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Alethea & Athena
Land of the Lustrous volume 2 
5th-Sep-2017 05:27 pm
tadah
We finally decided to text Gaston and see what the Disneyland plans were...which resulted in him calling and talking for an hour, and now you see why we're reluctant to do these things when we're trying to make the most of our time. The extra funny thing about it is that the reason we decided to communicate was that we needed to figure out how to fit another book into our schedule before the end of September. We...may end up working more on our vacation than we thought.

But the point is! It's looking like we're not going to be around to post a Review Rednesday tomorrow, so we're going to jump the gun and have today be Reviewsday! Hopefully this doesn't mess up anyone's review reading schedule, because this week we're featuring Land of the Lustrous volume two!! Woohoo!!!


Okay, so apparently there was a thing called Land of the Lustrous last week? Was it last week? Maybe it was two weeks ago. No, Athena says we turned it in on Friday, so it was five days ago? I don't know. Nobody knows, because by the time this gets posted, it will have been so long ago that nobody cares. I could go check, but that's really not the point of this. The point is that we've been so busy that we not only have not had time to write reviews, but our brains have been emptied of Land of the Lustrous to make room for the other stuff we were working on between now and back then. But fear not! I will remember! I think.

What I mostly remember about this volume is...that I liked it. Yup. It was pretty good. Not as much of Phos being Phos...okay, there was definitely plenty of Phos being Phos, but not in the sassy way that makes her so much fun. Anyway, it starts out with Phos being assigned to accompany Lord Ventricosus the snail, but of course Phos is too busy trying to help Cinnabar to really care about anything else, and while she's bummed out about that, Ventricosus comes along and says hey let's go to the ocean. This was actually a very clever way to bring up some important world-building points. I was wondering, after volume one, why they had white skin if they were supposed to be gemstones. It kind of bummed me out, too, because I like things that sparkle, and it made me sad to think it was only their hair that did that. But now we know that it's because they cover themselves with powder so they don't blind each other. Well, that makes sense. And you can even see on the cover of volume two that inside their mouths is the color of their gemstone. Very clever. (Actually, I don't know if this art will be included in the English release, but there's under-the-slipcover art that has them sans powder...which you can only tell because of the way the shading is done, because it's monochrome. They're like super naked, though.) It also gives cosplayers an excuse to cover their faces with sparkly white powder to enhance their lumosity.

Okay, so Ventricosus takes Phos under the sea, where we learn about the Admirabilis people, who are basically invertebrate humanoids that have some pretty cool-looking fish forms. This series just screams cosplay, seriously. And they're all, like, three hundred years old, so we don't feel like we're weirdos cosplaying people half our age. Anyway, Ventricosus tells the tale of how humans escaped to the sea and were divided into three parts, and it's pretty much stated in the form of "it's just speculation, but proooooobably" that the Admirabilis are the flesh, the Lustrous are the bone, and the lunarians are the spirit. And then we find out that the whole journey was a trap and the lunarians come to take Phos away! Oh no!

We also meet Aculeatus, who was a lot of fun, and I hope we see more of him. Phos's legs are shattered, and Aculeatus fights off the lunarians and he and Ventricosus decide not to trade Phos for their people after all. Then Phos washes up on shore and has to get new legs, and then because the new legs are so awesome, she's finally able to maybe start fighting like she's always wanted. Tadah! So she teams up with the Ame-sisters! Woohoo! Naturally, they're the characters that we would cosplay if we ever have a chance to cosplay this series (by which I mean the time and money to make the costumes).

And that's pretty much where this volume leaves us. It came with its own challenges, as usual. We're still fuzzy on the whole gender thing, so we had to figure out how to deal with the term "onii-sama." Any other series, and we probably would have assumed that the "onii-sama" thing is proof that at least some of the characters are male. Or, at least Yellow Diamond. The interesting thing about it, though, is that no kanji is used for onii-sama. It could just be a stylistic choice. There is kanji for Aneue (dear sister) and otouto (little brother), though.

Okay, I'm just going to lay it out here. We've seen a summary in more than one place now that specifically states that there's no gender in the Land of the Lustrous, and that's why we're having such a hard time with it. The funny thing about it, though, is that none of the Japanese summaries have ever deemed that point important enough to include it--only English ones. In fact, it may have been the same English one posted in two different places. And the Japanese Wikipedia article does mention this fact, but only in one sentence and it doesn't go into it. Or maybe it does but we don't want to read it because hello, spoilers. The point is, since it never states it explicitly in the dialogue, we don't want to make it obvious that there's no gender. And we shy away from using singular "they" because it just feels weird when you use it that much, especially when you're talking about one specific person that everybody's already met. Maybe if we knew more people who prefer that pronoun we'd get used to it... Anyway, they have hinted at the lack of gender thing, with Phos's comment about Ventricosus's breasts, and from the start I've been wondering if maybe there's a shocking(?) reveal later, where Phos discovers this thing called "gender" and is all "what's that?"

