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.