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‘Land of the Lustrous’ Review: An Imperfect Jewel

2D verses 3D animation is a fiercely fought war, with dismissal of the latter by animation purists being frequent. Regardless, there are some that have been holding out hope that 3D animation has something of genuine class to bring to the anime table.

Well at long last, Land of the Lustrous, a fable about humanoid gender neutral jewel people, is the very aforementioned anime table bring-able thingy, as the patience of optimists has been rewarded with radiant eye candy that showcases new-school animation at its brilliant best. Despite a rather unbalanced narrative, Land of the Lustrous is most enjoyable, and a technical marvel to behold.

Into the Land of the Lustrous

In a fantastical land inhabited by beings resembling a marriage of humans and jewels, Phos stands out for all the wrong reasons. Being inept in combat, prone to shattering, and unwilling to accept their shortcomings, the shimmeringly green haired protagonist is often a cause of irritation for their talented peers.

After being requested by the stern Master Kongo to create a natural history encyclopedia, Phos begrudgingly goes about their duty, befriending the intelligent but aloof Cinnabar along the way, and undergoing various instances of personal growth. Meanwhile, the Lunarians (a mute bow and arrow wielding species) periodically descend from above in an attempt to brutally harvest materials from Phos and co., taking advantage of their luxury value as humanoid jewels.

If this narrative description seems unclear, it’s unfortunately as a result of Land of the Lustrous’s inability to establish its diverse and promising concepts into a consistent direction, spelling its greatest shortcoming (but more on that later).

To little surprise, the glimmering star of the show is the outstanding animation. Cinematically whooshing camera angles meld with rich color and sleek textures to create sheer splendour. Whilst 2D animation will forever don the crown as the primary format of its medium, there’s no reason as to why a differing iteration of animation can’t be appreciated for the novel visual treats it provides.

Such awesome animation naturally lends itself effectively to Land of the Lustrous’s frantically fantastic action sequences, which comprise of ferocious sword play and jaw dropping acrobatics against hulking threats. Should Land of the Lustrous’s second season decide to ramp up the frequency of occurrence, length of duration, and overall audacity of said action sequences to Dragon Ball Super-esque degrees, then various ‘the greatest action anime ever’ lists may be introducing a new recruit to their ranks.

An Imperfect Jewel

Phos, whilst initially irritating, takes little time to showcase their endearingly charming nature. Unfortunately, their character development throughout Land of the Lustrous’s fleeting narrative takes peculiar twists and turns, disappointingly at the detriment of their most likeable qualities.

The Phos that concludes Land of The Lustrous flaunts a dramatically different personality from the Phos that introduces it. Whilst character development is fundamental to any strong narrative, Phos’s transformation feels both forced and boringly bland (not to mention it occurs predominantly off screen). With only a brief 12 episode duration, Land of the Lustrous leaves you wanting much, much more. More narrative substance, more exhilarating action, more time spent with the diverse and delightful cast of characters, more everything.

It’s an unjust world when mediocrity such as Hunter x Hunter is gifted with 148 episodes of sluggishly sludgy pacing, yet knockout series such as One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100, and of course Land of the Lustrous aren’t granted ample time to appropriately develop their fascinating universes, withholding them from grasping their sky high potential. With a greater episode quantity, perhaps Land of the Lustrous could have justified Phos’s drastic alterations in personality, quenched the frustrated desire it leaves for more content, and further developed (or concluded) its incomplete narrative (that has yet to establish a sense of clarity and focus), effectively alleviating its major faults.

As of now, Land of the Lustrous is an entertainingly memorable, technically staggering, but irritatingly incomplete experience. With a second season to further realise is lofty potential however, perhaps things could be different.

You can watch Land of the Lustrous on Amazon Prime here.

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