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Houseki no Kuni (TV) Anime Cover

Score: 8.43/10

Synopsis

In the mysterious future, crystalline organisms called Gems inhabit a world that has been destroyed by six meteors. Each Gem is assigned a role in order to fight against the Lunarians, a species who attacks them in order to shatter their bodies and use them as decorations. Phosphophyllite, also known as Phos, is a young and fragile Gem who dreams of helping their friends in the war effort. Instead, they are told to compile an encyclopedia because of their delicate condition. After begrudgingly embarking on this task, Phos meets Cinnabar, an intelligent gem who has been relegated to patrolling the isolated island at night because of the corrosive poison their body creates. After seeing how unhappy Cinnabar is, Phos decides to find a role that both of the rejected Gems can enjoy. Houseki no Kuni follows Phos' efforts to be useful and protect their fellow Gems. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

The GRRM Reaper once posited the Furniture Rule: that at its core, literature is an exploration of the human condition; the rest is fluff, furniture.

Houseki no Kuni begins as a simple story of immortal, genderless life forms, the Gems, with each individual based around a gemstone from which they take their physical characteristics. They are being hunted down by Lunarians for what seems to be collector’s fancy. Slowly, the story moves on, teasing the layers of mystery of its world and a more intriguing aspect of the entire dynamic unravels, one more conducive to philosophical discourse. The introduction of a third faction, the Admirabilis, elevates the nature of their conflict and is poised to bring the series higher should its story continue.

The CGI nature of the show doesn’t really take away anything from the narrative but rather enhances and prepares it with its CGI portrayal of the three factions telling a story: the Gems, with their janky yet solid movements, aimless and unmotivated beyond mere survival; the Lunarians ethereal and eternal, purposeful in action; and the Admirabilis, frills and filaments galore, excess made manifest, seductive and ephemeral.

Underneath the trappings of a fantastical concept, however, Houseki no Kuni is a thesis of how our place in our world is intricately intertwined with our purpose. It’s a story about identity.

It’s a story of Dia, valued, vaunted, a tier above other gems, yet struggling to find a moment in the light under the vast, dark shadow of a peer better and stronger.

It’s a story of Cinnabar, self-exiled, isolation poisoning the mind, bereft of a shoulder to lean on.

Most of all, it’s a story of Phos, aimless slacker, wanting to do more than just making an encyclopedia that has no equivalent value assigned by other Gems. Phos wants to fight, swept up in the idea that Gems prove their worth in the only way their circumstances allow: fighting the Lunarians. Phos’ initial value was demonstrated when, devoured and broken to bits and pieces, the grim, though temporary, fate evoked nothing but cruelly nonchalant reactions from fellow gems.

How can someone so brittle prove their value when, to paraphrase Einstein, the fishes are judged by their ability to climb a tree.

Houseki no Kuni’s approach to the problem is a rather straightforward one. Instead of changing the playing field to a pond, our little fish is given an opportunity to be better, losing parts of itself in the process. Part of its identity must give, in the hopes that the best version of itself can be achieved. And that hopefully the best version of itself is its truest self. Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen.

And I must say, this conflict of identity and the show’s solution ties in fully with the larger, grander aspects of the narrative: the three factions, each crucially lacking traits the other two possess. Can the three factions be so much more together much like how Phos had become much more than the Mohs scale of hardness? We’ll see.

For now, enjoy one lost little fish trying to scale a tree, struggling to find the right balance lest it loses sight of who it is.

Absolutely beautiful, Houseki no Kuni sadly flew under the radar of a lot of people due to the lack of initial hype, but I hope this changes over time because this anime really deserves a lot of love. The setting is so interesting and full of mysteries and unknowns to discover, what happened to the world to become like this? Who are the gems, or the moon people that seem to be after them? Houseki knows how to make the events ocurring hooking to watch and it's such an enjoyable experience from start to end. Along with the intriguing story we also have a fantastic cast that brings it life, the characters are inmortal humanoid gems with the qualities that represent them (like Diamond being the hardest mineral, but relatively easy to break in comparison), their interactions are interesting, varied, and at the same manage really funny when the situations requires it, this anime handles very well the comedy and it fits nicely without breaking the mood of the scenes. Phosphophyllite (or Phos in short) is the protagonist and goes through fantastic development over the duration of the series, becoming a very memorable character. Now it's time for the art department and I will be honest here: if every CGI anime has to look like Houseki, god, I want so many more of them! The animation is amazing and had some scenes where I just had to replay them of how good they looked, and the excellent cinematography that goes with it just makes it even more impressive, with some shots that left me speechless. The use of this type of animation is also really fitting considering the constitution of our characters and for details like how they can break depending on the situation, which looks better with this style. The music is also a strong factor of the series, always fitting with the tone of the scene and improving them, the theme that plays when the Lunarians appears gets an special mention from my part because it never failed to make me shiver, so unsettling. The opening and ending themes are also great in both song and visuals and grew on me as the series progressed, definitely playlist worthy. Houseki no Kuni was an unique and fantastic experience I really recommend everyone to try out, you won't regret it.

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