First Impressions – Houseki no Kuni

I really wanted to like Houseki no Kuni, given how popular the manga is in certain circles.  I read a bit of it and while I found the look of it interesting, didn’t get much out of the premise.  But I figured there was a decent change the manga had hidden depths that would explain its generally quite positive reviews, depths that I just needed to dig a little bit deeper into the story to discover.  And with Oona Toshiya writing the adaptation there was that much more reason to want it to succeed.

Maybe it still will, but the premiere didn’t make much of an impression on me to to say the least.  Clumsy exposition, clumsy CGI, and a general absence of whatever visual charm made the manga hard to look away from – all in all, it was not a winning combination.  It’s no secret that anime CGI still struggles with character rendering, and it appears that Orange is not the studio to surmount that problem.  But I’ve lived with that before when the story was compelling enough, and this one had me pretty bored by the midway point of one episode.  Again, the narrative just felt clumsy – expository speeches grinding things to a halt, wooden dialogue.  Not what I was hoping for.

Another interesting note is the characters themselves.  In the manga there’s an amorphous, androgynous quality to them – which there should be, since in the story the gems are genderless.  The anime seems to have decided to make them generic cute girls doing cute things (even if not officially) and in doing so, has robbed the visual palette of the uniqueness that made it stand out.  I didn’t expect Houseki no Kuni of all series to feel generic, but in anime form it kind of does.  I didn’t really get whatever it is that makes the manga as well liked as it is, but it’s still way better than the anime to my tastes.  I’ll give Houseki no Kuni another episode to convince me it’s worth sticking with, but I suspect if I want to learn more about this story it’ll be the manga I return to.

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7 comments

  1. Normally I can’t stomach CGI but I actually thought this episode was quite beautiful. Certainly the best usage of CG that I’ve seen in anime and the closeups of 2D over the CG models in certain scenes was utilized quite well. A compelling first episode for me.

  2. N

    I’ll just straight up and say it, the “premise” will only relevant for around 2-4 episodes. Then the main plot will start to rear its head, and it will eventually becomes finding out about the world and how it came to be, what are the moon people. why are they attacking and kidnapping the gems, what is the relationship between Adamant and the moon people. Other than that expect drastic changes to Phos personality. Much of the focus is character exploration.

  3. N

    Basically, don’t give up and you will be rewarded very dearly.

  4. M

    So… capitalist propaganda?

  5. A

    I felt like the first episode was done pretty perfectly! I just finished the first volume of the manga the other night and I love every minute of it. I love Pho’s and her charming personality. Cinnabar’s character is done quite well too! The CGI for this is well done compared to other shows like Ajin. I couldn’t stand watching that for more than 5 minutes. The story is unique and interesting to say the least. It is better than all the other generic crap put out into the world. I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with crystals and gems <3

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