Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Made in Abyss – S2 11 – Royal Awakening

Due to Reg’s “foolishness”—i.e. not wanting to kill a dear friend he’s only now coming to remember—Faputa ends up knocking him out, and asks Juroimoh to hold him down while she deals with her next target: Riko, the one who “made Reg this way”.

All White Whistled out, Riko is in no shape to stand, and Faputa could go right through her Hollow defenders. But even her best punch can’t go entirely through Gaburoon, who stops her from killing Riko in order to “protect her future”.

Gabu collapses, and Faputa reaches deeper into the darkness: if she simply destroys everything, then everything will end. Returning her attention to Riko once more, she is once more stopped by an outside force: this time Belaf, accompanied by a Nanachi resplendent in their new Mitty Armor.

Their weapon of choice? A purple goo that resides within Belaf and contains memories of Faputa’s mother. These “smelly” memories represent Belaf’s ultimate treasure, but instead of perishing with him, they seem to unlock something in Faputa.

Overwhelmed by the intense visceral power of the memories of people and things completely unknown to her, Faputa pauses her carnage. Wazukyan takes this opportunity to flee with Vueko, while Nanachi wonders if this was all part of Wazukyan’s plan to use Faputa’s wish-granting power to make a village of out Riko like he did with Irumyuui.

But then the consequences of Faputa’s more recent actions take center stage: with the barrier down, the layer’s beasts waltz right in and help themselves to a Hollow buffet. Left and right, Hollows are stalked, torn apart and gobbled up by the beasts.

Faputa attacks the beasts, justifying her protection of the surviving Hollows as merely not letting anyone else have her prey. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to, I say. But soon it’s clear her fight, while valiant (and bloody as hell), is as hopeless as the Hollows’ fight against her had been.

There are simply too many beasts, and they’re very big and strong. It takes one last blast from Gabu before he dies to deter a Turbinid Dragon from curb-stomping her, but she still gets flung over halfway across the village.

Her scuffles with the beasts have left her all chewed up, missing limbs, coughing up blood, and immobile. She passes out believing she has no value because she failed to do “what she was born to do.” But she wakes up surrounded by Hollows, each of whom chops off a a small piece of themselves for her to eat, until their unlikely savior is not only fully healed, but…I’ll go ahead and use the crude but apt term “souped up.”

Faputa also suddenly finds herself surrounded by things she didn’t know, from her mother to Gabu, to Reg, and this leads her to ponder just what else she might not know. What is beyond her duty, which she believed to be her only value? Well, as Belaf said as she absorbed the memories he willingly offered her as she destroyed him, the time would come when she’d decide her own value.

That time has now come, and it once again unlocks something in her as a weird green glyph glows in her golden eyes. The Scorching Sun, once a volatile may have just evolved into a more mature star, poised to defend her sundry satellites from the incursions from outer space with her golden light.

Made in Abyss – S2 09 – Edge Part is NOT Fine

Reg heads back to the Hollow Village we now know to be Irumyuui, while her daughter rides atop his head and asks for pats. Riko is there to greet him at the boundary Faputa cannot go past, but she sits just outside that entrance, glaring and quietly growling at the sight of Riko and the White Whistle she bears. Shortly after Reg enters with Faputa’s severed arm, the Balancing goo starts going nuts.

When Riko asks what’s up with the arm, he says Faputa gave it to him and promised to five him all of her if he kept his promise. Reg wants to try to use the arm to bargain for Nanachi and Mitty, but Vueko warns him that showing Belaf that arm might “break” him, only making things worse.

Wazukyan shows up, and despite having heard the things he did, Riko admits she likes the village and how she feels like she’s with her brethren: those who descended beyond the point of no return are a rare breed. Wazukyan also isn’t fooled by Vueko’s disguise, but is happy to see her.

However, Wazukyan only seems to be stalling, for Juroimoh eventually bursts out of the ground (named, we learned, after the “piece of trash” who took Vueko in long ago). As the guardian and will of the village, he lashes out at Reg and Faputa’s arm, which he sees as direct threats (he’s not wrong).

When Juroimoh melds with the Balancing goo and envelops Reg, Riko, and all the Hollows in the vicinity, he has no choice but to try to cut through it with his Incinerator, which can “change the laws of the Abyss”. He unleashes an attack that neutralizes Juroimoh, but also blasts a hole through the village walls.

And waiting just outside that wall that now has a gaping hole is Princess Faputa. Reg, who is minutes from passing out, won’t be conscious for what’s to come, but it’s clear Faputa is happy that he “made the choice” to grant her access to the village, even if she doesn’t know it was (mostly) unintentional.

