Posted by SuperMario on 4 December 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Houseki no Kuni

Houseki approaches summertime this episode and this week feels like a breather after the intensity from the last few weeks, by that I mean Phos didn’t get into any real trouble by the end of this week. Not to say this episode is anything less amazing compared to last several weeks. One of the factor that I still regarded Grimgar quite highly despite its shaky overall production is that they nailed the feeling of grief admirably, something that the anime medium usually glosses over too quickly. The loss of someone close/ dear to you usually leaves a lasting, permanent impact, so naturally I found myself tuning out whenever the main protagonist overcomes that loss just several episodes like nothing ever happen. Here in Houseki, the loss of Antarc still lingering over Phos, and although Phos doesn’t have any significant alteration in their physical body, this week marks a tremendous change in Phos’ personality. At the beginning of this episode, we see the more collected, no-nonsense Phos and they still mourn over the loss of Antarc, whom they feel their capture was entirely their fault. The nightmare/hallucination of Phos about Antarc, in particular, is a powerful and realistic moment about people gem who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder.

Back to spring, when all the gems wake up from hibernation with a new job, and new pairs of spring uniform. Phos receives unanimous popular for their new alloy arms, which can stretch, turn, attack and making a wall at will. The other gems, behave exactly like children who receive new toys, at first scare of Phos’ arms, but then the curiosity takes a better of them. With the old Phos, the sudden popularity and recognition from their peers are all they could ask for, but now that Phos actually has all the attention, they don’t know how to deal with it. “Not a single good thing has come from it”. This line nails perfectly how the current Phos feel. Phos is now strong at battle, can single-handed hold off the Lunarians’ attacks, just like what they wished right at the beginning of the series. But everything else is off. They still can’t fulfil what they promised to Cinnabar, they lost what they consider their best comrade. My favorite moment of this episode has to be when Phos cries their gold tears, in which Kongou sensei calmly responses “This is merely a defect found in ancient organism and nothing to fault yourself for”. Somehow this line really sums up Houseki’s eye-opening world flawlessly.

One thing I didn’t pick up on my last coverages is how the Lunarians have several different types attacking the Gems. I guess the different in types all depending on the Jewel materials they used to attack the Gems. My take is that the old, classic type is the type that has none of such material. Which comes to a fascinating scenario: Imagine how Phos would react when the Lunarians use Antarc’s fragments as their core materials. Granted, Antarc is fragile in nature so there is a low chance that would happen. One more interesting factor in this episode is how Phos slowly lost their memories as well. Not sure when they response to Rutile that they don’t remember Cinnabar is just a total scam or the truth, but with Phos slowly losing their memory (due to their loss of fragments), changing both in their personality and appearance, what’s left to the original Phos except their gorgeous Tomoko Kurosawa’s voice? Are they considered the same gem then? As this is the episode dedicated to the new personality of Phos, the background visual appropriately has more colourful setting with the yellow reflection from the sun. The visual motif changes as well, as previous episodes we often see Phos lying on the grass, this time though they’re standing on it, but still feel lost and directionless. The visual and the music is as dead on as ever. This might be a slow episode, but Houseki again successfully establishes Phos as a compelling protagonist, and I really hope in the last 3 episodes, we gonna have a powerful arc that close up this magnificent, unique anime in a satisfying manner.

10 Responses

  1. Avatar Strength says:

    The good old Phos is gone (like Antark), but this is how it should be. Phos appears to be punishing itself out of guilt. It’s disheartening, but I love it. Phos needs to let go and find a new role to be comfortable in, if circumstances allow, which something tells me will not be happening.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, in fact I watched it about three times. All those reactions were priceless. Especially Dia going all puni-puni.

    However! I have more than a praise this time around.

    This episode had the misfortune of dealing with anchoring Phos’ development to the rest of the show, or, it sadly chose the lighthearted way about it, which finally caused a dip in the stellar narrative consistence. Since when is this full-on moe? The humor and all was great, but I can no longer liken this show to Mushishi or Ergo Proxy, shows which managed to retain an impersonal distance from their depictions and mature style all throughout (yes I’m aware of Ergo’s quiz and disney episodes, but those were thematically full in line with the rest).

    A good deal of run time of this episode was given away to unnecessary humor and nonsensical interaction noise that served no other purpose than to even out the lingering depression. It’s sad if you cant even do a single depressing episode! I would expect these group antics from (not so) hollow idol shows or stuff like Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (where Kongo and Takao rightfully stole the show for me), but not here. Individual humor, yes, collective no.

