1. Land of the Lustrous
Director: Takahiko Kyougoku
Series composer: Toshiya Ohno
Character designer: Asako Nishida
CG chief director: Eiji Inomoto
Animation production: orange
Why it's great: In this modern myth, a group of genderless humanoid gems fight off the regular attacks of hostile Lunarians that attempt to abduct them to turn their remains into jewelry. It's a joyfully original concept from author Haruko Ichikawa, and getting further into the series reveals that they were very thorough in building out the world: from the countless mineralogy points that tie into the series to the fact that the characters wear black outfits in an allusion to mourning, as loss is deeply ingrained into their lives, it all feels like a cohesive setting despite being totally alien. Land of the Lustrous follows the misadventures of the immediately charming Phosphophyllite, the youngest and most brittle of gem, which isn't great in such ruthless settings. Through her eyes, the show deals with loss and questions what constitutes the sense of self. The tragedy has an uncanny ability to turn hilarious, even after shattering your dear ones and your heart while it was at it. Poignant, downright gorgeous, delightfully quirky, and honestly at this point you might as well stop reading and just go watch it if you haven’t done so already.
But since this is a point of contention in the fandom: does having a 3-D production as the crowning achievement of 2017’s Japanese TV animation spell doom for hand-drawn craft? Not at all. The industry isn’t at the point where appropriately expressive 3-D animation is feasible for TV projects -- as Land of the Lustrous’ staff very well know, since they keep relying on 2-D art for the show’s most delicate and emotionally charged sequences -- and even exceptional projects like this have obvious acting drawbacks. But it’s worth noting that this is a step in the right direction for the industry, as a series that tangibly benefits from choosing to take the 3-D route; the fittingly shiny presentation of the gem-people, achieved by carefully emulating caustics and reflections through digital effects, definitely earns it the title Land of the Lustrous. This show could have felt content with being an inventive and touching work, but it decided to be a significant achievement in this industry too. Not a bad choice to top a whole year of TV anime.
Available on: Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.
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