Made in Abyss – S2 06 – Gooey Tokusatsu

When Riko starts seriously considering giving up her eyes or legs (she reckons she needs more than half of her organs), Majikaja and Maaa stop her from striking any kind of deal with Belaf. Both Maji and a briefly lucid Nanachi warn her “it’s all over” if she does, and Maji and Maaa drag her out screaming.

Once back outside, Vueko turns their attention to the start of a “Luring”, when the Hollows, who cannot leave the village, lure creatures in so they can hunt them. Only in this case the Hollows bit off more than they could chew with this creature in question, and it starts methodically slaughtering them.

When the creature nears the shop where Prushka is being worked on, Riko races there, but to her surprise the shopkeeper freely offers the whistle back to its original owner, as that’s the whistle’s desire. (The shopkeep also mentions having come while polishing the whistle, but that’s neither here nor there…)

The big goopy purple menace is soon confronted by Juroimoh, one of the biggest Hollows in the village and also one of the Three Sages (presumably the one who replaced Vueko). While Juro is as big as his opponent and he fights boldly, his attacks don’t have much effect on the creature.

When the creature threatens to destroy the market district, Riko, armed with more knowledge from Moogie (the restaurant lady), prepares a gambt to save the district and neutralize the threat. It all starts by souping up Majikaja by offering her trademark twin tails.

She rides hot rod Maji as they lure their purple foe away from the market and into an open space, where Riko prepared for Hollows with fire affinity to ignite the creature, then called upon another group to create a restraining web around the stunned creature, and then yet another group to poke and stab it until it’s dead.

The entire village rises in celebration and applause for Riko, who proves she’d make a good strategist in DanMachi. When she describes why she decided upon the course of action she chose, it only further demonstrates just how bright, resourceful, and quick-thinking this girl can be when the shit hits the fan.

When the party is suddenly interrupted by the purple goo monster reviving and then reaching out with tendrils to grab a number of Hollows, Maaa is one of the victims. But before Maaa is destroyed, Riko cries out, and Prushka hears her, and tells her to use her.

The whistle reverberates throughout the village and the Abyss, and in the blink of an eye, Reg is there, his helmet and necklace white instead of their usual black. He tells Riko that the moment he heard the whistle, he knew where he had to go and what to do. He asks her to keep directing him.

The creature is either dead or gone before Reg can attack it again. Wazukyan arrives, and explains that the creature wasn’t a single entity but rather a massive collective organism, a floating nest composed of millions of individual males around a central queen. When Riko asks him how she can trade for Nanachi and Mitty, he says a part of Faputa would do the trick.

Back at their accommodations, Riko tells Reg how Belaf would only trade Nanachi and Mitty for something equal or greater than the value of a human child. Vueko, in her most loquacious state in literal ages, proceeds to tell Riko who she really is, and how due to the time distortion of this layer, she couldn’t tell her how long ago she and Ganja first set out on the journey that brought them here.

While telling her tale and also talking of Faputa, Vueko’s inner voice asks Irumyuui if she brought these children here. She also noted her surprise Wazukyan could still “get that scared”, clearly seeing beyond his static outward appearance.

She tells Irumyuui that the time has come for her to dredge up her “existence, memories, and desires”, as Reg sets out to meet with Faputa again. Whatever the strange item is that the episode closes on, it must be the “embodiment of value” that trumps all else; and it’s most likely somewhere inside Faputa. Is she a time capsule? A time machine? A nuclear bomb? Or all three, or neither? The mind races…

Made in Abyss – S2 05 – Within the Eye

After his encounter with Faputa Reg is not only lost, but being tenaciously pursued by a turbinid-dragon, who is able to read his moves and even chip his metal arm. Reg is rescued by a fellow robot—AKA “Interference Unit”—who gives him a ride home.

The unit doesn’t know why Reg was built, only that it’s unheard of for units to ever cross layers, and that he’d prefer if Reg left as soon as possible, as he worries he could lead to the ruin of this delicate place. He honestly might not be wrong!

After briefly meeting Wazukyan, who seems friendly if a bit spacey, Riko takes the opportunity to learn the basics of the Hollow language from the bilingual proprietor of the canteen. Being a child, Riko picks it up pretty fast. She learns, for instance, that the name of the village, “Iruburu”, means 50% “village”, 40% “cradle”, and 10% “mother”.

Her language teacher also directs her to Doguupu, AKA “within the eye”, a place at the edge of the village where Hollows can’t go, but non-hollows like Reg and Nanachi might. Riko and Maaa head there, descend into a pit of sticky mud…and encounter Vueloeluko, AKA Vueko.

