This is the first review on a list of six--six!--in a backlog going back at least six weeks. That's how crunched we've been, and how resistant we've been to using our free time for anything other than...well, watching anime, mostly. I do enjoy these reviews, but I think all the work means we've been giving a lot of output, and reviews are more output, and when we have time, we want more input. But now! our schedule is miraculously light, to the point that we're like, "Shouldn't we have heard from an editor by now...?" I mean, we could always work on Sailor Moon, and we should, but right now we're taking full advantage of the lack of deadlines to take a much-needed break. And while we're at it, we are semi-determined to at least gradually get caught up on review writing, so here we are! Tadah!
And now we're reviewing Land of the Lustrous 8, and I think I even remember what happened in it! We start out with Phosphophyllite going to the moon! What! This is what I've been waiting for the entire series, and it's finally happening! Turns out the lunarians can talk after all, which is something that deeply offends Phos, who had been trying and failing to communicate with them since before she lost her head. Aechmea's explanation for that is a little odd--I mean, I get that the air "reminds us of unpleasant things" bit is supposed to be a hint about the lunarians originally being earthlings, but I still don't really get why it would be an issue.
Anyway, the first thing Aechmea explains to Phos is what the lunarians have done with all of the Lustrous, and dang, it's sadistic. We saw him grind the synthetic antarcticite into powder and we were like, "Yeeeeeah, you might not get your people back after all." But Phos is ever the optimist, and I guess if they have the right technology, they could analyze every grain of sand and make sure each piece goes to the right gem. It would take an eternity, but the Lustrous have nothing if not time. On the other hand, how big are the inclusions, and could they survive that grinding process?
Aechmea is an interesting character, partly because he appears in no less than three different forms. I'm guess the first time we see him he's in "appropriate for leading all the lunarians" form, then when he changes into the business suit, he's deliberately trying to look like Kongo to be more persuasive. And I think we can all agree that the shirtless form with glasses that looks like some dude washed up on a deserted island is probably what he looked like in life. And oh my goodness did this guy have a lot to say. There was so. much. talking. It never stopped! The first half of this volume was so hard! And so scientific! Aaaaaaahhhh! We had such a hard time figuring out what clause modified what and where everything was supposed to fit. But we're fairly certain we figured it all out in the end, and that we even got it right! Mostly I think we got it right because when we looked at the whole thing, it's what all made the most sense. But on the other hand, what makes sense to us may not be what makes sense to somebody else, so.
But we learned about synthetic gemstones, which are the same as lab-grown gemstones...that was more when Phos took the lunar tour later, but it was part of all the talk talk talking. But most importantly, we learned about Kongo and what his deal is. When he said he wasn't human, I figured he was a robot, and it turns out I was right! Tadah! And this is a most interesting thing, because it's where the series combines science with religion, sort of. The explanation of the afterlife, in keeping with the rest of the series, is based on Pureland Buddhism, and oh my goodness, if we had not translated that one season of Hozuki's Coolheadedness, we might have had an even harder time dealing with all this exposition, because the Land of the Lustrous version of the afterlife is that anyone can go to Nirvana as long as they have someone to pray for them. There was an episode of Hozuki (and now I don't remember if we translated it or just watched it as research; Hozuki is such a blur) where they talk about the offerings system and how all the people in Hell can have expedited sentences if their descendants provide enough offerings. Kind of interesting how that ties in with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belief that if you don't accept the gospel in this life, then your descendants can do the ordinance work for you and you still have a chance at all the blessings of salvation if you want them, but I digress.
The point is, now that humanity has been wiped out, there's no one left to pray for anybody, so all the spirits with no pray-ers are stuck on the moon until somebody prays for them. I guess humans saw the end was coming, then, because they created Kongo to pray for them. And this is where things get all muddled again, because we're not sure if they want Kongo to pray so much as to blast them out of existence. Well, Nirvana is a sort of nothingness, so I guess it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. But Kongo isn't doing it, so they figure he's defective. We figure, and I think we would have figured this even if we hadn't been relying on Japanese blogs reacting to these chapters that agree, that Kongo just doesn't want to for some reason. Conveniently for the storyteller, Kongo has been programmed not to give away his secrets, so the information is easily withheld until the storyteller sees fit to give it to us.
