Well, this is an intriguing show. So much about the story is still shrouded in mystery, so I’ll just jot down some loose thoughts instead:
— So the previous world (Earth?) was ravaged by six meteors, and life retreated to the sea. Even then, the origin story resembles an egg being fertilized. You even have life emerging from the water.
— It barely looks as though there’s much land left. All we get to see is this tiny island surrounded by an infinite expanse of ocean. There must have been humans at some point, though. More on that in a bit.
— At some point, gemstones appeared, and not only that, they have sapience. By the way, sapience is the word you actually want to use. Lots of living things have sentience, since it only denotes the ability to feel. Therefore, my damn cat has sentience.
— Since the gemstones appear to be sexless, androgynous lifeforms, I’m going to refer to them with the gender-unspecific pronouns. Sorry for the confusion.
— These sapient gemstones seem to spend the majority of their lives fending off the Lunarians, bad guys who appear to just want the gemstones for nothing more than decoration. Is that really true? It’s too early to tell. I guess we’ll just have to take Master Kongo word for it.
— Speaking of Master Kongo, he appears to be the leader of the gemstones. Yeah, he. Kongo is the only character who isn’t androgynous. Is he a gemstone himself? He lacks their beautiful gem-like hair, but his face might be powdered like everyone else’s. In any case, Kongo spends most of his time meditating. I’m inclined not to trust a bald guy in stories, since they tend to be evil. But who knows? This show borrows a lot from Buddhist imagery, so his baldness probably doesn’t speak to his moral character.
— The Lunarians are all white in appearance. They descend from the sky through “sunspots,” but those just look like Rorschach tests to me. They announce their arrival with flutes and drums before raining arrows down on the gemstones.
— Do they speak? Don’t know yet. Are they composed of individuals or do they have one collective consciousness? Don’t know yet, but probably the former. Do they feel pain? Don’t know yet. What else do they do besides hunting for gemstones? Don’t know yet. But when you cut their heads off, their insides look like waxy lotus fruits. Freaky.
— So when the gemstones aren’t on the lookout for the Lunarians, what do they do in their spare time? Learn about the world around them? On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to learn. I’m also curious about their culture. They must’ve borrowed it from somewhere. Humans have must have existed at some point. It’s also possible that the 28 gemstones came up with everything — their clothes, their school, etc — all by themselves, but that seems unlikely.
— The gemstones are concerned for their lives, I suppose, but not as concern as you or I would be. If we were constantly besieged by weird moon people who want to harvest our bodies for decoration, we’d be scared shitless. But some of the gemstones almost treat it like a chore. Diamond puts herself and Phos in danger just to test out a new fighting ability. Life and death doesn’t mean much to the gemstones. Actually, it doesn’t seem like the gemstones can die. If you break them, they can just put themselves back together. They speak of Heliodor, a gemstone they had lost to the Lunarians. They don’t seem too bummed out about them, however, because if they recover all of Heliodor’s parts, they can put them back together. The gemstones are essentially immortal then, right?
— Chipping off a part of their body will diminish their memories, which does sound like a scary prospect. Even if our bodies can exist forever, our memories seem innately tied to our personal identity. Wouldn’t that be scary? If you bump into a sharp corner, and lose a small piece of yourself, that could be a small precious memory that is gone forever. That sucks, man.
— There are moments that would be considered body horror if the gemstones were made out of flesh. Moments like the good doctor waving dead limbs around, or shattered gemstones in body bags. Or, again, their bodies being broken apart and used as decoration. Or seeing former allies’ bodies used as weapons. Or when Phos is swallowed by a giant snail and finds themself slowly digested. This would be incredibly disturbing to see if not for the fact that these characters are gemstones. Maybe body horror is only horror if we are mortal, because the gemstones seem hardly bothered.
— Oh yeah, let’s not forget the pulsating insides of the snail. It’s worth noting because this is the only instance of any sort of fleshy matter that we’ve seen so far. Again, this would be body horror in any other story…
— The Lunarians don’t appear to want Kongo at all. Well, he’s not very pretty, so he’d make for shitty decoration. But again, it makes me wonder if he’s trustworthy. The gemstones trust him, but they’re all childlike. He is the only adult character I’ve seen so far. The doctor appears adult-like, but they look like the rest. One can be a child and simply put on an act of maturity. The way the doctor toyed with Jade didn’t seem very mature to me anyway.
— There’s interpersonal drama between the gemstones. For instance, Cinnabar is isolated from the rest, because of their poison (read: mercury). As a result, they want to be taken away by the Lunarians, because they feel useless on the surface. In the second episode, we learn that despite Diamond’s radiance and beauty, they feel useless next to Bort (which is apparently a type of imperfect diamond that can’t be used as a gem). But honestly, the character relationships are by far the least interesting thing about this show, which is a bit sad because the drama is the thing that gives these gemstones any sort of humanity. Nevertheless, their issues are unoriginal and trite. Maybe we humans are just walking cliches.
Anyways, that’s all the notes I have on this show. It’s probably the most interesting fall series that I’ve seen thus far? Keep in mind, however, that I still haven’t gotten around to Children of the Whales yet. I’m going to cover that on Tuesday. But back to Houseki no Kuni, I don’t know how a story like this can resolve itself in a satisfying way. Anything can be intriguing at the start when you withhold crucial information from the audience, and force them to speculate. Once they start filling in the holes, however, I find that what we were enamored by was never anything of substance, but just the mystique itself.