Sorry this ended up taking forever – I watch Houseki no Kuni on HiDive which is a huge pain to get screenshots from, so I ended up having to watch both episodes again on the Japanese streaming service MBS to get the caps.
Still not having any luck in finding anything worth writing about, Phos goes to find Diamond – who has allegedly discovered a new fighting style. The sparkling, radiant Diamand has a gentle personality and one of the few gems who seems to actually like Phos, despite their obvious differences in hardness. And yet, Diamond themself isn’t 100% effective against the Lunarians, which Phos gets to see in action. They may be hard and skilled at fighting, but they are brittle under pressure, which is why they usually team up with the other Diamond – Bort. Bort and Diamond are as different as night and day, with Bort lacking Diamond’s gentleness and being outright hostile towards Phos. Bort is also strong enough to not actually need Diamond helping them…something which Diamond has become increasingly upset about as it makes them feel useless. Bort even tries to prevent Diamond from fighting at all.
Bort manages to single-handedly defeat two rounds of Lunarians – including one that gets worryingly close to the School while Master Kongo is meditating. But before they are defeated, they drop a gigantic shell into the grounds – which turns out to be a huge snail whose body can dissolve gems. Phos gets eaten by the snail and disintegrates inside it…
I absolutely love Diamond, so I was glad to get to see them in action this episode. I really like the way their hair is animated and how ethereal and beautiful they look. While Diamond is definitely one of the more feminine gems, I will admit I was a little surprised at how feminine they sound, and I still think they could have been more androgynous. (Even Diamond uses the masculine ‘boku’ after all, and usually the only kinds of girls that do that are tomboys). On the plus side, even though the team did use a female voice actor for Bort, I’m glad they kept them sounding as masculine as they should because to be honest I would have been pretty annoyed had Bort sounded too feminine. I can deal with Diamond sounding like a girl, but definitely not Bort.
This episode was mostly dedicated to the differences between the two Diamonds and how even someone who seems like they should rank very highly in combat doesn’t quite have it all. It’s also a nice way to subtly highlight how Diamond and Phos do have some things in common – mainly a shared frustration about not being able to fight (although while in Diamond’s case it’s not being able to fight the way they want to, in Phos’s case it’s not being able to fight at all).
I also kinda like how the slug was animated – it has a very eerie, ‘fleshy’ presence compared to the gems – and it also looks really damn creepy. There’s also a good deal more boddy-horror in the scene where Phos dissolves compared to the manga – I don’t remember it being quite that horrifying. The episode ends with this on a cliffhanger, and it still manages to be tense despite it being obvious that the main character isn’t going to die in the second episode.
With Phos having been consumed by the snail, the other gems try to fight it – but coming into contact with it causes parts of them to dissolve as well. They eventually solve this by pushing it into the salt water where it dissolves as well.
Unfortunatelyhey can’t find any trace of Phos, and wonder if they really did dissolve away for good. Diamond suddenly realizes that the slug, which has downsized into a pocket-version, is trying to get their attention and acting in a sassy way reminiscent of Phos. They reach the conclusion that the snail has absorbed whatever was left of Phos, effectively meaning the slug now is Phos.
Diamond spends most of the episode trying to figure out how to turn the chirping slug back into Phos, although the other gems either don’t know or care about how. Eventually Diamond is chanced apon by Cinnabar, who is for some reason the only one who thinks the entire thing is ridiculous and that there is no way Phos turned into a slug. After all, when the snails on this island eat minerals, they get absorbed into their shells – which is when Diamond realizes that Phos’s fragments must be in the shell. With everyone’s help, they manage to chip all the Phos-parts out of the shell, and Phos is remade from scratch.
Right, so. This part of the manga was a lot less ridiculous, mostly because it was less drawn out with this, but also because it wasn’t drawn in colour. When the anime is in colour, and all the gems are looking RIGHT AT THE SNAIL SHELL WITH BITS OF PHOS-COLOURED PARTS ON IT, and saying ”oh no Phos is gone forever, where did they go”, after its already been well established that the gems can be revived if their fragments are gathered, it’s kind of hard to take it seriously at all, and it makes Diamon look kinda dumb for assuming the slug was Phos. To be fair, the slug does seem to be pretty content in having everything think it’s Phos (which raises the question as to whether any of Phos’s intelligence or anything actually was absorbed, because it seemed to lack this intelligence beforehand), but I still have no idea why they couldn’t have just…I dunno. Had the parts of Phos that went into the shell not be visible? Maybe that part of the shell could have been touching the floor of the pond and so wasn’t visible until it was dragged back up again. I watched this episode twice after all, and on the second watch I realized that Diamond actually points out the Phos-coloured part while they and Bort are fighting the snail.
The whole thing is pretty confusing and mostly seemed to be excuse to show that Diamond – and also Cinnabar, in a tsundere way – are the only ones who seem to care that much about Phos at all. (Because if anyone else noticed Phos was on the shell all along, they sure as hell didn’t bother mentioning it). It also shows the kinds of things that can happen to gems and still recover from – which begs the question – if the Lunarians are kidnapping them and turning them into jewellery, are they still ‘alive’? It’s implied that it hurts them – Jade reacts in pain to being hit by a hammer and Phos remarks that the inside of the snail is hot – so the whole thing is actually pretty horrifying.
There’s some really impressive CGI in this episode – mostly courtesy of Diamond. The scene where they are running around trying to attack and avoid the slug is choreographed really well – and while the scene where they run all the way back to the School after realizing where Phos must be is clearly just an exercise for the animators to show off all ”wooooo look like we can do!”, it looks amazing. It’s not often that I can say that a CGI anime looks amazing. I still have mixed feelings about the style being used for Houseki no Kuni in particular, because I still do love the look of those 2D animated anime shorts made to promote the manga a while back. (as well as the overall look of the manga). I think the anime looking so different to the manga isn’t a bad thing though because it encourages you to check out both. Often when the anime/manga of something look too similar, or one looks obviously better, it’s tempting to stick with one only, but it really has been interesting experiencing the scenes I read in the manga in such a visually different way.