Houseki no Kuni
(Eng title: Land of the Lustrous)
By Haruko Ichikawa
Published by Kodansha in Monthly Afternoon (2012 ~ Present)
” A fragile Gem, wishes to become stronger to fight lunarians and prove her worth!”
Personified magical gems in a bitter war with the moon?! How can you survive when your power is decided by your mere existence?
In the far, distant future in the Land of the Lustrous, a great war rages between the Earth and the Moon.
Humanity, now evolved into crystal based lifeforms known as “Gems”, fight for survival against the moon dwelling Lunarians, who covet their crystallized bodies for personal decorations.
The protagonist, Phosphophyllite is looked upon as a weak gem by her peers due to her physically brittle nature, making her unsuitable for battle. However, when called upon by her teacher, she is tasked with compiling an encyclopedia about the world and its history.
At first she rejects this boring task, seeking something more meaningful, until she meets Cinnabar, an isolated Gem, with poisonous qualities that makes her live in isolation.
At first she rejects this task, wishing instead to join her comrades in the never ending war. Not until she meets Cinnabar, a taciturn and shunned Gem, that Phos resolves to find a place for them both in that world that seemingly rejects them.
At its heart, Land of the Lustrous is a story about willpower and change.
Creating a non human protagonist that because of being a rock, you could say that change for a rock should be on the last list of possibilities.
By making the characters personified precious stones, Ichikawa sensei expertly weaves challenges to mirror their existence. Phos is characterized as weak from birth, due to the nature of her gemstone, which instantly offers up the themes of breaking away from the constraints of what is expected. Her frustration and eagerness to prove her self-worth, not to only to others but herself, is the fuel that keeps this story going.
This feeling of being judged and limited fulfillment is instantly relatable, giving an inner strength to the character. Though her existence follows a natural order within the story, Phos breaks from the norm showing a strong personality, often charging blindly into dangerous situations that inevitably change her life.
She shows what every character should do in a story, she moves by her own will forward searching for her purpose. However this does come with setback, as everything, when you crave change it doesn’t mean that the result will be good.
Strong, willful and determined, Phosphophyllite is the archetypal heroin for the 21st Century. She walks her own path, learns from her mistakes and is always willing to the accept the consequences of her actions. A shining gem of modern Girl-power indeed!
” Phos wants to be useful to her comrades, like I just want to help all the aspiring Mangakas in the world!”
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