This review was originally published on The Fandom Post.
What They Say:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Phos has changed, and not just because of their new arms and hair style. The episode begins several months after Antarc’s capture, and we see just how much Phos has changed in those months. Gone is their goofy and upbeat demeanor, replaced by a stern and serious attitude similar to Antarc’s. Phos has mastered controlling the gold that makes up their arms and flows through their body, and is now able to fight Lunarians with little difficulty. Phos appears to have matured, but is actually trying to atone for their perceived failure to save Antarc. In one of the most powerful scenes yet, Phos talks to Antarc’s hand, the only part they were able to save, and confesses to trying to be more like Antarc, which is apparent both through their new haircut and their more serious demeanor. The entire scene is heartbreaking to watch, made even moreso by Phos’ admission that they’re afraid to sleep now because of the nightmares. The heartbreak doesn’t stop there, either. As Phos and Kongo talk about how much things have changed, Phos starts “crying” gold, only to be comforted by Kongo. By the end, I was a bit teary eyed, myself. Throughout all of this, the music maintains a light touch that perfectly accentuates the emotions at play without overwhelming them.
Things get a little bit lighter once the other gems wake up and meet the new Phos. They’re nervous at first, but soon start to pester Phos about playing with the gold and generally be humorously annoying. It’s a nice roll reversal to have Phos be the one dealing with the other gems’ immaturity, but it also highlights how much of Phos’ new attitude is an act. They try to be serious, but their dry humor still leaks through. It gives the sense that Phos hasn’t necessarily become a more serious person, but is doing that to try and fill Antarc’s shoes.
The real shocker comes when Phos asks Rutile who Cinnabar is after the gems start to wake up. Their later conversations with Cinnabar indicate that Phos still has some memories of them, but it isn’t clear how much Phos has forgotten. This begs the question: is this the same Phos we met back in episode one? Bits of the old Phos still shine through, but between their new appearance and more serious attitude, it’s hard to tell how much of the original Phos is left, especially with their missing memories. The show will likely address this in more detail later, but it’s definitely food for thought.
Phos’ new fighting style also deserves mention. They’ve finally gotten strong enough to use a sword, thanks to the gold alloy, but the weight means their speed is back to normal. Instead, Phos relies on manipulating the gold, stretching it to attack at longer range, manipulating it into multiple arms, and even extending it outward as a shield. The variation on the gems’ usual fighting style adds a lot of variety to the fights, especially when Phos helps Amethyst with some Lunarians in an obvious parallel to their previous failure. At the same time, the gold has a slightly off-putting appearance that drives home how alien it is to Phos’ body.
In Summary: I didn’t think it was possible, but Land of the Lustrous has surpassed itself again to bring us the most emotionally charged episode yet. The irony that Phos has attained everything they wanted at the start but is still unhappy only makes it sadder. With hints that Bort is suspicious or resentful of the new Phos, next week has ample room for more drama. Land of the Lustrous was already a strong contender for best anime of the season, and this episode only cements its place at the top.