Riko is astonished to find another human, but Vueko is so out of it she’s initially not sure if she even is human. After all, can a human really live the 1,900 years since they found the island where Orth would one day be built? The fact she’s restrained by several tendrils also suggests to Riko she’s a “bad person”, and Vueko can’t really deny that.

She tells Riko a tale of how the origins of Iruburu “aren’t very nice”, and she was blinded by greed wanting to become somethng beyond human. So she leads her quiet dreary existence in this mud pit, naming the hollows who enact the “balancing”, singing, and basically just straight chillin’.

She also says that however awful its beginnings were, the village is now a relatively peaceful place full of children who lost their human bodies but whose souls remain carrying on. But bottom line, Riko wants to find her friends, so she frees Vueko, brings her up to the village, and gets her some clothes.

Vueko leads them to Belaf’s cave, but doesn’t go in there with them; clearly there was a falling-out between them and the present Belaf would probably prefer if Vueko stayed imprisoned in black goo forever. Belaf doesn’t threaten Riko—indeed, he’s in awe of a human child in this place—but he doesn’t spare her the weight of the present situation.

Nanachi is there, but they’re unconscious, put to sleep by “smoke”, as a distraught Majikaja puts it. He had no idea how important Mitty was to Nanachi, you see, so could not have predicted this would be the end of Nanachi’s journey. When Nanachi saw Belaf eating Mitty (who can be eaten infinitely and not die, but simply remains forevermore), they “sold” themself in exchange for Belaf giving him Mitty.

Riko recognizes Mitty and stares her in the eye like the time, and credits Mitty and her haunting eye in particular with saving her life when she was in a very bad way medically. Since this is a place of buying, selling, and negotiation, Riko asks Belaf what she’d have to offer in exchange for Nanachi and Mitty.

At first Belaf says he wants her entire body, but Riko reminds him how tremendously valuable she is in this place. Unfortunately, his final offer is for her to choose which of three things to give him that will satisfy him: both her eyes, both her legs, or half of her innards. Let’s just say I do not envy Riko’s predicament. I can’t help but think force (i.e. Reg) will be needed to free Nanachi…but then, do they even want to be “freed”, or are they free already?

Made in Abyss – S2 04 – Finding Their Treasure

No sooner does Reg come face to face with Princess Faputa than she jumps on top of him, and he sees that she’s not as, shall we say, abstract as most of the other Hollows, but rather is much more like Nanachi. Flashes of memories of Faputa run by in his head, but he can’t remember anything. Not only does Faputa know Reg, she knows him as “Reg”, even though that’s the same name Riko gave him a long way up ago.

More to the point, she considers him her Reg. She pierces his navel and threatens to look down his trousers, but Reg manages to slip away. She asks if he plans to “live in the same time as the ‘human child'”, even though he’ll remain when they die, and Reg doesn’t hesitate: he’ll stay with them till the bitter end.

Meanwhile, as Nanachi is touring the market, Majikaja explains how the village of Iruburu knows everyone’s desires—”signals of the soul”. When Nanachi says they value Mitty, Riko, and Reg most, Majikaja lets on that Mitty is actually here, in the villlage, and also name-drops Vueko’s friend Belaf.

While Faputa came on a bit too strong for Reg’s taste, the fact remains they’re sure to meet again, and soon. After all, she has the answers he’s always dreamed of knowing about where he came from, who created him and why, and who he was back then. That said, seeing how Faputa treated him, he wonders if learning too much would change who he is, and he likes who he is.

When Riko finally gets over the worst of the runs, she calls out for Reg and Nanachi, whom we both know have become engrossed in other things and in their distractedness left her alone and unprotected. It doesn’t take long for Riko to get jumped by a gang of Hollow ne’r-do-wells who once again squeeze Meinya too hard, and threaten to squeeze her too.

Needless to say, my heart fell into my feet once all those slithering appendages ensnared Riko. Thank goodness, then, for the rehabilitated Maaa, who springs to the rescue, saving Meinya and Riko, then escaping the cave when the Balancing envelops the bad actors. Having had her fill of handsy Hollows, she prepares to head into town with Meinya, but then invites Maaa to join her, having proven they’ve got her back.

She squeezes herself into a very hip and popular Hollow restaurant, orders something a Hollow with a mouth is eating, and proceeds to get something she was not expecting. The proprietor tells her it’s spicy roasted testicles, and after a beat or two Riko realizes the Hollow spoke in her language. She’s not the only one there who can, either; sitting near the end of the bar is a towering, venerable-looking Hollow called…Wazukyan.

So, we’ve got Irumyuui becoming Faputa, Wazukyan becoming…that thing, and when Majikaja leads Nanachi to where Belaf is, we learn he’s become a kind of armored serpent-dragon thingy. Of course, Nanachi isn’t there to see Belaf. They’re there to see Mitty, who is stuffed rather ceremoniously in a decorative pot and seems as pleased to see Nanachi as those dead red eyes can relay.

