Land of the Lustrous: Mine Eyes Have Seen Much

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Land of the Lustrous anime.

So there’s many little details in Buddhist art and imagery that are actually supposed to signify something important in Buddhism — symbolize some value that the religion itself teaches. Study the iconography of any buddha sculpted or painted, and you might notice that they’re depicted doing something funky with their hands. It turns out that how a buddha’s hands are positioned determines what kind of  Buddhist value is being communicated. A buddha depicted with an open palm forward communicates reassurance to the onlooker from suffering. A buddha depicted with a finger touching the ground communicates the realization by the figure of enlightenment. The same weighty symbolism can be said about a buddha’s eyes, which if you think about it, are often depicted in a manner that doesn’t reflect how people’s eyes normally look. They look like a combination of stoic and placid, and they’re supposed to represent what a person’s eyes would look after they reach enlightenment: aware, mindful, and content.

Of course, eyes have significations outside of Buddhist ones. Eyes attached to a face appear different between the developmental stages of infancy and adulthood. Illustrators and animators have played with how to depict eye composition and movement. Eyes are often said  to be windows to the soul in adage.  Eyes can reveal much about a person’s emotional state upon psychical study. They are associated with qualities related to people in stasis. They also convey qualities about people in action. The condition of Phosphophyllite’s eyes changes over the course of Land of the Lustrous, from wide and doey to narrow and sharp. In fact, the gem’s latter eye set looks positively buddha-eyed. Based off of the show’s more-than-flirtatious usage of Buddhist iconography, I don’t think this resemblance is a coincidence.

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Why Re:Creators Characters Need Suffer

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Re:Creators anime.

Suppose you grew up knowing nothing but war. Savages run amok in your homeland, burning villages to the ground, putting innocents to the sword, and committing all manner of vile crimes. You enlist in the armed forces and fight your hardest to drive them out and protect what what parts of your homeland that you can. You witness friends and family die. On more than one occasion, you despair at the recurring thought that everything you’re doing is meaningless. The suffering of your people never seems to end. What creator, what god would allow these evils to exist and persist if he/she were not cruel or callous? And then it turns out that your world is the manga creation of some person from another universe meant to entertain people. Protagonists like Aliceteria February agonizes over the destitution of her beloved country, a destitution willed into her universe by a creator for the purpose of making a living. Aliceteria’s god sounds an awful lot of like a merchant of death.

Re:Creators has many things to say about the creative process in storytelling, but it also makes a few comments about the audiences who engage with these creative works.  What exactly are we getting out of stories that make their characters gratuitously suffer — stories like Aliceteria of the Scarlet or Code Babylon or even Berserk? There’s obviously a market for this kind of material, which is why these stories keep getting reproduced for mass consumption. In Re:Creators, the first two aforementioned stories are popular. If, hypothetically, a character from one of these stories came to life and demanded to know why their lives were so shitty, what answer could we truthfully give them? Re:Creators realizes this scenario and offers two answers, the first by Shunma Suruga (who created Code Babylon) and the last by Gai Takarada (who created Aliceteria of the Scarlet). One answer is mundanely cynical. The other is meant to be inspiring.

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Buddhist Iconography in Land of the Lustrous

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Land of the Lustrous anime.

Introduction

Iconography is a powerful tool in storytelling. The power of icons belies and transcends the descriptor of them as being mere assortments of organized lines, shapes, and maybe colors. Even if audiences don’t fully understand their cultural context, icons hold a power over a people who are even just passingly familiar with them. The more ancient and fundamental seeming these icons are in a given culture, the more power they have over shaping the expectations of audiences when consuming a work of fiction utilizing them. Like money, icons are a currency that those in the know conduct exchanges with, with the medium of exchange being knowledge instead of paper or metal. For instance, the knowledge of whether or not your friend likes certain anime without asking him can be ascertained from the Homura figurine he positions on his writing desk or the Rem plushie he keeps at his bedside. The knowledge of your friend’s interest in certain religions can be deduced without direct inquiry based on the crucifix on her wall or the buddha on her nightstand.

Many storytellers set up expectations based on how audiences understand these icons in the real world. Religious iconography, even without much knowledge of doctrine, possesses the cultural currency of something deep and profound. Land of the Lustrous and the Evangelion franchise contain copious amounts of this kind of iconography. While Evangelion doesn’t demonstrate any deep or profound understanding of the Christian symbolism it mucks around in, audiences are nevertheless drawn to it by the iconography’s intangible appeal. Land of the Lustrous goes further with its iconography, exhibiting a more-than-passing understanding of the Buddhist symbolism it sculpts its characters out with. Most people watching Land of the Lustrous will at least recognize that some of its iconography is Buddhist in origin. Those with passing familiarity with Buddhism may find themselves attracted to these icons because of their pop culture associations with deep and profound powers or knowledge. Those with more educated backgrounds in the Buddhist religion may may also expect the themes of the story to unfold in ways that reflect a Buddhist worldview.

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[Award] Inspector of Some Other Color, or Eight Arbitrarily Chosen Questions I Decided to Ask Anime Fans to Make Them Think and/or Suffer

Management: Management here. You may be wondering what the difference is between the Management me and the non-Management me. I don’t strive to be extremely formal when it comes to blog posts, but the Management me does try to write most of them with a certain level of polite sophistication so I can be all authoritative and whatnot. The non-Management me, the one you’ll see much more often goofing off on Anitwitter, could care a lot less. I feel like the nature of this post demands the non-Management me’s eccentricities more than the Management me’s niceties, so I’m just going to be a sadist. I’ll try to be interesting with this post, as always, but I’m going to have fun with it too.

I’ll be disappointed if you back out later.

I hope you know what you’re getting into.

So without further ado.

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