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After so many heavy episodes in a row, Land of the Lustrous finally takes a breather episode. That’s not to say that nothing important happens here, but this episode was far lighter than last week. After Dia defeats the large monster and it splits into two, Bort, Phos, and Alexandrite quickly dispatch the smaller copies. The fights aren’t as impressive as last week’s, largely because they’re very brief. The smaller creatures aren’t nearly as threatening as their larger form, especially once they’re split up even further. By the time the gems have dealt with them, the monster ended up splitting into 109 smaller versions that act more like dogs than Lunarians. After an amusing sequence of the gems collecting the smaller ones and falling in love with their softness, they reform into the larger version and attack, only to be stopped by Kongo.
Kongo’s reaction to the Lunarian is where a lot of the episode’s meat comes from. He seems surprised, but then he quickly calms the creature down, calling it “Shiro” and treating it like a pet. Shiro’s obedience and excitement at seeing Kongo seems to further confirm some sort of relationship. The other gems either don’t notice the strangeness or don’t care, but Phos is troubled by this. We’ve gotten hints here and there that Kongo knows far more than he lets on, but now we have solid confirmation that he’s somehow connected to the Lunarians. Phos directly asks him if he knows Shiro, but Kongo unconvincingly denies it. Discovering that Kongo’s been hiding something important about the Lunarians shakes Phos to their core. The entire reason Phos and the other gems care so much about having a purpose is because they want Kongo’s approval, so learning that he isn’t being completely honest continues to bother Phos. It’s the equivalent of learning that your parents aren’t as perfect as they seem, which is exactly how Phos reacts.
Phos later runs into Cinnabar and asks them about it, only to discover that the other gems all knew or suspected the same thing about Kongo but chose to ignore it. Learning that frames their relationship with Kongo in a completely different light: beyond looking up to him, it almost seems like the other gems depend on him and are afraid to find out the truth. Kongo doesn’t seem to harbor any ill intentions, but his secrets do warrant a lot of questions about who he actually is and why he’s been helping the gems for so long. Phos’ shock and doubt is punctuated by a great sequence of the gold exploding out and covering them while they try to muster the courage to challenge Kongo on his secrets. The gold here serves as a metaphor for Phos’ own struggle; they cover themself with gold as a form of armor, a way to protect themself from the pain without actually changing internally. Phos has always been too focused on the external, changing their body and their behavior without actually growing as a person, something they’ll have to do before the end
After learning that from Cinnabar, Phos attempts to confront him, only to be stopped by their memories of Antarc and Antarc’s devotion to Kongo. Almost immediately after, Phos begins to revert back to their colder demeanor, consciously imitating Antarc. This further confirms that Phos’ new attitude is more of an attempt to compensate for Antarc’s loss than an actual change. Phos still has a long way to go before they can really accept themself. Instead of confronting Kongo, Phos decides to wait for Lunarians to ask them, only for no Lunarians to show up for days.
The last reveal we get is a bit more backstory on Rutile. It turns out Rutile learned so much about medicine because they constantly had to find pieces to fix their old friend, Padparadscha (Padparadscha is a type of sapphire). Padparadscha was born with naturally occurring holes in their body, so Rutile always had to find new pieces at the Chord Shore to repair them. Land of the Lustrous has always excelled at reminding the audience that every gem has a story of their own, while still being able to focus on the main story. Rutile isn’t just the snarky doctor; they have their own history and reasons for doing what they do. The episode ends with Phos and Rutile finding some pieces and fixing up Padparadscha. Introducing a new character with only one episode left and so many plot threads left unresolved is a risky decision, but hopefully it’s a sign that there’ll be another season or a continuation of some sort. Land of the Lustrous is too good for a read the manga ending.
Compared to the past couple of weeks, this was decidedly a transition episode. With Shiro finally disappearing at the end and Phos learning about Kongo’s secrets, this episode did a solid job of ending one plotline and setting up several others. The comedy around the gems’ fascination with Shiro’s fluffiness also gives a pleasant break from the heavier drama. With one episode left, hopefully Land of the Lustrous will get a continuation of some sort, since there’s no way it could resolve everything in just a single episode. Still, it hasn’t let me down yet.
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