There are instances where 3D CGI has turned me off (Ronja, Berserk) and instances where it just…works. Polygon’s Sidonia no Kishi is one such example, an Orange’s new series Houseki no Kuni is another. Characters are crisp and elegant, with elongated designs reminiscent of fashion illustration and jewel-like hair that casts reflections on the shoulders of their black uniforms.
Another thing HnK has going for it is…it’s just so bizarre. Forget jewel-“like”—the 28 characters are actually humanoid manifestations of gems, all with a “hardness” matching the gem they’re named after. They’re genderless, and also immortal; no matter into how many pieces they shatter, they can be reconstructed.
That’s good, because they shatter often while fending off the Lunarians (Moon-Dwellers) who try to use them to make jewelry. Phosphophyllite, the main protagonist this week, is voiced by Kurosawa Tomoyo (Kumiko from Euphonium), who brings a lot of brightness and humanity to the role of the youngest (and one of the weakest) Gems.
After shattering to pieces simply after their leader Kongou-sensei shouts, Phos is assigned to create a natural history encyclopedia. Their peers, most of whom dismiss them as useless, lazy, dumb, or all of the above, suggest they seek out the reclusive Cinnabar for info on nature, as they’re essentially all alone on the night watch.
While looking for Cinnabar, Phos finds herself nearly a victim of the Lunarians, but is saved by Cinnabar at the last second. Cinnabar (voiced by Komatsu Mikako) has a kind of Midas Touch that turns everything to ruin, and vomits out a poison that consumes the charging Lunarians in an intense but beautifully executed action scene.
Phos tries to lend their arms to keep Cinnabar from falling—and they shatter off—but both Gems are safe, and Phos finally managed to meet the person they were looking for.
The encounter makes Phos feel bad for Cinnabar, and after being repaired by Dr. Rutile, goes back out to where Cinnabar is wandering. Cinnabar (the only Gem with a hardness factor lower than Phos’) voices their desire to be taken to the moon where there might be a decent use for her, but Phos doesn’t like that fatalistic talk one bit.
After getting some material for their encyclopedia, they vow that they’ll find something better than the night watch that only Cinnabar can do…so Cinnabar can quit talking about leaving for the moon. It’s the beginning of a friendship between two misfits whose collaboration could benefit both in contributing the maximum amount to the group effort.