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Alethea & Athena
Land of the Lustrous volume 1 
19th-Jul-2017 04:47 pm
Ha HA! It's finally time! Time to post our review of Land of the Lustrous 1! I don't even know if the review is any good; we wrote it like a year ago. Okay, six months, but it was a long time. Anyway, you guys, this series is pretty good, and if you haven't checked it out, you totally should. Spoiler level: mild.

I'm really excited about this book, you guys! It was a lot of fun, and it should (if approvals go well) literally be shiny! Woohoo!

So Land of the Lustrous is one of the five titles we got assigned back when Kodansha announced ten new licenses. It's also one of two that we knew, based on internet summaries, had content we might be more interested in leaving to somebody else, but since the editor asked if we were interested in it, we did some more research and found out, once again, that Kodansha is very generous with free online previews of manga. In other words, we got to read the whole first chapter. And we loved it!

I don't know what exactly it was about it that had us so excited about it, but I can say with a certainty that the premise was fascinating, and it seemed like one of the themes is going to be the importance of keeping records, and that's something we're very interested in right now. (We just recently subscribed to National Geographic History!) And of course, the fact that it's about gemstones definitely helped. All the sparkles! We were pretty happy to learn that the covers are indeed holographic. (At least, they are for the Japanese version. We heard they're going to try and get that for the English version, too, but we don't know the outcome. And that reminds me, our editor said approvals take a while, so this review is likely to be sitting on our hard drive for quite a while before it gets posted.)

So what is this series about? Well, waaaaaay in the future, almost everything on earth has been destroyed, and the humans that remain have evolved into gemstone people. (This is an extremely paraphrased version of the history recited in the manga.) And each of the gemstone people has a job except for poor Phosphophyllite, who is brittle and only has a hardness of 3.5, so is too fragile to go into battle, but has proven to be completely inept at just about everything else. Phos (I call her by her nickname in text because that name is way too long to type, but it's really fun to say, so in speech, I tend to say the whole thing; Athena has pointed out that it could also be pronounced foss-FOFFLE-ite, which is also super fun) desperately wants to go into battle, but their fearless leader won't let her and instead makes her compile a natural history.

Incidentally, genders are unspecified, so I'm choosing them arbitrarily based on my own interpretation of the characters for this review. (That's not how we did it for the actual translation.)

Anyway. Phos is a total brat and doesn't understand how cool it is to know about nature and everything, so she tries her hardest to get out of the assignment, but the point is, even though I think she's totally wrong about natural histories, she's a heck of a lot of fun to translate. She's maybe my second favorite character. Right now, I think my favorite character is Diamond, because she's just so sparkly. And it's so cute how Cinnabar yells at her for being too bright, so she puts a kerchief over her head.

Okay, so I'm not sure how to talk about this series, because my thoughts are all over the place, and I'm not sure how much of a summary I want to give. But the art is very unusual and kind of reminds me of a mix of Utena and The Phantom Toll Booth, except that I like it. The Phantom Toll Booth (the animated one) weirded me out too much. And I'm not sure if my remembering it is even an accurate comparison. It's just, "This art is pretty unusual. It reminds me of something weird. Like maybe...the Phantom Toll Booth?" Athena says she thinks more of The Thief and the Cobbler, like it's surreal but not quite surreal. What's the word for surreal but not surreal surreal? Impressionist? Like van Gogh? But a lot cleaner than van Gogh. Anyway, it's very artsy.

And the story seems like it's artsy, too, but it's still relatable...which is not to say that artsy stories can't be relatable... Like, it's artsy, but a normal person who doesn't know anything about art can still be entertained by it, like why Walt Disney made Fantasia. It's artsy, but it does more than just try to impress artsy-type people. Which is to say Phos is not a sophisticated person. The characters are more down-to-earth. Yes, I think that's what we're trying to say. Artsy, but still down to earth. Whew.

This whole thing is reminding us about how we were reading reviews of the series on Amazon Japan, and one of them said, "I like it, but I can't tell you what's good about it."