In the meantime, the lunarians are being super-jerks in an attempt to provoke Kongo into obliterating them, and this is where Phos comes in. She figures if they can just get Kongo to do his job for crying out loud, the lunarians will stop kidnapping the Lustrous. Aechmea pretty much confirms this, and so they embark on a plan of arch betrayal. Dun dun DUN! And Phos goes back to earth and tries to convince as many of her friends to go back to the moon with her as she can.
I'm pretty sure I had some reaction to the dinner scene with Phos and Aechmea, but it was so long ago, I don't remember it. Of course, we wrote a note about the whole "eating food in the afterlife" business, and that was one of our reactions.
So the second half of the volume is Phos talking to all the gemstones about the moon, and being very sneaky about it all. Euclase catches on to what's happening and so this is the first in a series of things that we came across where someone says, "Hey, how about we all share the same information, instead of just giving bits and pieces to different people?" I think this is very relevant in our time, because we have so many people fighting over so many things, and they're all convinced that the other side is evil, when really they just all have different pieces of information. I think in most cases, if we put all the information together, and we all accept it, we'll all decide that we were all wrong to some degree. But again, I digress.
Ironically, the one person Phos can't convince to join them on the journey to the moon is the one person who started all this by suggesting they wanted to go to the moon: Cinnabar. I'm a little bit with Cinnabar on this one, because Cinnabar's point is that he would feel bad leaving Kongo all alone, and Phos is like, "Who cares about that guy? He's not even one of us!" And Cinnabar's like, "You will never understand what it's like to be alone." I think the scene is a very significant one, because earlier in the series, Kongo asks Phos why she's so obsessed with fighting, and she says it's because she loves Sensei and wants to help him. Now Phos is saying who cares about that guy. She really has changed. Also, even with a twin sister, we both know what it's like to be deserted by your friends, and we would feel bad about it, too.
On the other hand, there's Kongo's strange behavior. It's probably not insignificant that, again, earlier in the series, someone pointed out that Phos is the only one who could get away with talking to Kongo the way she does. Would Kongo have let any other gem go around convincing the others to up and fly to the moon? Or does Kongo's favoritism come from some secret knowledge (or hunch) he has that Phos is going to be the one to save them all, so he just lets Phos do whatever? It's all very curious.
I probably shouldn't end the review without mentioning Semi, because Semi is great [Note: after discussions with editors, I think we decided to name him Cicada]. But I don't think I have much else to say about him. The lunarians are all pretty funny. I think it's worth noting that most of the time, they go around without feet, which is a signature trait of ghosts in Japan. I also get the feeling that there's a whole lot more to Aechmea's story than just that the lunarians all liked him enough to put him in charge, but I'm pretty sure that's not exactly a genius deduction. I also seem to remember doing a bunch of research to figure out the symbolism behind his name, and finding a few leads but nothing that seemed to really click. It means "spiny," which is the same meaning as Aculeatus, so maaaaybe there's some significance there. I think we found a passing mention of some possible Buddhist significance, because it's also the name of a flower...that might mean something... Ah, but it was so long ago. Either we wrote a note about it, or we'll just end up doing all the research again. I think I might just have a special affection for Aechmea because he's the first hot guy in the series we've been able to spend a significant amount of time with. I really liked Aculeatus, too...
Ah, what a great series. We've had a lot of rush jobs lately that ended up shoving this series out of the way, and from the way it's all gone down, we gather the manga isn't selling very well, which is a shame because the anime was super popular. I know the manga doesn't have all the sparkly shiny colors, but come on, people, use your imaginations. And give the series more of a chance, because it's so good!!!
Anyway, according to our records (which may be out of date), this week's new releases include just one! This very volume of Land of the Lustrous! But next week...never mind, it looks like they pushed back the next volume of the Sailor Moon Eternal Edition again. Ever the optimists about this one, they keep announcing it prematurely. And that means! we won't have a review next week! Ha, ha, ha... Maybe we'll talk about Edens Zero or an anime we translated or something. If you have a request, now's your chance to make it! (I mean, you have the whole week, but if you do it now, you won't forget!)
Today I'm thankful for making good progress on Sailor Moon, not having as hard a time as we thought we might with the wordplay (although it's not over yet), having time to make brownies (they're still cooling, so we don't know if the endeavor was a success or not), fond reminiscences of Land of the Lustrous, and getting a Top Fan badge for Kodansha's Facebook page.