Bort and Phos are facing off against the strange beast-like Lunarian after Diamond is incapacitated, but they quickly discover that the thing is harder to defeat than expected – because every time they slice it apart, each part turns into a new, smaller one. They end up receiving help from an unlikely source…Alexandrite. Although Alexandrite is obsessed with Lunarians, they have apparently been told by sensei to never actually look directly at them – this causes them to change into their overpowered ‘red’ form and go berserk for a while before blacking out. Which is exactly what happens, and the Lunarian is obliterated into 108 fluffy dog-like creatures which promptly scatter across the island.
The gems all have a field day trying to collect them all – especially because they’re so cute and fluffy. When the dogs are all gathered together, they turn back into the big Lunarian…but, unexpectedly, Sensei himself shows up and gets showered with affection by it. He seems to know it quite well – even calling it by name (Shiro), and although he and the other gems have a peaceful moment with it, Phos is confused and somewhat angry at this. They realize that something very strange is going on that Sensei hasn’t told them – concerning the Lunarians relationship with him.
To find out the truth, Phos decides that they’d best ask a Lunarian directly, because Sensei has a habit of falling asleep whenever one wants to ask a pressing question (although….surely it would be easier to ask him than a Lunarian) …unfortunately the Lunarains never seem to come when one actually wants them to. Instead, Phos ends up helping Lucile collect various stray gem fragments to help resurrect Padparadscha, Lucile’s former partner who – although apparently knowing just about everything – has been dormant for over a hundred years.
The pattern of Houseki no Kuni for most of its run has been light hearted slice of life followed by something deeply traumatic involving the Lunarians that manages to up the ante each time. In this episode, however, whilst the cliffhanger in the last one makes it seem like the Beast Lunarian is bad news and likely to cause yet another traumatic event, in this episode it ends up not only being harmless, but gives way to more of the light-hearted slice of life. Even Diamond, who sustained some grave injuries, is repaired quickly enough and their only lasting damage is their sheer disappointment at not being able to have seen the small and fluffy forms of ‘Shiro’. It’s actually a welcome change of pace – where instead of the ‘oh shit’ moment being another gem getting obliterated/kidnapped or Phos losing more of themself, it’s a plot reveal – one that leaves us with more questions than answers about Sensei and his relationship to the Lunarians. (It certainly puts his visions while meditating (if that’s what those were) of them apparently fawning over him in a new light).
Phos’s confusion and discomfort aside, this episode is mostly really damn funny, and I absolutely love the deadpan way Bort and Phos react to 108 puppies exploding out all over the place. (the complete absence of music also really completed how funny it was in my opinion). Also, good job on the animation team for making all the puppies look so fluffy. For those keeping track, this is another Buddhist reference – 108 is a very symbolic and recurring number – for example there are 108 prayer beads and 108 pressure points in the human body. To continue the references, Phos has a near mental breakdown where their body starts to crack and the gold alloy leaks out, an even more blatant allusion to the ‘kintsugi’ metaphor I mentioned previously.
As for what eventually happens to Shiro…it dissolves about becoming ‘satisfied’, as opposed to returning to the moon like Sensei seemed to assume it would. I am really curious what this means in regards to the other Lunarians, and if they are also seeking some kind of ‘satisfaction’ that only he can provide. Did Shiro ‘die’? Is there a Nirvana in this world, if it isn’t the moon?
Personally, I think that the stuff with Padparadscha at the end felt a bit odd and tacked on due to how short it was in comparison to the rest, and it causes the episode to end in a weird place. But given that the next episode is the final one (I think?), I guess they couldn’t avoid it without the last episode becoming too cramped.