As Nanachi drinks in their reunion, Vueko’s voiceover comes in, saying that once someone finds “their treasure”, their value “transitions” and their journey ends. For Nanachi, that treasure is Mitty. For Reg, it’s recovering his forgotten past. For Riko, it’s finding her mother and/or the ultimate journey’s end—the bottom of the Abyss.

Then we see that Vueko has hardly changed at all, other than growing longer hair, ditching clothes, and wading for who knows how many years in the very black mass of goo that goes about doing Balancings. We’re sure to see more of Vueko’s pre-goo experiences, but for now the past and present have officially merged.

P.S. “Those Everyday Feels”, the track that played when the Layers of the Abyss were first introduced and accompanied the first season’s Next Episode cards, makes a comeback this week. It’s one of the simplest but most stirring of Kevin Penkin’s tracks, and also one of my faves.

Made in Abyss – S2 03 – The Ruthlessness of Value

Nestled deep within the Golden City lies an entire village full of hollows like Nanachi, only those who chose to become so in order to endure in the Sixth Layer. Majikaja takes Riko, Reg, and Nanachi on a tour, and show them where Prushka ended up. While initially it looks like a hollow is chipping away harmfully at the whistle, Riko can sense that Prushka “doesn’t mind” and Majikaja confirms that shaving the whistle down to a purer form increases its “value.” And in the hollow village of IRUburu, value is everything.

Majikaja, whose automaton body we learn is actually only a vessel (their real form is sloshing around in the body’s central tank), takes our delvers to the hollow market, where everything is assessed, bought, and sold. Majikaja makes it clear that human children are among the most valuble, but Riko puts her foot down: she’s not here to sell pieces of herself.

That said, when one of the hollows squeezes Meinya too hard and almost kills her, it is punished by a “balancing”, which is the power of the village taking the hollows possessions and finally tearing off bits of it until the damage it did is paid in full. All hollows here, who have taken the form of their desires, know that this is how things go down.

Thankfully, Meinya is tougher than she looks and survives the accidental squishing, and Riko is able to spend the money given to her in reparations to buy lodging and food. Riko is eager and excited to taste food one would never be able to taste anywhere else in the world…but since this is Abyss and there’s no bodily function it won’t explore, she ends up in intestinal distress.

Nanachi and Reg prepare to further explore the village, but there’s a big boom, and suddenly a huge procession of hollows start racing towards it. Majikaja tells them it’s Faputa, “embodiment of value”, who “can go anywhere and will never perish.” Majikaja calls Faputa a lady of high status, which Nanachi translates to “princess”. While doing recon, Reg encounters this princess.

Faputa bears a striking and completely non-coincidental resemblance to Irumyuui, the little native girl Vueko took under her wing during Ganja’s descent into the Abyss in the distant past. Here the present and past once again collide, as we watch Ganja encounter the bizarre, whimsical, and terrifying power of the Golden City and its hollow denizens for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, Kevin Penkin’s score is up to the task of capturing the combination of wonder and danger; the guy is a master of orchestral crescendos that perfectly express the emotional and physical scope and scale of the city as first viewed by Vueko & Co. I must admit I replayed the final few minutes of the episode just to get swept up in the awe.

But as Vueko remarks, as awesome and beautiful as this place is, what is most assuredly is not is safe...at least for humans. It’s both heartening and heartrending to consider that just as Irumyuui evolved into Faputa, all of the members of Ganja are probably still around in hollow form. They may even have already met Riko, Reg, and Nanachi. They may have had to cast off their human form, but the intelligence remains, and at least they are finally at peace after what they endured as people.

Made in Abyss – S2 02 – Fire Bubbles, Dragons, and Eggs, Oh My!

As soon as Riko, Reg, and Nanachi set foot in The Golden City, its striking, terrifyng beauty is almost too much to handle. That said, once she’s acclimmated Riko has a grand old time checking out all the new stuff, like the ruins of what look like fallen, fossilized cities, or ornate dragon mega-bosses the trio dare not get near.

It’s not just creatures they need to worry about. Riko almost falls through a trap to her death three steps into the city (Reg rescues her with his extendo-arm), while a raid on the nest of a more docile animal for eggs is seemingly met by the Golden City showing why it’s Golden: mammoth bubbles of magma bursting and carpet-bombing the landscape with flame and poison gas.

As for the eggs? Neither boiling nor grilling will keep them from twitching, but Reg eliminates the threat of poison, and once Riko (and, most reluctantly, Nanachi) tuck in, they find the taste grows on you. This layer is full of wonders and hazards, but it’s a good time so far.

