Religious/Spiritual Undertones in Houseki no Kuni

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.

vlcsnap-2017-12-05-21h16m40s915.jpg

 

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.

adibuddha_vajrasattva1

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 herself only to have her parts replaced with other material. 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:

  1. suvarṇa (金, gold)
  2. rūpya (銀, silver)
  3. vaiḍūrya (琉璃, aquamarine / lapis lazuli)
  4. sphaṭika (頗梨, crystal)
  5. musāragalva (硨磲, conch shell / white coral)
  6. lohita-muktikā (赤珠, ruby / red pearl)
  7. aśmagarbha(瑪瑙, emerald / carnelian)

Now think back to Phos. She lost her legs which are replaced with agate.

vlcsnap-2017-12-05-21h43m40s868.jpg

She lost her arms and receives gold alloy arms in return.

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It’s unlikely for this to be covered in the anime, but Phos ends up losing her entire head which is replaced by Lapis Lazuli’s own head. She also loses an eye which is replaced with a pearl eye.

Your mileage may vary when it comes to deciding if Phos is becoming more wise or faithful or whatever, but she is 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.

9 thoughts on “Religious/Spiritual Undertones in Houseki no Kuni

  1. Interesting read. I could tell that the Lunarians’ designs were based on Buddhist artwork, but I didn’t know that the show’s underlying themes connected to that as well. I’m not remotely religious, but I don’t mind religious themes being integrated into a work if it’s done well. Land of the Lustrous never comes off as preachy or condescending, so it doesn’t bother me that it includes ideas and motifs from Buddhism. Based on the anime (I haven’t read the manga), it seems like the religious connection is something to add flavor and depth to the story, as opposed to the entire point of the story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mmmm there was just this general feel.

      It’s pretty interesting how that’s the core of the series, isn’t it?
      I think you’re definitely right about how it “handles” said religious themes. It’s definitely not the crux of the story – I’m sure you can enjoy Houseki no Kuni without even knowing about the Buddhist themes – but it certainly adds a few layers to consider.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, that adds a lot of depth to it. I like the way it uses those themes to add more meat to the story without making them the entire point of the story.

        I know very little about Buddhism and only noticed the design similarities with the Lunarians, but I’m still loving it so far. Assuming the last few episodes keep up this level of quality, it’s easily going to be one of my top anime of this year.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmm I’ll definitely be checking this series out now. I may be atheist nowadays, but I’ve always enjoyed good religious portrayals in entertainment, especially when they capture some of the lesser-known aspects like this. World religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, was one of my favorite subjects early on in college, and we never went over the symbolic use of gemstones. Seems especially egregious now considering our professor spend a year studying at a Buddhist temple, but c’est la vie I guess.

    Liked by 3 people

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