OP: 「鏡面の波」 (Kyoumen no Nami) by YURIKA
Houseki no Kuni is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans seem to no longer exist. A small number of humanoid jewel creatures take their stead, exhibiting high durability as well as a lifespan that can technically be considered immortal. However, they risk being spirited away by Lunarians, creatures of the moon who systematically hunt them down. To begin with, I went and read the first chapter of Houseki no Kuni, to see what all the fuss was about. In spite of the high praise it has garnered, I failed to see anything special. As a result, I went into the series with some rather low expectations.
The youngest out of their brethren, Phosphophyllite (Kurasawa Tomoyo), or Phos for short, is our precocious protagonist. Weak in constitution, but keen to find a purpose in life, fate assigns them a quest for knowledge – the role of compiling an encyclopaedia. Despite the importance of such a task, it’s easy to see why Phos is not satisfied – everyone else gets to fight and kick ass. Not to mention, a free-spirited individual would find it difficult to do such a repetitive and mundane task. However, even fighting is not all fun and games, since lives are being put on the line. A risk entailed is the danger of being incapacitated by the Lunarians, and taken away to the moon. No one knows what truly happens to the victims, but anyone can guess it can’t be nice. After being saved by Cinnabar (Komatsu Mikako) from a Lunarian attack, Phos receives new inspiration and conviction. In addition to faithfully carrying out Encyclopaedic duties, Phos has a new goal of helping Cinnabar find a better life.
We can see that these beings are prone to feeling extreme emotions, in the way one would expect from humans. Cinnabar despairs at unconsciously harming nearby creatures through naturally secreted poison, and is forced into solitude for the sake of everybody else. As a result, Cinnabar actively seeks death by the hands of Lunarians, and it’s so sad to see how this is the culmination of their suffering. Consequently, the weight of these raw emotions feel so human, that I can’t help but sympathise with Cinnabar.
However, there comes a point of disassociation. These characters look like humans and experience emotions on the same spectrum, except anything in relation to the concept of physical pain. They don’t fear situations that a rational human would – getting crushed and grounded up. If they did experience that pain, then they would exhibit some form of reluctance or trauma, as opposed to confronting the Lunarians with reckless abandon. Instead, we can see that they lack a sense of self-preservation, which for me throws their sense of humanity into question. I would eve go as far as saying that they are incomplete beings. It’s hard to relate with creatures that struggle to see the value of their own life, because that then begs the question, what is the meaning of their existence? It may be a Land of the Lustrous, denoting how gems are shiny on surface value. But there’s much to be discovered about what’s on the inside.
Unfortunately, Houseki no Kuni clashes with a show that I want to devote all my spare attention and energy towards. I have never been a fan of shows that predominantly depend upon CGI, and Houseki no Kuni hasn’t changed my mind. However, I’d be lying if I claimed the episode was devoid of beauty. Not only was the art gorgeous, but the soundtrack also brought some heavy atmosphere to the table. When the sunspot appeared, and the Lunarians descended upon Morganite (Tamura Mutsumi) and Goshe (Hayami Saori), you could really feel how tense the situation was.
While I won’t be picking it up for coverage, I will be keeping tabs on how the anime progresses. In particular, I really want to see if Phos can succeed in saving Cinnabar from leading such a tragic existence. Anyway, I’ll be darned. I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about my initial expectations. After finishing the episode, I went straight back to the manga, and voraciously marathoned everything down to the latest chapter. I can finally see what all the hype was about, considering how the story only gets better and better. For those who are currently enjoying the manga To You, The Immortal, expect a similar spiritual journey of self-discovery driven by character interactions, full of philosophical questions and deeply rooted mysteries about how the world came to be this way.
P.S. – Despite their feminine appearance, the manga seems to suggest that all the characters are non-binary. As such, I request that people use names or gender neutral pronouns at their discretion in the comment section below.