Welcome back! Time for the next episode of Anime Pocket Reviews!
This is a relatively simple APR looking at two of the biggest series from the end of last year. Following on from our article about CGI in Anime, the main focus of this episode is coming up. Also, if you haven’t done before at the end of every APR we look at a particularly touching topic concerning the reviews – this time we’re looking at the cliffhanger!
First, though, I wanted to say a little bit about one of the bigger series of the Fall cycle, and one of the biggest disappointments of 2017.
Food Wars: The Third Plate (2017, S3, 12x24mins)
Why not check out our mid-season review first in our Fall 2017 Half-Term Report?
Following on from season two, Yukihira (bottom) and the other leading first-years from the recent Autumn Elections tournament are introduced for the first time to the complete Elite Ten, the prestigious selection of the best students in the whole of Totsuki Academy. Yukihira reminds them that he is going to become the number one in the whole of the elite cooking academy, and while they ignore him at first, Yukihira eventually gets the chance to challenge the 8th Seat, Terunori, at a selling competition during the Moon Festival. Later on, dark workings behind the scenes at the top of Totsuki Academy, with links to Yukihira’s father’s generation and the current Elite Ten begin to rear their head, putting the whole academy at risk.
Basically Plot: Continuing the Food Wars story, Yukihira sets his sight on the Elite Ten by challenging the 8th Seat, before a dark figure begins to shake the very foundations of the academy.
This is a bit of an awkward one. As you know, I don’t like reviewing series mid-season(*), and Food Wars is taking a mid-season break, returning in the Spring ’18 cycle. That means that if I left it, I wouldn’t have a chance to talk about this season until April/May time! I’ll save the proper review for then, but I felt like I had to say something about the story we’ve seen so far.
I feel like Food Wars is less interesting this season. There is still a good level of comedy in season three, and the idea of an evil force coming over the whole school sounded exciting when it occurred, but for me this series is struggling in two areas. First, the sense of competition has been lost, with everyone joining together against the bad people of Central who are, for the large part, nameless and without any meaningful personality. Secondly, the story is moving at a very slow rate. While I enjoyed the first ‘festival’ storyline, that also had a bad habit of ending every episode on a cliffhanger, providing very little substance except in the first and last few minutes of each episode.
It is certainly not enough to merit giving up on Food Wars – the main characters are still as vibrant as ever, and the final episode has teased exciting developments in the next cycle – however, if I hadn’t watched The Third Plate yet I would suggest saving it until it continues in Spring, giving you the opportunity to binge over the cliffhangers and patient storyline and running smoothly into the rest, instead of feeling a little undersold, as we do right now.
I’m not going to change the ranking on Food Wars just yet because, Like I said earlier, this feels incomplete right now.
Anyway! With that dealt with, time for the main event:
Land of the Lustrous (2017, S1, 12x24mins)
“I could find nothing to rely on you for.”
Set in the distant future, the Earth is now inhabited by genderless life forms called Gems. Made entirely of the crystals that give them their name, the immortal beings protect themselves from the Lunarians, a moon race that hunt them to make decorations from their bodies. The story follows Phosphophyllite (bottom-right, blue), the youngest of the gems and also one of the weakest. Most of the Gem’s tasks cause her body to break, leaving her floating around the group without purpose until she is tasked by the Gem’s master (far-right) to create a nature encyclopedia, sending her off on a journey that transforms how she sees the world.
Basically Plot: In a future Earth inhabited by humanoid crystals, Phos, a young and weak Gem, is tasked with cataloguing the world they live in, taking her on a life-changing adventure.
We talked about this series in our recent article about the future style of animation, and it’s undeniable that this series will make headlines because of the fact that it is almost entirely 3D animated. CGI has been used before in series like Ajin and RWBY, but Land of the Lustrous does it at a much higher volume, and it has an incredible story to back it up.