The unusual premise also lets the story go in unusual ways, too! I mean, the character relationships seem like they're going to be pretty standard, but the specific events are definitely unusual. And the character traits are a little unusual, kind of like the X-Men, how they have their special abilities, but they also come with weaknesses...mostly I'm thinking of Cinnabar and Rogue. But the really neat thing about it in this case is that all of the attributes are related to real gemstones. Like they explain Cinnabar's deal, and we look up cinnabar...we had to look up Cinnabar, because he's one of two characters whose name was left in Japanese. But we looked up cinnabar, and the actual mineral has the same traits! It's so cool!

Now, speaking of the names. Unless our editor changed it due to editorial authority or because the original author didn't like it that way or whatever, we translated the name Shinsha to Cinnabar, but we left the name Kongo instead of translating it to Adamant. Why? It's all about phonetics. We talked about it and decided that, while Shinsha sounds very cool in Japanese, Shinabaa does not. On the other hand, in English, Cinnabar sounds juuuust a little bit more awesome than Shinsha. Kongo and Adamant can go either way, but for Kongo it was a matter of character design. He looks like a Buddhist priest, and while most of the readers probably won't have studied much about Japanese Buddhism and so wouldn't care one way or another, to me, if I see someone dressed like Kongo, I would expect him to have a name like Kongo and not an English one like Adamant. The other thing is, Kongo's surplice is gold on the back cover of volume one, and when I hear "adamant," I think of silver (probably once again because of X-Men, because of Wolverine and his adamantium claws). But the "kon" in "kongo" means gold, so for me, Kongo works better than Adamant.

Then there's Morga and Goshen. In the Japanese version, they're Morga and Goshe, short for Morganite and Goshenite. We talked it over and decided that Goshen sounds cooler than Goshe (and is more likely to be pronounced properly; that E is not silent), but Morga still sounds cooler than Morgan. So that's how we decided those, but again, it might be different by the time this review gets posted.

Aaaanyway. I forgot to mention that the other part of the premise is that there are now seven moons around the earth, and people come from the moons to take the gemstone people away and turn them into pretty decorations. So far that element has only affected the story tangentially, but it's still kind of neat. I mean, not really a good situation for the gem folk, but interesting story-wise.

I think that's everything I had to say. It's a really great series so far, so we hope you all like it!

That may be the ramblin'est review we've ever written. It's fun, though! Doesn't give a whole lot about the story. But that's okay, because you can just read it yourself and find out! ...On the other hand, we've read more than one review where the reviewer seemed confused about what's going on. We didn't think it was confusing, so I'm really hoping it's not a matter of the translation being all, "That's okay; it makes sense to me!" So if anyone out there has read the book and was confused by it, please comment and let us know what was so confusing, and we'll see if we can clear it up!

And this week, we actually have two new releases! In/Spectre 5 and a new series! Volume one of Waiting for Spring is now available! Woohoo! I was thinking of going in non-alphabetical order this time, because, what with In/Spectre being five volumes in, we'd want to make sure people had more time to get to it and avoid spoilers, but I'm not really sure if it's possible to spoil volume five of In/Spectre. So I haven't decided what we're going to review next week. Hmmm... Anyway, whichever one you don't want to be spoiled for, you better get to that one first. I'll try to give a heads-up when we decide, but that might not happen until next Wednesday, so.

Today I'm thankful for getting to review Land of the Lustrous, making good progress on our Waiting for Spring edit, getting one of Melissa's endings, Page being super cute when she emerges from Under the Bed, and plans to spend a lovely day in San Diego tomorrow.
19th-Jul-2017 09:28 pm (UTC)
The real-life gem cinnabar actually oozes black goo on everything it touches? It must be really pretty if people are willing to go through whatever elaborate processes are necessary to counteract this when making it into jewelry or whatever.


