Houseki no Kuni Ep. 3: We can rebuild her

Plotwise, this episode is a bit peculiar. As soon as I saw the green minerals embedded in the snail’s shell, I said to myself, “Oh, that’s how they’re going to put Phos back together.” And whaddaya know, this is the solution to the episode’s primary problem. Quite frankly, I thought it was plainly obvious. Plus, it’s not like the green bits are hidden from view. But for some odd reason, Diamond mistakes a cute, little slug for their former gem-friend. To be fair, the slug does admittedly respond to the name Phos over and over, but still… isn’t there just one way to restore these gem-people back to life? Don’t you always need to find their parts and glue those back together? Ah well, I guess Diamond isn’t exactly the brightest gem around.

Characterization-wise, the episode is a bit more interesting. With the slug in tow, Diamond tries to solicit help from other gems in a sequence of scenes that mirror Phos’s escapades in previous weeks. Remember, Phos went from people to people to ask for assistance with an encyclopedia, but they were as unhelpful then as they are now. Not only do they not know how to restore Phos, they don’t really care to either. Some of them can barely tear themselves away from their current tasks to respond to Diamond. Others even jokingly remark that they should keep Phos as a slug, since the gem is kinda annoying as their normal self. That might seem callous, but to be fair, time isn’t as important to gems as it is to us. They’re practically immortal, so it’s no big deal if Phos stays as a slug for a few days, weeks, or even months.

Still, Diamond presses on. After all, the gem needs to distinguish themself from Bort. They’re both supposed to be gifted in combat due to their innate hardness, but the latter is clearly superior. As a result, Diamond has ironically developed an inferiority complex; the gem not only feels inadequate but also quite envious of their partner. At the same time, however, Bort is a bitch. These are not subtle characters either, so Bort’s bitchiness is the in-your-face sort: “When Phos gets back, there’s going to be a beatdown… Time to pickup the scraps of that piece of garbage.” Unfortunately, this is where the typical anime archetypes strike again. Characters like Bort are a dime a dozen, so it’s tiring to listen to their asshole personalities over and over.

But as I was saying, Diamond doesn’t give up. They might not fight as well as their counterpart, but at least they have more heart. Phos is definitely annoying, but beneath that ditzy personality and hyperactivity, there’s a genuine kindness. And Diamond is not so blind that they can’t recognize that they’ve also been a recipient of said kindness. Which thus brings us to Cinnabar, the brooding, emo archetype of the show. I’m all alone, I have no purpose, nobody wants me, woe is me, yadda yadda yadda. Again, it’s not that I think Cinnabar is a stupid character. It’s just incredibly basic and unoriginal; we’re treading very familiar territory, so I can’t help but be bored of the lazy characterization. Still, Cinnabar is also another gem who has been touched by Phos’s kindness, so the former drops enough hints to clue Diamond in on the obvious solution.

So finally, Diamond rallies the other gems together to pull the giant snail shell out of the pond. From there, they collect chips of Phos’s former self, which the good doctor uses to finish the rest of the job. What follows is an oddly suggestive rebirth, but hey, the story swears that these gems are genderless. Uh-huh. And this is where the episode really disappoints me. We go through all this character development for both Diamond and Cinnabar, but when Phos comes to, they don’t even give their thanks to anyone. Diamond gets nothing for persevering despite all odds, and the rest of the gems get nothing despite all the physical labor required. They had to do it in the middle of the night, too. Instead, Phos immediately gets into an argument with the slug, which, at this point, is clearly a separate sapient entity.

Maybe the other gems were right after all. Maybe they could’ve and should’ve waited a little longer to lift a finger for Phos’s sake. Meanwhile, Kongo has been absent this whole time. Busy meditating, I’m sure. All this talk about change from within and rebirth, and the first thing Phos does is cause a scene. I know we’re supposed to take notice of the fact that Phos can somehow understand slugspeak. Still, I can’t help but feel like we just spent twenty minutes to establish that the slug is a new and important character. Plus, there’s this anime/manga thing of employing basic archetypes, and merely promising to develop them into deep and interesting characters far, far down the line. If the story can pull it off, great, but the drawback is that the early episodes are always a drag. You’re just tapping your foot, waiting for the good stuff to finally happen.

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8 Replies to “Houseki no Kuni Ep. 3: We can rebuild her”

  1. Well, they are genderless. There’s quite literally nothing down there. Their top halves are supposed to be masculine while the bottom half is more feminine but in the end they are all no more than sculpted sentient rocks. But in the manga they all use masculine pronouns, and you can hear it in the anime as well. The subbers just chose to translate “he/him” as “them” instead. And all of them use “boku” as well. I’m sure once they start calling each other “older brother”(if it gets to those parts) some viewers may be confused by whatever the subbers do then.

    And yeah the story does take a while to get to the real substance and literal character growth of Phos. I’ve seen it already called a sitcom because the episode makes it seem like everything will always go back to the status quo but it won’t stay that way for long. It’s too bad this middling start couldn’t be compressed a bit…

  2. I’m really enjoying it so far, but it is difficult to argue about Bort and some some of the other characters at this point. Still, I think there is enough room for growth and I’ve had fun getting introduced to all these characters. Phos is annoying but not in a way that makes me want to scream and I actually kind of like them so I hope that they get some development as the series continues (and I don’t mean the talking to slugs kind of development).
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. People call them genderless and I still haven’t been able to see them but as a group of your standard “boy(ish) in profile only” trap, making this anime into one of those “all-female magical battle high school versus monsters from another world or something with a healthy dose of yuri subtext.” Promises are just promises. I need more than that to have faith in this anime.

    To be honest, I never actually read/watch something dull and boring that suddenly becomes interesting after some revelations or chain of events. I have never encountered such thing. Something that starts as dull and boring usually just ends up as dull and boring in the end or worse. Sometimes, it ends up as decent, but waiting for such a long time for something that is just decent? Not worth it for me.

    The ones that I encountered are something that are already interesting in the beginning becomes even more interesting in the middle and ends up as awesome in the end. Unfortunately, this anime isn’t one of them. I can’t help but feel reminded at those Tales series or Falcom’s fans whenever I read their statements on how this anime just feels bare bones in the beginning and it’ll subvert/deconstruct all those animu tropes and your expectations later. Can’t see that, though.

    When do you think that this anime will show us its so-called “real plot,” E Minor? Based on the pacing of the story and the number of chapters that I read before I drop it, I expect this real plot to show itself right at the last episode as a way to bait its fans and the hopefuls into buying the BD and merchandises and funding its second season. I mean don’t you want to read the rest of its real plot? Lol

    1. “People call them genderless and I still haven’t been able to see them but as a group of your standard “boy(ish) in profile only” trap, making this anime into one of those “all-female magical battle high school versus monsters from another world or something with a healthy dose of yuri subtext.””
      this is literally the worst take i’ve ever seen about this anime, so congrats!

  4. The moment I saw the slug “farting seeds” I knew it would be in the front of this review, it was soo random, like WTF, also when it did that, I was like: “there’s no way that thing is Phos, anime gotta be anime and waifu can’t be defiled, ever.”

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