That is, until Riko gets excited about sending a message balloon up, only the second she’s ever sent to her friends back in Orth. Nanachi adds a drawing of the three of them to the package, but despite covering it in anti-animal ol and its launch accompanied by one of Kevin Penkin’s signature Abyss themes full of yearning, a critter snatches it out of the sky. Riko is upset, but that’s how it goes.

The three turn in for the night with Reg protecting them with his arm being used as a perimeter fence, but the next “morning” Riko wakes up to find that Prushka, AKA her White Whistle, is gone. In its place is Nanachi’s drawing of them with a strange symbol that looks like an upside-down person scrawled in red ink (which Reg remarks is at least not blood. Too true!)

With Reg and Nanachi’s heightened senses, finding Prushka is not outside the realm of possibility, so the three set off, again affording us still more achingly gorgeous and weird vistas and structures. When they find the red ink-soaked hair of Riko and Nanachi stuffed into the sewn-up butts of dead critters, they’re certainly appalled, but press on.

Riko isn’t going to let fear keep her from finding Prushka. They continue following the scent, leading them to a vast plain with a shambling cityscape in the distance. Where they end up, the bleached, bone-like stone of everything is suddenly painted in all manner of reds, oranges, which combined with the green of the plants is quite festive…but also a little disconcerting.

They eventually end up in a cave decorated with countless human bones, then encounter a rickety-looking but ultimately solid bridge to a very smooth, tree trunk-like shaft stretching hundreds of feet tall. There’s an opening stained red like a wound, and despite how foreboding this all is, the trio presses on.

Even moreso than other Layers, The Golden City is a blank slate; Riko says her mom’s notes are mostly about food and so they have to draw their own maps from here on out. But I doubt they’d have expected to encounter an entire city full of strange, diverse creatures.

One of the more mechanical ones approaches them, making all manner of funky noises while moving. He initially speaks in the same language spoken by the pre-Orth island natives, encountered by Vueko years ago, before switching to Riko’s language. No doubt these are either Vueko and her friends transformed into something beyond human, or more likely their descendants. Can’t wait to meet ’em!

Made in Abyss – S2 01 – The Light No One Else Has Found

Nearly years after had Dawn of the Deep Soul and nearly five years after the season one finaleAbyss is a-back. Rather than pick right up with Riko, Reg, and Nanachi as they continue their dive, we get a fresh perspective from a new character, Vueko, who in the first damn minute of the episode is being horribly abused by the man who took her in.

At least she’s recounting her past; in the present she’s one of the “Three Mages”, bearer of the Star Compass, and currently very seasick aboard a ship in a fleet led by the bug-eating eccentric Wazukyan. They’re part of a Ganja, a suicide team of exiles and misfits united in their desire to find the Golden City, which we know to be on the Sixth Layer of the Abyss.

In addition to having immediate sympathy for what Vueko has gone through, and relief that she’s now being treated well and even relied on (the little scene where her comrade Belaf calls her “lovely” in every way that matters is sweet as hell), my feelings were also of dread, because this is Made in Abyss. Vueko and her team are most assuredly doomed, and were likely doomed long before Riko’s time.

Still, Vueko is doing what she wants to be doing, and eventually her team comes upon an island with an entrance to the Abyss (the same island on which the city where Riko lived was eventually built), a tribe of suspicious but ultimately non-hostile natives, and one little girl who is banished by said tribe and serves as their guide.

She and Vueko soon become tied at the hip (not literally…yet) as the group makes their way into the Abyss and descend the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth layers, to the very eyeball-shaped elevator Riko & Co. enter at the end of the movie.

Just as Vueko makes a leap of faith through the elevator’s gooey doorway, it’s Riko who emerges from the other end, followed by Reg and Nanachi. The message is clear: many have passed through that green goo throughout the ages, but once you’re on that elevator going down, you’re never going back up.

Adding a little levity to what had so far been an quietly awe-filled but also rather dour outing is the fact the elevator ride down is so long that Riko can’t hold it in any longer. Not just No. 1 either, but No. 2. So she goes, and because it’s so quiet (no Kevin Penkin elevator music) Reg and Nanachi hear it all.

But no matter, shortly after Riko’s done her business, the darkness of the ocean around them is soon broken by a golden light. They alight from the elevator on the Sixth Layer, in the Capital of the Unreturned. It’s a terrifyingly gorgeous sight, and a sight very few human beings have seen (and remained human).

Will our friends encounter Vueko & Co. somewhere in this gnarly, chaotic, beautiful capital? Or…more likely, their bones? Is there a chance Riko’s mother could still be down here somewhere, most likely even further below? Many wonders and horrors await, all of them most likely to be expertly presented. The Promised Neverland and Shield Hero showed how not do do a second season; I’m confident Abyss can deliver the goods.

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