Posted on 22 October 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Houseki no Kuni

It just occurred to me since I watched Bakuman (the first season of it, anyways) fairly recently, but watching Bakuman made me realize how tough it is to have your manga publicize, let alone become a popular one. For those who have watched the anime or read the manga of Bakuman, remember the early Golden Future Cup? The one where our main duo, Fuduka and Aoki decided to check each other’s names and plan to critically comment in order to improve them? Long story short, from what little I’ve read at each name, the one that grabbed my attention the most was Aoki’s, and guess what happened to her work? Not only it didn’t rank first (despite the fact almost everyone agrees the three works are on the same level), “Hideout Door” was regarded as too shoujou (since they work under Shounen Jump) and only made it to the publishing phase years later. Houseki no Kuni is what I consider “Hideout Door” in real life, it’s destined to be the title that don’t appeal to the mass and only gain traction to a small but passionate following. And like many cult works, Houseki’s quality don’t lie in how deep or relevant the show is (not to say that it isn’t deep or relevant), but in how it always stays true to itself. That’s how we should judge Houseki, I argue. The moment it betrays itself, the spark will be forever gone.

Back to this episode, we have a slow one compare to the first two weeks, but the level of weirdness/awesomeness still remains sky-high. The large amount of movement and the dynamic cinematography in some sequences, for example, stand out, particular in the part where Dia rushes back to the base to help Phos. Just look at those smooth and breathtaking movements. With that, I take it back all my complaints about the CG movements in previous episodes and this is an instance where I can see the anime version actually improves from the source material. The whole episode, otherwise, plays in an extremely bizarre situation: after gets eaten by a snail, somehow Phos transforms into one, and Dia runs around asking for help to turn him back to normal. Diamond has to be the most adorable gem in the universe (hah!), but this episode is where we learn greatly about Phos’ characters through others’ eyes and what they influent on the gems around them. All of them find Phos as an useless, annoying, careless, egocentric and good-for-nothing character, and it’d be the same if Phos stays in the snail form. Houseki plays it mostly for laugh but there’s a sad truth behind that, and Dia is feeling down because no one but her really gives Phos a damn.

Fortunately, someone else still cares about Phos. Cinnabar, who is in the middle of their own identity crisis, finds Dia napping on their night patrol. When asking about what Cinnabar thinks on Phos, Cinnabar has so much “hatred thoughts” to say, but it also means that they care. Phos is the first gem who really see through Cinnabar’s personal struggles, and their promise that they can offer the better role for Cinnabar still lingers in Cinnabar’s mind, but they try best to regress the idea because it can in turn hurt them if they start to believe the promise. Cinnabar’s rant sounds like a frustration, but his last line “I guess I can give you some more time before I start calling you a liar” really hits the mark for me on how Cinnebar’s truly regarding Phos. A great episode to flesh out the characteristic of both Cinnabar and Diamond.

Turns out, the snail is indeed just some random snail, and Phos’ fragments lie within the shell of that snail. With the help of all the members, they succeed on bringing back Phos’ broken pieces and store him back to life (although I have to question about the eyes), and suddenly, Phos gains a special ability of communicating with the snail. Now that he becomes useful… somehow, having an ability that no one else has. I heard from manga readers that starting from next episode we will have a proper arc and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out. Remember Houseki, whatever you do, just stay true to your quirky self.

Posted on 16 October 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Houseki no Kuni

Note: due to the fact that the whole cast of Houseki is agender and I DO care about the issue, I will address them either by their name or by gender neutral pronoun. But do forgive me if sometimes the old habit gets the better of me. You readers, on the other hand, can address them in whatever way you like. We all live in a free country after all, even more so with the net. Just be mindful not carry yourself overboard like the folks over animefeminist (where they no longer associate with the ANN source because the said source used feminine pronounce for these characters). Geez, I get their intent, but it was way aggressive.

We still stick to the introduction phase of Houseki, this time we follow Phos meeting the entire new cast of the team. Basically, we have the same plotline as the first episode: Phos have trouble coming up with ideas for the encyclopedia, the based team (this time consist of speaker Jade – the cutest screaming voice ever – and Euclase) advises Phos to meet some other member who is on patrol aka “Character of the week” and while they meet up, Phos learns about their trouble and they will have to fight with the Lunarians as well. Bear in mind that this plotline is Houseki at its most normal, because boy, Houseki is getting weirder and weirder even at its beginning phase. The melting Phos, for example, is something so striking that I won’t forget anytime soon. I believe most of you might notice that Houseki is a work that has strong Buddhism context. I mean, just look at the Lunarians, compare to this; or the fact that Kongou-sensei is the monk. The story so far doesn’t touch much of Buddhism philosophy yet, but since those are crystalline lifeforms, they might take the idea of “reincarnation/rebirth” to a whole new level. I myself expect a strong Buddhism reference that will pop up soon as the story progresses.

This episode gives us a closer look at Dia, whose despite being one of the toughest gems of the team and the most adorable thing on Earth, feeling deeply insecure about their role. In fact, the main theme of Houseki so far is the struggle of our characters towards finding who they are and what their role is in this world. From Cinnabar who curse their very own existence, Phos who literally looking a for a suitable role and Dia who feel totally useless despite being a diamond. Dia’s new technique, a baseball-style that first looks impressive, but too risky and even careless since Dia’s body can’t handle the constant pressure, and she knows it. Bort and Dia make up a complicated team since it’s clear that Bort go out their way to protect Dia because they love Dia, but it ends up making Dia frustrated that they can’t do anything and resend Bort for that. So far, Houseki has been quite successful in fleshing out the personal issues from the cast around Phos. Phos, on the other hand, don’t develop that much but it’s understandable since the story is still in its early stage.

I really love the art designs of the Lunarians. Appearing like a dark storm, they are frightening in how bright they are. The art designs of that sluggish thing, however, are so eerily out of this world, but that’s precisely what it is. It slurps Phos up and we can see him melting right before our eyes. We know pretty sure that Phos will survive, but how much left of them will remain? People have mentioned this show as a body-horror show, and while I can see some of that elements, the graphic details don’t upset me that much. It fits very well to this story. Houseki is weird, that’s awesome. Houseki is raw, that’s even better. I have absolutely no idea what will happen next or even how the hell will Phos get out of this sluggish monster alive, but you bet I’m intriguing. The wait for the next episode will be long for me.

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