Land of the Lustrous, more than anything, is an incredibly engrossing series. The world is always at the centre of the story, the fantasy element so strong that the show can at times feel almost ‘hippy’. There is a real sense of peace and tranquillity running through the show thanks to how it looks, yet LoL never becomes obsessed or preoccupied by its visuals. At its core Land of the Lustrous is a classic action-adventure, with a story that marries soft and cheerful comedy with deep and thoughtful action-drama. This is a very character-driven story, also. Phos’ development through the series is an example of fantastic, no-holds-barred storytelling, the character that you see in episode one transformed beyond comparison by episode 12, yet there is also a plethora of strong characters behind her. While you could argue that characters such as Cinnabar, Bort and Diamond could have developed more, it shouldn’t hide the fact that they all do a great job of adding real depth to the story and the world. People such as Antarcticite, assisting in Phos’ development, help to create a story that, despite the trippy-fantasy plot, really feels epic.
It’s hard to get away from the animation, though, and that’s because of how effective it has been for this series. The story revolves around the Gem’s, the female-modelled workers whose bodies are made of different coloured crystals. Thanks to the CGI technology, they are able to give the character’s crystallised hair an incredible transparency and unearthly, almost romantic glow. The characters shimmer, as does the world, in a way that is almost unfeasible using traditional methods, and it’s the use of bright lights particularly that makes LoL such a joy to watch.
The beautiful animation is also married with fantastic direction. The fight scenes are gorgeous, a blast of colours married with good music to create seriously energetic action. Yet the same can be said about the quieter moments thanks to the beautifully animated jewels, bringing each character and climate to life with incredible vibrancy.
Overall, this is an utterly beautiful series that raises the bar for 3D CGI animation. I would urge everyone to find some way of watching at least the first episode – so many different scenarios take place, that it’s almost a pilot for the entire idea! That being said, the beautiful animation shouldn’t hide from what is also an excellent story. An interesting lead character and a collection of exciting side-characters lead a story that morphs and develops, with each episode satisfying by itself as much as it makes you want the next one. It’s a bit late now, but if I watched this when it was released, I’m sure it would be up there for Anime of the Year 2017.
ANIME RANKING: #19 – Land of the Lustrous becomes the first new series to break into our Top 20 since My Hero Academia in October! This ground-breaking adventure puts it in esteemed company, rubbing shoulders with huge titles such as The Tatami Galaxy, Bakuman and 2016 mega-hit Yuri on Ice!!
If you liked this you’ll love: Beyond the Boundary – Land of the Lustrous is a very unique series. However, Beyond the Boundary shares the same balance of fantasy action-drama and slice-of-life comedy that makes LoL so watchable. Following the adventures of a clumsy girl and her fellow high-school demon hunters, Beyond the Boundary is another must watch fantasy series, and while it’s not in the same 3D style as LoL, it does have some of the best traditional animation you’ll see anywhere.
Ah, the cliffhanger. The ultimate grab, a classic entertainment trope, but there are as many bad examples as good ones…
Whether you’re watching a series live weekly or on demand at once, a cliffhanger can leave you thinking of the next episode all week, or make you hurriedly put on the next episode in a flurry of hear-beating excitement! Cliffhangers are good for entertainment, and long may they continue.
However, over the last few cycle I’ve seen many examples of bad cliffhangers, and Food Wars S3 was one of the worse for this. Some shows seem to be using the cliffhanger as a way of drawing out something that should have been resolved in one episode into two episodes. While it achieves the minimum expectation of such a device – I did keep coming back, after all – it does leave you with a sense of dissatisfaction at the ‘set-up episode’, which ends up containing very little.
I’ve seen good and bad cliffhangers, but I’ve also seen many great series that don’t use them at all. Land of the Lustrous doesn’t use many, for example. Cowboy Bebop is a particularly good example of a series that resolves its episodes individually, and proves that so long as the content of each episode is good, people will keep coming back, whether you leave them hanging off a cliff or not.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for next week’s episode 46, featuring comedy series Blend-S!