters moving at times that they don’t need to. Like little body movements while talking that look entirely artificial and out of place. Now, this is entirely a personal preference thing, and it is very stylized. It could be that it doesn’t bother you near as much, especially if you like CG animation in general, which is fine. It’s also worth noting that there is not a definitive end to the story in this release. While what we do get does leave a fair bit of intrigue, especially around Sensei, no second season has been announced, so if that lack of closure is a stumbling block for you, it’s worth noting.
In all though, this is a good release. It’s highly stylized, and at its strongest, is beautiful to look at. The story is interesting, Phos is easy to get behind, and the general concept of the show feels really unique. 4 out of 5.