Image Source: TVアニメ『宝石の国』 on Twitter

How far will one change to become wanted? And at what cost?

[Note: For the sake of simplicity in this article, I will be referring to Phos as a male. Gem people in Land of the Lustrous do not have a specific sex, but they refer to each other with masculine pronouns. As such, I will use male pronouns in this article. This article also contains spoilers for the anime up until episode 10.]

Phosphophyllite—known as Phos—is the main character of Land of the Lustrous, in which people literally made out of gems live together with a human-like monk who cares for nothing but their safety. He’s pretty useless, and everyone around him doesn’t let him forget that. Because of his brittleness—3.5 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness—he’s weak and slow. This leads him to being absolutely useless in battle against the Lunarians, strange beings who seek to capture the gem people and turn them into jewelry—heck, he can’t even hold a sword.

The Real Gems behind Land of the Lustrous

Not allowed to go out onto the battlefield to fight, Phos feels unable to be of any use to Master Kongo, the monk who cares for them. It drives him nuts seeing everyone else in the school they live in being able to go out and fight to protect their home from the extraterrestrial invaders. And, it doesn’t help that everyone in the school ridicules him just about every single darn day.

Image Source: TVアニメ『宝石の国』 on Twitter

Kongo realizes that without a purpose, Phos feels inadequate. To fix this, Kongo gives him the duty of filling out an encyclopedia of life, discovering different plants and animals. But we honestly barely ever get to see Phos recording life at all. And, when he disobeys Kongo and goes into the ocean, leading to being kidnapped and losing his legs, Kongo takes away Phos’ duty altogether, and it is never mentioned again.

Perhaps Phos realized that the whole reason Kongo gave him the task of filling out the encyclopedia was to give him busy work. A purpose. But I would argue that this purpose was given to Phos not out of necessity, but out of a form of pity. All Phos wants is to be needed, to be wanted, to not be ridiculed.

Image Source: TVアニメ『宝石の国』 on Twitter

But while Phos wants to be strong, he also doesn’t have the drive to try things he didn’t think he’d be good at, leading to no growth on his part at all. This all changes when he meets Antarcticite, a warrior who only awakens during winter when all the other gems are asleep. Unable to fall into slumber due to his guilt over being removed from his encyclopedia job, Phos assists his fellow stone with various tasks. It is during this winter of solitude that Phos learns various things about effort and worth ethics from his comrade.

Image Source: TVアニメ『宝石の国』 on Twitter

Because of what Antarcticite comes to mean to Phos, his death due to Phos’ carelessness and desire for strength changes Phos forever. Antarcticite was lead to his death due to Phos lending his ears to the whispers of temptation, wanting to remove his current arms to replace them with stronger ones, just like how he had lost his legs and replaced them with quicker ones. When Phos’ replacement arms go out of control, he leaves Antarcticite open to attack from the Lunarians, which ends in his death. Even when he runs after the invaders to get his friend back, he can only reach toward the sky as they take him away to the moon.

Image Source: TVアニメ『宝石の国』 on Twitter

Once again deathly desperate for strength and hating his own powerlessness, Phos finally gains control over his new arms, and cuts his hair short, using the parts from his hair to replace portions of his body. His eyes have become dull and dead, compared to the sparkling ones he had before the winter. He has lost his arms, legs, hair, and friends.

So… Was it worth it?

Sure, Phos now has more power. He is able to be a replacement for the late Antarcticite, and even the stubborn Bortz who used to look down on his power wants to team up with him. But it comes at a cost. Now, Phos struggles to keep in the liquid metal that makes up his arms, and it causes small but gradual cracking in his body. He has lost Antarcticite, one of the most important mentors in his life in exchange for his new power. And, possibly most ironic, he has taken Diamond’s place as Bortz’s partner, taking his place to belong away. And, despite his ability to take care of himself, just like the once-partner-less Phos, Diamond is alone. Phos has hurt one of his own school mates in order to obtain power.

Phos has lost his smile and most of his humor, his bright eyes now clouded with the nightmares of his mentor’s brutal murder. It’s almost as if this isn’t the character that we met in episode one at all. Will Phos find worth in his new strength he created on the sacrifices of others and his own body? It’s something we’ll just have to wait to see, worrying all the while.

Land of the Lustrous is currently streaming on Amazon Anime Strike.

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