    I would really prefer a more serious episode. Rutil was more interested in Phos’ hair than Antark’s absence! That make no sense…

    There were more problems.
    – characters (other than Phos) had no room whatsoever to mourn Antark – a great inconsistency and it is not a result of bad pacing
    – Yellow Diamond’s dubbing was off, at one point the mouth moved on its own for a sec or two
    – too much focus on Phos, I’m afraid she is taking over as far as narrative is concerned. It which would be a shame.
    – Ametyst appears utterly incompetent (being defeated by new type of Lunarian once and now showed “how it’s really done” by Phos)
    – The cast has been (temporarily) split to Phos and “them”. Not only was the weight of the individual characters undermined, showing them all together (too often) has a negative effect of taking away from the mystery, where the viewer does not have to put the group together in his own mind by connecting the relationships between the individuals, and instead is conveniently spoonfed the entire structure all at once. Due to smaller group size (compared to say Claymore, which has 47 individuals times 2+ generations) this noticeably shrinks (perceptually) the world. Focusing on the collective also diminishes individual personalities, takes away subtlety and outputs superfluous instant gratification in form of “group power dynamics”, which frankly is the worst a show can do to its cast – to define characters by their role in the group.

    • Avatar Alhazred23 says:

      A couple things to note about the other gems’ behavior:

      Over the entire duration of their long lives, none of them have interacted with Antarc for more than perhaps a couple of days each year, if that. As such, Antarc’s loss is probably on an emotional level less like the loss of a close sibling and more like the loss of, say, a distant uncle that you hardly ever see; i.e. much less affecting all around.

      Their childish behavior might be partially attributable to an excess of energy after waking up from a three-month nap, though i think the contrast to Phos and Kongou and the accompanying emotional disconnect is intentional. Despite some maturity displayed by the elders such as Rutile and Yellow, the gems almost seem stuck in a sort of neoteny, perpetually unable to mature or develop. Phos has been violently broken from this stagnation, and thus Phos becomes a secondary driving force of the plot (along with the evolving tactics of the lunarians.)

      Also, the Amyethyst twins weren’t implied to be incapable of handling that old-style lunarian, they just weren’t given the chance because Phos was there; the same thing would have happened if Bort had been a step or two faster.

      • Avatar Strength says:

        1 Sure, but this (and many other things) weren’t articulated or given any focus, which is my issue.

        2 Nothing to say other than agree, sounds legit.

        3 Yeah, that’s why I said appear. But normally you would want each character to get a chance to shine. This episode cemented the twins’ role for me as: twins that never amount to anything but mean no harm.

    • Avatar Niello says:

      Antarct only appears in the winter and other gems barely ever interacted with him. Not to mention that this isn’t their first time losing a gem in the hundreds or thousands of years lived. Their reactions are auite natural. Also doing an episode like this is better than doing a forced “look at how gloomy we’re getting!”. It highlights Phos current disconnection from the other gems, his lose of cheerfulness and his attempt to deal with the discrepancy between how he got what he had wanted but it’s actually not that great. Over all it managed to convey the hollowness much better than doing what you’ve suggested.

      • Avatar Strength says:

        Fair points. Pls, consider my other replies (you guys really went all out on me).

        Still, the world is not black and white, too much contrast can hurt the image.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      I agree with what Alhazred23 and Niello said. The Gems have very different mentality when it comes to their relationship with other Gems: They will go out their ways to help (just like how the entire team looking for Phos in a beach). but when one of them is taken to the Moon, they don’t give much thought or empathy to it. It’s Phos who goes against the stream here.

      The humors might be too light-heart like you said, but they don’t come for nowhere or being pointless. We see the Gems’ childish antics several times before, and doing that here in this episode just to show how alien Phos is with their own team. This story, after all, is a coming-of-age of Phos and the whole narrative is a bout Phos growing, both physically and mentally, that stands apart to other Gems.

      • Avatar Strength says:

        My nitpick is not about featuring humor, but presentation.

        Feels like many of the jokes were there to lighten up the mood and for contrast, not to actually pronounce character’s personalities. That is what I mean by unnecessary. Simply put, I think at times the episode didn’t try hard enough and only slapped a humor on top.

        It worked as much as it possibly could, but the show almost switched genre and I guess I take issue with that, no matter how marvelously done.

        • Avatar Niello says:

          Hmmm, I think that’s because the old Phos is naturally a comedic kind of character with his snarky comments and playfulness. The lighter stuff this episode from other characters are meant to show that he’s no longer a part of this, but at the same time we also get comedic moments from Phos himself, which is meant to convey that the original Phos is still there deep inside even if obscured by heavy grief and guilt. I think it also helps with showing that Phos is tired.

    • Avatar Strength says:

      Correction: Not Kongo and Takao, but Hyuuga and Takao. Kongo was hardly a comic relief character.

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