“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.” – Pink Floyd, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
Land of the Lustrous is set in the far future. The Lustrous is the name of the main inhabitants of the world, a race of crystalline lifeforms. According to their history, the world has been hit by meteors six times. Each time it happened, a piece of the planet broke to form a new moon, and the lifeforms of the moons attacked the planet. When all the land was reduced to a single coast, all living creatures fled to the ocean. Some of the lifeforms in the ocean were reborn as inorganic substances, becoming intelligent crystals, and thus the Lustrous were born. The Lustrous spend their time fighting the forces from the moons, called the Lunarians, who want to turn the Lustrous into decorations.
The central figure in the story is Phosphophyllite, who is the most brittle and fragile of all the gems, scoring just 3.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. Despite easily breaking on the slightest touch and her mint green colour making her a certain target for capture, “Phos” wants to go out and fight the Lunarians. Instead, her master Adamantine orders her to compile a natural history of the world, a task she would rather not do.
Phos thus tries to meet with the other Lustrous in order to compile her history. Among these are Cinnabar, a gem who turns out to be even weaker than Phos and who works the nightshift. However, she also has great power by secreting (sometimes even vomiting) a type of venom that can seemingly destroy anything it touches. There is also the bright and dazzling Diamond, who, while is strong, is also brittle, in comparison to her much tougher sibling, Bort.
Last month it was announced that this series would be turned into an anime, so it is lucky that Kodansha have just released the original manga. The blurb says that Land of the Lustrous is: “An elegant new action manga for fans of Steven Universe!” Now, I’ve not seen Steven Universe so I cannot comment much on it. What I can tell you is that Land of the Lustrous is the older series of the two, coming out six months before the original Steven Universe pilot.
The best thing about Land of the Lustrous is the action, especially when the Lustrous are battling with the Lunarians. Probably the best moment in the first volume is when we see Cinnabar fight for the first time using her powerful venom. It makes for a brilliant fight, but also a rather shocking one when you see her vomiting up her own venom. What is even better is a point in the battle when Cinnabar looks as if she is about to be killed and Phos attempts to safe her despite being so fragile.
The artwork though might put off some readers. It is not the traditional, standard manga look, with Land of the Lustrous being more sketchy and often having very simplistic backgrounds. Sometimes there are no backgrounds at all. You get feeling however that if you read this manga in colour, and noticed how shiny and colourful the gems actually are, it would work better. The cover and introductory colour pages look great. Land of the Lustrous therefore might be one of those cases where the anime adaptation might be better than the original manga.