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.