Padparadscha has woken up – for the first time in nearly 232 years. Poor Rutile doesn’t get much time to catch up with them though, because they go for a walk with Phos instead. Phos wishes to ask Pad about the ‘truth’, but unfortunately their new consciousness was only temporary. Before they are able to tell Phos anything useful, they fall back into a coma.
Meanwhile, Bort has been paired up with Zircon, who is not having a great time. Already a gem with low confidence, they find Bort’s intimidating manner especially hard to deal with and become worried that Bort hates them. They end up seeing Phos for advice – although reveal that they’re jealous of Phos’s incredible growth despite their similar age. Phos can only really tell them to try to have more self-confidence, but eventually Bort themselves tells them that they need to worry more about themselves first than always trying to protect their partner like they did with Yellow Diamond. Eventually the two seem to be getting along decently.
Phos soon enlists Alexandrite’s help in studying the Lunarian records in the library in the hopes of relearning anything they forgot – because they first learned it nearly three hundred years ago and forgot nearly everything. During the intensive study, however, Alexandrite reveals that the reason they’re so obsessed with Lunarians is not because they like them, but because they hate them for stealing Chrysoberyl before Phos was born, and hope to get them back. They also reveal that it’s currently not known if communication with Lunarians is even possible, since they don’t know their language and the encounters are too brief.
Phos decides to just test this themselves and attacks one as soon as the Lunarians appear again, demanding that they speak to them, but just as it seems as though the Lunarian might, Cinnabar interferes to ‘rescue’ Phos.
Phos then decides to tell Cinnabar that they finally found them a job – they want Cinnabar to help them uncover the ‘truth’.
Holy cow a lot happened in this episode. I actually had to double-check the run-time while I was watching because I was sure it was longer than 24 minutes, but it wasn’t. You’d think so much happening in a regular episode town should be squashed and rushed, but it didn’t feel that way at all. This was a really good episode with a lot of things going on.
Like most people reacting to this episode, I like Padparadscha a lot, especially because they’re voiced by Romi Park. (If I had my way, every character in this show would be voiced by Romi Park, Megumi Ogata and Megumi Hayashibara and sound as beautiful and androgynous as they should, but alas). Unfortunately Padparadscha doesn’t really get to do much at all, and while most may feel sorry for them for this, it’s actually Rutile I feel more sorry for. The poor guy looked after Pad’s comatose body for 231 years and yet never got to have a moment alone with them like they clearly must have wanted. Rutile isn’t the only character who has a close bond with Pad though, Yellow Diamond is also shown to be disappointed and rather sad at missing the short awakening and its implied they have quite the history together too (being two of the eldest, after all).
That’s one thing I really liked about this episode – while it did have plot moments, it was interwoven with so many small moments with the other gems. This show is about Phos first and foremast, but all these little moments did a great job of showing how each and every gem has their own story and past, and I dearly want to know about every single one. Even Alexandrite, who had seemed like a one-note character previously (that note being ‘lunarian otaku’), revealed an unexpected amount of depth here. I also really like Zircon, so it was nice getting that little bit about them dealing with their insecurity – which also tied in to a little bit about Bort perhaps learning to take the stick out of their butt now and then and be a little nicer.
Every single gem got a cameo in this episode, even if it was only small, even if just to remind us that they were there. It’s one of those final episode things that make you remember how far the shows come since the beginning – something they also show in a very blunt way by having Phos2.0 walk past a phantom of the innocent, happy Phos from the first episode.
That said, it’s not a final episode. Obviously there’s still plenty more of the manga to cover and I am really, really glad that it looks like the show was popular enough for them to not just make up their own ending. The show literally ends with Phos about to hear what Sensei has to tell them, you cannot get more sequel-bait than that. When I first realized that this was the spot it was ending I was a little confused and annoyed as it seemed like such a weird ending spot, but after seeing the episode it works really well. It’s a really good close to a first season.
As much as I liked all these small moments with the other gems, they definitely didn’t overshadow the plot moments, especially Phos’s dramatic confrontation with a Lunarian, which is hands down one of the best scenes in the entire show. The contrast between this scene and the other more laid back scenes is striking – especially with the colouring differences (everything looks softer and gentler inside the School during the day for example, as opposed to at dusk and night outside). With that climactic scene suddenly cut short, and the cliffhanger ending, they honestly could not have done a better job at hyping people up to see more.
I loved what I’d read of the Houseki no Kuni manga at while before this anime was first announced, but I was extremely wary of whether an anime could possibly do anything as unique as that justice. To tell the truth, it couldn’t. The exact aesthetic of Houseki no Kuni is something that only shines in this specific form – black and white, minimalist artwork with a genius use of negative space. A by the book anime would fall short, so as much as I was excited I was ready to be let down. When I heard the show was going to be CGI I was even more skeptical. But after seeing the trailer I realized that they had opted for going for an entire new type of unique aesthetic rather than striving to ape the uniqueness of the manga. The result is an experience that manages to at the same time be completely different to the manga and yet true to it.
The show is beautiful. There are very few scenes in this that didn’t look amazing in some way – even if it was just a talking scene, there was real thought and artistry put into the composition, the lighting, and at times the colour palette. Colours and ambience are utilized in a way I don’t see enough in an animated medium. With the musical score it’s honestly so beautiful its genuinely moving.
That’s not to say I don’t have complaints about the anime, minor as they are. The gems androgyny and in some cases paradoxical male-coding was a huge part of the original manga, but I honestly think they dropped the ball on it a bit here by moeafying everyone. It works for some characters, but definitely not all, and the hyper-feminine voices are actually a little annoying to me (I got used to them, but its still jarring on some characters). It’s not surprising that most western viewers are mistaking them all for girls, especially because the majority of the male coding is in the speech and script only. (Still, I hope at least one of those guys who refuses to accept their waifu Diamond isn’t a girl got comically mad when Bort blatantly yelled out ‘niichan’)
As for the story itself – there’s always been complaints about the pacing, and most of the first half can be summed up as ‘Phos is told not to do the thing, but does the thing, and Something Terrible happens’. To be honest, I actually like how the stakes are continually raised and how there is almost never a dull moment…and when there is, it doesn’t feel dull. It’s a curious and unique blend of slice of life and surreal nightmares. Otherwise, the fact that there are characters who do very little while the narrative treats them as important probably also seems strange, but only in the context of this season being the entire show, which it almost certainly isn’t.
The moefication aside, this show is honestly otherwise perfect to me. It’s not every day you get a perfect anime based on a perfect manga that achieves perfection in its own unique way.