The Persistence of Memory?: Land of the Lustrous and a Metaphysical Death

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Immortal as the gems are, perhaps they experience a different kind of death.

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In a bid to stave off the chilling throes of eternity, this oblivion rolling across the distant shores of time, Land of the Lustrous is a series concerned with the metaphysicality of its prismatic beings. Daring to shimmer in spite of a moonlight so cold and uncaring, the gems turn their gaze inwards in order to contextualize their existence. As was the case with the profoundly speculative exploration of how diverse species approach their own impending mortality, Lustrous’ take on body horror is similarly rooted in philosophical significance as expressed through the fallibility of memories. Due to the gem’s composition, once enough vibrant shards are gathered it is possible to reconstruct their bodies time and time again notwithstanding of the level of physical trauma sustained. Death this lofty concept spoken of only in hypotheticals, their species remains trapped in a destructive loop as they seemingly exist only to clash against the Lunarians. While eternity is in their grasp, an element of Faustian tragedy arises with there of course, being a catch – every time a body part is lost forever, memories fade alongside it.

Once Phosphophyllite sinks to oceanic depths in pursuit of knowledge buried deep within a lost civilization’s watery grave, forbidden fruit plucked from a paradisal orchard, a price must be paid. Disturbing the harmonious balance sustaining their world for thousands of years, learning of the evolutionary triumvirate spawned off from humanity courtesy of Ventricosus results in a foreboding shift as the gears of fate continue to turn. Despite being denied a lush bounty of information which could have potentially aided the gems in their tireless struggle against the Lunarians, ghosts drift around Phosphophyllite’s conscious, ever-present. Fragmentary snatches of nautical kingdoms and lunar oppression slip through their fingers, as nebulous as the tides lapping on the shore, whisking everything away with each gentle ebb.

If memories and warm moments shared are what give the gems that strength to press on, for the prismatic species losing them could quite possibly be considered the closest thing to death. Phosphophyllite’s legs forever lost similarly leads to a third of their memories fading away to this metaphysical oblivion, no longer the same clumsy character that first appeared on our screens all those weeks ago stumbling through an aimless existence, lacking purpose. If the bearer of the gem’s history is unable to remember what took place, where does that leave their species? If Phosphophyllite happened to forget Jade’s name, a comrade they have spent centuries upon centuries battling alongside, what else could they have possibly forgotten? Who else…?

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Due to the gem’s composition neurodegenerative patterns such as cerebral atrophy do not apply, yet allusions to the metaphysical paradigm The Ship of Theseus are warranted. If the planks which initially provided the foundation for Theseus’ ship were to be replaced with entirely new parts over time, could it still be called the same ship? At what point could it potentially be considered no longer the same? Would this lead to two distinct objects entirely removed from each other? Given that inorganic material provides the basis for that first hypothesis engaging in a dialogue regarding its complexities appears to be all well and good, yet when focus is shifted over to personal identity it takes on remarkably tense connotations; living entities multifaceted and resisting rudimentary solutions attempting to reduce them down to the level of a plank. But where does this leave Phosphophyllite, a being that straddles the nebulous boundary between organic and inorganic?

As Land of the Lustrous’ fifth episode draws to a close, the fraught sequence concerning Phosphophyllite and Jade appears to be just the slightest chip marring kaleidoscopic cleavage, texture able to be powdered down and smoothed over. And yet that ominous shadow looms, forever dulling its gleam; halcyon relics of youthful innocence corroded. Fashioned with new legs whittled out of Aculeatus’ agate shell, Phosphophyllite runs, quite literally getting ahead of themselves. As they ruminate on possibly being worse off than before, a restless wind blows through the grass; a multi-coloured insect suggestively flitting past hinting at evolutionary conceits. Having just turned 300 years old, they can no longer return to who they once were so are left with little alternative but to change. Whether that change will be for the better, however, remains to be seen.

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3 thoughts on “The Persistence of Memory?: Land of the Lustrous and a Metaphysical Death

  1. inksquid43 says:

    It’s as if losing part of the diffusely-stored memory also contributes to changing personality, something that is seen in people with dementia or other forms of brain damage; however in the latter cases it’s more that the specific personality-related parts of the brain are damaged rather than memory itself.
    It will be interesting to see if the microorganisms colonizing the new materials for Phos’s legs will give rise to consolidating new memories and a new personality for Phos–and whether she can make the new legs her own.

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  2. wendeego says:

    The comparisons between this series and Steven Universe are pretty interesting, honestly. Both are about agendered gem people fighting monsters, but Steven Universe is all about relationships and how the different humans and gems come to understand each other.

    Land of the Lustrous, though? As the jellyfish said, it’s about flesh, soul and bone. If you cut off your legs and replace them with new ones, are you still you? Going to be interesting to see how Phos’s voice actress interprets the material, going forward…

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