Genre: Fantasy Seinen
Year Release in English: 2018-2021
Source: Barnes & Noble Physical Copies
Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.
In this blend of science fiction and fantasy, the Earth has been long abandoned by humans and is now inhabited by the Lustrous, gem people whose literal crystals are occupied by micro-organisms called inclusions. Every so often, they’re attacked by the Lunarians who take them to the moon for unknown reasons. The story starts with the primary character, Phosphophyllite “Phos”, asks Sensei for a job. It only gets existential and angsty from there.
This series is meticulously researched with evolving world-building and plenty of heart-shattering moments, I’m so glad it’s back on hiatus and resuming chapters because I’m so invested.
Trigger warnings: Depression, body horror, existential crises, attempted murder
Phosphophyllite is tasked with compiling knowledge into an encyclopedia, having a hardness too brittle to participate in combat against the Lunarians. They also want to figure out a way to get Cinnabar to join the main crew, whose structure is surrounded by mercury, making them a danger to those around them. It’s a bit of the hedgehog’s dilemma, especially as Phos develops in their determination and characterization.
The Ship of Theseus philosophical question is my favorite quandary in fiction, and it’s used so expertly here. As the Lustrous shatter and lose body parts, they lose their inclusions, which also means losing their memories. On a depiction level, it’s horrific. Phos first loses their legs and arms, forgetting bits of their purpose. But when they lose more an forget some of their gems, it made me need to lie down.
Now, there is some lightheartedness in the relationships between them gems. There are the kind ones like Diamond, badass Bort, no-nonsense Rutile, and, my personal favorite, Antarctictite, who only appears in winter when it’s cold enough. Ichikawa does such a phenomenal job incorporating aspects of the real life gems into the character design. It’s really fun.
Here will be spoilers for everything past the anime, which ends around Volume 5.
The Lunarians are downright fascinating, and the readers get more detail in small drips, until Phos gets a head clever enough to begin delving into Sensei’s past (quite literally). The mysteries pile on and don’t slow down, even as the reader and the Lustrous learn more about their origins and if what they’re experiencing truly is life. There’s tensions, there’s really cool characters, and then we get introduced to a collection of new beings in the different scientists and administrators of the Lunarians.
My heart aches the most for Ghost Quartz/Cairngorm. They are assigned as Phos’s partner once they have better parts with which to do battle, and they want nothing more than to be enough for, well, anyone. It’s a tragedy unfolding with no end in site, their purpose unclear as they get taken under Aechmea’s wing. The Lunarian leader has a clear path for truth and, essentially, an end to their unnaturally long lives. They will stop at nothing to get there, and I’m so hooked on who will land most favorably on whatever the other side can possibly be.
Is Aechmea the villain or merely an antagonist? It’s hard to say. There is so much discussion of purpose and worth but in the context of what feels like immortality and eternal life, it makes sense that both the Lustrous and the Lunarians are, quite frankly, over it.
Now that things have somewhat settled downed among the two factions, I want to see what’s next up Aechmea’s sleeve, but I’m not sure anyone involved is going to like it.