Posted by SuperMario on 11 December 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Houseki no Kuni

This week proves to be the most action-packed episode Houseki has been offering so far and unconventionally, it’s Dia who takes the central stage at facing the most ridiculously overpowered Lunarian Titan to date. Well, I said “unconventionally”, but when the narration and the execution (the camera work, in particular) come together in such neat package I have no complain whatsoever. Viewers might point to the second half of this episode as Houseki’s most memorable moments, and they’re indeed correct, but for me the first half is just as equally impressive, despite… well, nothing really happens. Take the first segment for example, where Phos just sits in one place and other characters pop in and out of the picture, in sequence, it feels like we’re in a play. Indeed, that segment is constructed like a theatre play, with Phos sometimes sits in the middle of the “stage”, talks to one cast member at a time and then narrates themselves. Moreover, just by the way Phos interacts with different Gems we can learn immediately about Phos’ current role in this gems’ society: helping out Lexi about Lunarian’s types, taking a patrol job from Jade, still a topic of curiosity from Rutile, partnering up with Bort, and most importantly, we learn that Phos is still haunted by the loss of Antarc. All that and Houseki never betrays its quirky sense of humor. The moment those jellyfishes jump off their pots totally win me over. I didn’t even notice that the Gems use jellyfish as a light source before. That explains the light changes color depending on which Gems taking a spotlight was the jellyfishes deciding to change color, and obviously has nothing to do with Houseki’s artistic liberty.

Dia’s reaction towards receiving the news from Phos has to be Houseki’s most expressive reaction in the whole season, because it fits Dia’s character too well. Shock at first, but Dia quickly accepts that fact and even forces Phos to accept the personality of Bort. I know they’re Gems so they have different concept than us human when it comes to pairing/ partnering, but for me the Gems’ break up is just as hard as ending a relationship. Dia takes those sad feeling all to themselves – of course they’re never worthy enough to be paired with Bort. Of course now that Phos is stronger, it’s only natural for Bort to team up with Phos. The moment Dia just sits there picking flowers in complete loneliness, follow immediately by them looking at their old partner from afar is both sad and heartfelt. Houseki is really spot on at delivering those little character moments. Dia’s arc comes to a satisfying closure at the end of the episode, when Dia gets out of their own insecurity to face the beast head on, and later on when they see Bort again in their own shattered state, Dia fully lets all their burden go. “I’m glad we spilt up” and “From afar, I see just how much you mean to me”. Both are true, spoken from the bottom of their heart (if they ever have one).

Finally, holy cow! The animation, the choreography and the camera work really something else altogether. I would expect that level of excellence in theatrical movie or a top-notch 3D game, not in a “budget” anime show. To put it simply, Houseki is a prime example of an anime that uses the CG right. The two fights are stunning with some of the best cinematography that play almost entirely in one single cut. Just watch the fight sequence of Dia and Shiro in full movements and the long take makes us feel like we were participating in the fight along with Dia. Or the sequence before that when we follow Dia hiding behind the box, we get to see they leaning forward and back in real time, then the camera just zooms out while Dia hides so we can feel in sync with the situation Dia is in. Also I have to note that the way Dia uses their own leg and their own sharpness as a weapon is a smart move, since diamond is weak under impact but extremely lethal when it comes to cutting. At long last, Shiro is cut in half… and split into two smaller Shiros. With only Bort fighting them, how can they pull it off? We have one of the best action-sequence of this whole year and for my money one of the best episode of this season. Houseki goes completely insane this week and ends up outdone themselves. The only issue remains… All these cliffhangers are really bad for my blood-pressure.

12 Responses

  1. Avatar Amagi says:

    I also really loved the scene in which Dia puts the flowers in the vase. I am a fan of indirect depictions of emotion in fiction. I consider this as more powerful than showing actual emotional outbursts which most anime prefer to do.

  2. Avatar Alhazred23 says:

    It might have been nice if some of the comedic beats had been given a second or two longer to breathe, such as when Phos quickly backed down from Bort’s force of personality, or Dia’s dizzy reaction to the news and Phos’s followup. This same issue cropped up with the dramatic beat of when Phos seemingly forgot about Cinnabar, only to remember a moment later. The way these scenes don’t focus on character faces (a change from the manga) can impede the viewer processing them fast enough for proper impact.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      I feel exactly the same. Thank you. In fact those are the only concerns I have with the show so far. Those beats don’t land well and in particular the dramatic beat you mentioned just feels totally off.

    • Avatar Niello says:

      I get the concern with other ones, but what’s wrong with the scene Phos backed away from Bort?

      • SuperMario SuperMario says:

        I watched the episode 3 times and each time that moment where Phos backed away from Bort didn’t work with me. It doesn’t have any weight… Like Alhazred said if they let it sink a little (like focus on Phos’ reaction a few seconds before they back away), it could’ve worked better.

        I’m still yet sold on the chemistry between Phos and Bort by the way.

        • Avatar niello says:

          I don’t really see what’s wrong with that scene. I thought it was funnier than the jellyfish voting scene tbh (then again, manga reader here). I think the transition to another scene, which began with Phos walking slowly toward the bench was already enough time for it to breath.

  3. Avatar Strength says:

    Agree on the flower scene, Amagi.

    I’m not fond of the Lunarian design this time, but this episode was incredible.

    I really do not know what to think of this show. In my mind, I keep comparing it to Claymore (manga), Mushishi, Evangelion and Ergo Proxy. Though each of those has a clear thematic preference and upholds it unconditionally, unlike Houseki, which is like this amazing mashup that miraculously and effortlessly works at all times.

    I still find it lacking in some way (compared to my all-time favs), I think it is the inadequate focus on singular theme that is bugging me, like the themes do not converge enough. Like what does the show want to do? For some reason I imagine the manga does not have this problem.

    Anyway, this is a solid 9/10 show for me, I don’t think there is much room for it to grow… except in number of episodes.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      Well, all the shows you mentioned are straight-up classic now so it’s a high bar for Houseki to reach that level. I don’t know how this story will head forward but I consider Houseki’s concept of the Gems, the Lunarians and the Admirabilis to be the show’s richest.

      I didn’t talk much about the Lunarian Titan this week but it’s amusing that the beast has six eyes and six arms (and they ring the bell six times on top of that). Coincidence? I think not.

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