The really special thing about this is that Japanese can go on for paragraphs at a time without ever using personal pronouns, and in a dialogue, they don't always come up anyway, because people tend to use the second-person. But this series, of all series, has to spend so much time having conversations about people who are not present. Ugh!

Anyway, our goal is, when they make the reveal about gender, for people who are not familiar with the summary(s) we read to think, "What? But surely they must have used a personal pronoun somewhere! I could have sworn this character was a..." and then they'd flip back through the series and realize that oh, they never really specified. On the other hand, we had instructions to use singular they where necessary, so it's possible that our editor put one or two in there when our work-arounds sounded too silly.

[ETA: Incidentally, when we first started translating this series, we emailed our editor about the whole pronoun thing (like maybe we should use one of the new-fangled genderless pronouns?), and she asked Japan-side, and the answer was that, when we absolutely cannot just repeat the name (in Japan they use proper names as pronouns all the time, and it doesn't sound weird because that's how Japanese just is), the author would prefer we use "he." For this reason, we were kind of hoping the anime cast would be male. Anyway, our editor wasn't too keen on that idea, so she said to use singular they, and we said to each other, "But that just sounds so awkward..." and decided we would do our best to avoid pronouns altogether. I do want to point out, though, that the Japanese dialogue actually does use the pronoun kare, which is generally masculine in modern speech, but, according to a Japanese language dictionary, was originally gender neutral. It was probably a similar idea that led to the author's preference of "he" (when learning English in school, she may have been taught the old rule that when someone's gender is unknown, or you're speaking in hypotheticals or whatever, the proper thing to do is to use "he").]

But back to this gender thing. I have a theory. Ventricosus talks about how the humans split into three, and does specify that they actually just evolved that way, so this theory may be completely off-base, but what if each member of each race has a counterpart in the other race? I mean, if the lunarians' quest is ever going to be successful, it would eventually mean fusing a gem with an Admirabilis with a lunarian, right? And! Dia spends a whole chapter in volume one treating Ventricosus like Phos. My theory is that Ventricosus and Phos are part of the same human, and maybe a very important lunarian is the spirit part, which would be why they're so obsessed with Phos. Then Cinnabar and Aculeatus would be counterparts, too, speaking of similarities between Ventricosus and Phos. And! if you think about it, we all assume that Phos can talk to Ventricosus because she ate her, but what if it's really because they're part of the same person? I guess we'll find out. On the other hand, Athena points out that Phos can understand Aculeatus, too, but maybe that's just because when they're in humanoid form other humanoids can understand them.

Kongo-sensei was pretty upset when Phos mentioned humans. I wonder why... But that brings us to the matter of Phos's memory, which is another bit of clever world-building. Since the gems are brought to life by their inclusions, then the inclusions would probably all be working together as the "brain," so to speak, and that's why losing her legs would lose part of Phos's memory. Or at least, that's how I reasoned it out.

Yellow Diamond is another mysterious character. He mentions in passing that all of his partners have been taken to the moon, and I really have to wonder about that. It also makes me wonder, considering his age as compared to Phos's, and the context in which he mentions it, if a new gem is born around the same time one is taken. I mean, what is that process? We know they took Heliodor "the other day," but they mention how people who live that long have different attitudes about existence, so was "the other day" about three hundred years ago? Or is there another gem forming to replace Heliodor? Or do they just form whenever and it has nothing to do with anything?

And of course, I have to give a shout out to the Ame-sisters. Usually when we see amethyst, it's spelled amejisuto, but not this time. Ichikawa-sensei deliberately writes it ameshisuto, which is why we called them the Ame-sisters. We like to think Ichikawa-sensei had the same idea. I think they're so cute, how they keep freaking Phos out by noticing animals.

And I think that covers it for this volume. We're still really digging this series, and we hope all you readers are, too!


Oh man, what a fun and fascinating series.

Now, as for this week's releases...all we have is Waiting for Spring 2! But it's a great volume, so it's okay that there's only one. (It's better than zero, right?) And tune in next week, for our review of Kigurumi Guardians 1! (If we remember. We'll be, like, super preoccupied.)

Today I'm thankful for making good progress on work despite long phone calls, having plans for a birthday Disneyland trip with Gaston tomorrow, finding some cute cat ear headbands to order for our Halloween costumes, Page being kind enough not to flip the switch on our power strip, and the Ame-sisters.
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