Re the book's alleged confusingness: I'm still not sure whether Phos literally turned into a snail-like creature about halfway through the book after being ingested by some sort of giant enemy slime mold, or whether the snail(?) merely appeared to have Phos' consciousness because it, like the inert remains of the rest of the slime the snail came out of, contained shattered fragments of Phos that could be retrieved and reassembled back into Phos' original form. Although if the snail acted as if it thought it was Phos because there were fragments of her embedded in it, presumably that would have meant that the other gems would have had to dig the Phos fragments out of the snail in order to completely reassemble humanoid Phos. This would probably have been painful or even fatal for the snail, and I don't remember any scenes showing the other gems doing this. So my theory about the snail not exactly being Phos is probably wrong. Although now that I think about it, reassembling Phos out of a bunch of splintered fragments and one still alive and kicking (or slithering) snail also sounds rather difficult, not to mention potentially uncomfortable at best for the snail. Of course, if the snail actually was Phos and she preferred to be back in her original form, I suppose she might think it was worth enduring whatever they had to do to put her back together when one of the "puzzle pieces" involved was a live snail which presumably wouldn't just snap neatly back together with the regular gem splinters.
19th-Jul-2017 10:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear, Cinnabar's venom is supposed to be silver--I thought that was in the dialogue, so I'm really hoping that didn't get edited out. But the real cinnabar excretes mercury. I don't think it's generally used for jewelry; according to Wikipedia, it was used to make dyes, and to harvest the element mercury.


The snail was never actually Phos--Dia was just reading all of its actions that way. If you check again, you'll see that sometimes the snail just did its own thing. True, sometimes the snail did seem to act like Phos, but part of that is because Ichikawa-sensei already planted in our minds the idea that the snail was Phos, which was only because, failing to find any pieces of Phos in the lake where she and the snail fell, the only logical explanation (for anyone who doesn't know about snail biology) is that Phos had become a snail somehow. When the snail answered to the name Phos (I think it did that...), we think it was just playing along.

Phos had been dissolved and made a part of the snail's shell, just like if humans absorb calcium in their bodies, it becomes a part of their bones. Parts of Phos had to be shaved off when she was contaminated with Cinnabar's venom, which tells us that they don't need every single piece in order to be a living gem, but most, if not all, of Phos was found in the snail's shell.
21st-Jul-2017 06:07 pm (UTC)
Wooo, the shiny book!! (it's not holographic for the English editions... alas.)

I was a little confused (the snail thing, as Marfisa mentioned. I started reading your reply but then decided I don't want to be spoiled), but not much more than by a lot of first volumes I read, which frequently leave me wondering where the story is headed. If I'm intrigued then I'll continue but if I can't be bothered to care I won't. I thought this one was plenty intriguing! One other uncertainty is I still don't quite know if this series is going to be big epic space alien battles or la-di-da fantasy world adventures. But either way seems like it'll be fun. The art reminded me of wispy 70s-80s shoujo manga. I liked that. It does make me nervous by default though, because I think of other sci-fi-type stories from that era (like by Keiko Takamiya and stuff) and sci-fi stories make me anxious about the well-being of everyone involved. It's not a bad thing.

I had wondered about Kongo keeping the Japanese name but thought maybe he was something special or different than the rest or something (after all, the Buddhist robes...). I think I recall some reference to Cinnabar's venom being silver because I read that in your reply and it sounded not-unfamiliar? But it's drawn very BLACK in the artwork so it does give a dark impression.

Ooh, a young friend of mine just shared a photo of her new books from B&N's buy-2-get-3rd-free sale and one of them was Waiting for Spring and I hadn't realized it was already out until then!! (at least it's only been 3 days.) I'm excited to read it! I'll make sure to get a copy by next week. But I'll be ready for In/Spectre too of course, if you go that way, and will try to overcome my resentment by then... (just turned in 6 this afternoon.)
22nd-Jul-2017 06:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we were a little disappointed when we saw it at Anime Expo. (Apparently they've been having some issues getting comp copies out.)

I know that when a series is just the right kind of confusing, like you know it's being confusing on purpose and not because of bad story-telling, that usually gets me to want to read more so the mystery will be solved. I can tell you that our spoiler comments above are really only for volume one, and the only thing affected by volume two is the fact that we can make certain claims with more certainty.

We did write a note about Kongo's name... He almost certainly is something special, being the leader and all, but we couldn't say how exactly. So yeah, like I said, it was all about character image and what sounded coolest. The reason (we assume) Cinnabar's venom looks black is that Ichikawa-sensei doesn't use a lot of tone (it's really just in the hair, I think?), so if you were going to draw mercury and your options were black and white, and you really only see it at night, black makes the most sense.

Decisions have yet to be made about what to review next week. We haven't had much capacity to think. (But congratulations on getting In/Spectre 6 done!)
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