I’ve had a sneaking suspicion about this since I started watching Houseki no Kuni. Admittedly, I was late to the party and began
bingewatching the series around 3 weeks ago, so I can’t claim to be an astute anime-only fan who figured it out. I’m sure others already know about this. I know for a fact that fans who have read the manga already know all about it (BE WARNED: SPOILERS IN THAT LINK).
As for me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Lunarian sunspots reminded me of something right from the very start.
And then I gave in and looked into it. Turns out my hunches were right. The Lunarians sort of resembled Buddhist imagery. I wish I could be more specific, but I am not Buddhist (although my father’s side of the family is). There’s just a shared vibe, I guess. The clothing, the accessories. The music, too, that played whenever they showed on-screen.
There’s definitely more to it and there are some very clever reasons regarding why the Lunarians look like this. To elaborate further would be venturing into spoilers territory, however.
I know most people have stopped griping about this, but early on it seems like many people were complaining about how Phos was losing bits and pieces of themself only to have their parts replaced with other materials. It’s not meaningless and is actually a reference to the Seven Treasures of the Lotus Sutra.
If you’re too lazy to click on the link, let me break down for you.
There are seven gemstones that represent faith, perseverance, sense of shame, avoidance of wrongdoing, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Said gemstones are:
- suvarṇa (金, gold)
- rūpya (銀, silver)
- vaiḍūrya (琉璃, aquamarine / lapis lazuli)
- sphaṭika (頗梨, crystal)
- musāragalva (硨磲, conch shell / white coral)
- lohita-muktikā (赤珠, ruby / red pearl)
- aśmagarbha(瑪瑙, emerald / carnelian)
Now think back to Phos. They lost their legs which are replaced with agate.
They lost their arms and receives gold and silver alloy arms in return.
It’s unlikely for this to be covered in the anime, but Phos ends up losing their entire head which is replaced by Lapis Lazuli’s own head. They also loses an eye which is replaced with a (red?) pearl eye.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to deciding if Phos is becoming more wise or faithful or whatever, but they are certainly changing with each and every replacement. It’s explained as the gemstones losing their memories if they lose too many pieces, but it also ties in with the underlying Buddhist themes within Houseki no Kuni.
I personally don’t mind the religious / spiritual imagery in the series. It doesn’t come across as being preachy and so I’m not offended. I guess that sort of potential reaction doesn’t occur since it’s a bit subtle and not overly blatant. Plus, it’s sort of cool. But I digress.