As winter approaches, the jewels all get ready for their annual hibernation – complete with sleepwear made by fashionista Red Beryl. As there are less attacks from the Lunarians in Winter, it’s perfectly okay for everyone to be out of action for this long, because Kongo and Antarcticite can apparently handle it on their own. Antarcticite is a jewel who is only able to be active in the winter months when its cold enough for them to solidify from the liquid state they have in the warmer months.
Half from guilt over what happened to the Amethysts (although they came out of it alright) and half from still wanting to be useful, Phos is unable to sleep and wishes to stay up with Kongo and Antarc. Antarc isn’t happy about it at first, but gradually is able to teach Phos how to do their numerous winter jobs. The main job involves slicing up the ice flows that produce a loud and unbearable sound – the kind of thing one doesn’t really want around a bunch of rocks trying to sleep. Because the ice is also technically a mineral, they too can speak – although Kongo insists they lack any self-awarenesss or free will – being the dregs of creatures from ancient times. Whether they can truly speak for themselves or only parrot back random words, the ice is still able to coax Phos too close and they end up losing their arms.
I had been looking forward to seeing Antarc get animated and voiced, because they quickly became one of my favourite characters. However…I’m hesitant to say it, but I can’t help being disappointed with anime-Antarc. I know they’ve been making everyone a lot more feminine, as opposed to androgynous, than they were originally, but Antarc is one of the few that just straight up looks like a boy originally. There is no way nanga-Antarc is intended to be read as anything other than a beautiful man, but anime-Antarc seems more like a tomboy. It’s weird, but somehow anime-Antarc comes across as more like a girl than Phos does – who still seems androgynous to me (although more like a boy in the manga). It just…bugs me. It would have been cool to have one of the jewels speak in a more masculine voice, and I really don’t know why the anime doesn’t seem to want to do this. And I’m someone who likes super girly boys in anime. I didn’t expect to have to complain about a character in an anime being made too girly, but here we are. I don’t mind the ‘cuter’ redesigns of all the other jewels – and in some ways I actually prefer this look for Phos, but maybe it’s just because I fell so hard (haha) for Antarc’s original design that seeing it changed like this is a let-down. Anyway.
The winter scenery looks absolutely gorgeous, and there is plenty of time spent on it. While this show has always been beautiful, the scenery was never really that notable to me until now. Seeing how the gems interact with this scenery is also interesting. The extra bit of lore about the ice having some kind of primitive sentience is interesting, but I’m actually a little confused about whether it really is as primitive as Kongo seems to think. Phos seems to be the only one that can understand words in the noises the ice makes – just as they were the only one that could understand Ventricosus in slug form. So was the ice actually intelligent and new how to tempt Phos? Or was it merely projecting Phos’s own thoughts back at them?
While Phos doesn’t seem too concerned about losing their arms – given that they’ve already lost their legs – Antarc is pretty messed up by it, believing it a failure on their part for not being able to retrieve the arms for Phos. Kongo suggests that the two go to the Chord Shore – the cliff where all the gems are born from. This is a place where minerals in the cliff form into gems – however it’s actually a low probability that any of them will become sentient – meaning that despite gems sprouting out of there all the time, there’s relatively few of the ”living” gems on the island. The goal was to make Phos some new arms from the bits of gems around the cliff, but it’s mostly covered in gold which Antarc deems unsuitable due to its heaviness and softness. Phos, on the other hand, feels sorry for the gold and they end up trying it out anyway.
The gold takes oddly to Phos’s body and goes berserk, and with Phos unable to control it they soon become completely encased in it – with extremely bad timing, as the Lunarians choose now to appear. Antarc puts up a valiant fight but is shattered in a sneak attack and taken. Phos eventually summons the strength to move their heavy new arms – which, due to the malleability of gold have transformative capabilities, but despite their newfound power the Lunarians get away.
This is one of the most anticipated parts of the anime – the end of the winter arc, and one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the series. It’s also the last time we get to see what is often referred to as ”innocent Phos” – as quite a lot happens in this episode to induce a transformation.
Phos’s transformation plays nicely in with the overt Buddhist themes the show already had of an endless cycle of death and rebirth, with it occurring somewhat poetically toward the end of winter, before the coming spring. The fact that it involves gold – something malleable and transformative, is also certainly a deliberate choice for symbolism as well as narrative. Another interesting part of the gold that may also be being referenced here is a type of japanese art called Kintsugi, where broken pottery is mended with liquid gold to fill in the cracks. It makes the cracks stand out more, but has been made even more beautiful through being broken. Because Phos certainly does break in this episode – both figuratively and literally.
It’s hard not to get extremely sad about Antarc – whose existence is sad enough as it is. They only get to ”exist” when it’s cold enough, and so they presumably never get to interact with anyone other than Kongo (although they did seem to know who Phos was). This has resulted in such a dependency on and affection for Kongo – much stronger than what any of the others seem to have – that the mere thought of losing a single memory associated with him (ie, if they lost any of their body parts to the Lunarians) is torturous to them. They seemed to have finally started to make another friend in Phos, and then all this happens. However…due to the nature of the gems, it’s kind of a weird situation where the narrative and character reactions to Antarc being shattered and kidnapped are the same as a character dying (which reminded me that Phos asked Ventricosus if dying meant ‘going somewhere far away’) even though we all know that as long as those pieces are recovered, Antarc will be okay. Th-they’re going to be okay eventually, right?
Aside from having Antarc shattered in front of them though (which would be traumatizing regardless of any regenerative powers), Phos’s trauma is also undoubtedly also due to the fact that yet again, they were unable to help, despite having another new powerup. And once again it just…isn’t their fault. Kongo says that it’s his fault, and to be honest I…kinda agree. I mean, they all just saw a few episodes back that the Lunarians had some new methods that took the Amethysts completely by surprise, so thinking that a single gem would be enough to handle them was a little foolish on his part. If he wasnt going to have any of the other gems stay awake for the winter to help, he could have been a little more vigilant himself….although then again, he was presumably protecting the defenseless sleeping gems back at the school.
Out of 5,