It’s here where Kuno Misaki breaks out her creepiest, most eveil “REDRUM” voice as Faputa gives a little speech about how she won’t forgive one single iota of what the Hollows were, are, or have done, remarks how long she’s been waiting for this moment, and promises that there will be nothing left but dust of the lot of them. I assume that doesn’t mean Reg, but what’s worrying is that he’s not awake to make the case to save, say, Riko.

Juroimoh’s Balancing attach surrounds Faputa, but she changes the black goo to white and ends up completely healed from her previous self-mutilation. She then launches herself at the mass of Hollows, likely to cut through them like a hot knife through butter. Even Nanachi wakes up from their bliss to observe the roof of Belaf’s cave has been blown off.

Belaf tells Nanachi that it’s time to awaken, for starting now, it’s no longer a dream, and the episode ends with a new haunting Kevin Penkin piece, seamlessly blending modern synths with orchestral bombast and a lot of neat dissonance and syncopation. Trust me, I’m no musical expert, so suffice it to say it sounded awesome. But I fear for what’s to come.

Made in Abyss – S2 08 – The Child

Reg wants to know what he promised Faputa long ago, and in response, she rips off one of her arms and ears and tells him she’ll “offer up her all” if it’s for the promise…which doesn’t really help Reg understand what it was, only how important it is.

From there we return to Vueko’s torrid tale. Wazukyan shows her what Irumyuui has become: a sedentary pink juggernaut that gives birth every day to larger and larger doomed young. Wazukyan now slaughters them live and they cure everyone of the effects of the living water.

While Vueko has more or less recovered fully, Belaf fares much worse, racked with guilt over eating Irumyuui’s young (and finding them tasty), and he always looks like he’s about to pull his face off. Wazukyan offers to show her how to prepare and cook the young, but she can’t bear it.

What follows is Vueko’s first attempt to kill herself, but Irumyuui is still in that hulking mass of flesh somewhere, and she convinces Vueko not to do it with her warm embrace. Eventually Irumyuui grows too large for the caves where they dwell. Vueko and the others follow her as she finds a spot out in the open, sheds her skin, and starts to devour the flying monsters they find there.

While at least one Ganja member gets carried off by one of the flying monsters, the end result is Irumyuui creates a green portal not unlike the lift that bore them all there from the higher Layer. Belaf, truly at the end of his physical and emotional tether, steps through the membrane and is instantly transformed into the snakelike creature of the present.

The others follow, one by one, shedding their human bodies and being transformed into the hollows that define their innermost desires. The only holdout is Vueko, who would rather jump off a cliff, but Wazukyan still has plans for her, and grabs her with an arm reinforced by one of the many Cradles of Desire he’s instructed the Interference Units to find.

When Vueko next wakes up, she’s naked, restrained, and kneeling in the mass of dark mud-like goo where Riko would discover her centuries later. Wazukyan tells her she’s now within Irumyuui’s brain, where she can commune directly with her. She accepts her new task of naming, singing to, and caring for the countless “children” of Irumyuui, deep in the warm darkness.

But gradually, quietly, Irumyuui was growing a different kind of child, a creature who we learn to be Faputa. When Faputa hatches, she goes on a rampage, for which Vueko is glad, since Faputa embodies all of the pent-up resentment and despair of her mother, who can no longer speak or move.

Back in the present, Vueko tells Riko that she believes Faputa’s ultimate goal is to destroy the village and free her mother, who, as it turns out, physically became the village. If and when I ever rewatch, those earlier episodes when Riko & Co. first find the village will hit different.

Did Reg promise long ago to help Faputa carry out her goal? We’ll obviously find out soon. In the meantime, Riko finds herself in the middle of a very volatile situation. Vueko’s only desire is that she not forget who Irumyuui was, and I don’t believe she’d miss it if it were Faputa’s (and thus Irumyuui’s) will for the village to die.

Made in Abyss – S2 07 – A Warm Darkness

After spending a good long while in the present with Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, we go back to when Ganja and the Three Sages first arrived in what would eventually become Iruburu. They used a Mitty-like hollow to activate the lift that took them down to the Sixth Layer, but soon learned that they would never be able to ascend again.

Faced with having to live down there the rest of their lives, they set out to find water. They also find a docile mammalian-like creature, showing them that living things can live down here. But while fighting off beasts, the creature, to whom Irumyuui had been incredibly attached, dies.

Of course, things soon get worse…much, much worse. That water they found? Not water, but an organism containing countless eggs or seeds. One by one, people come down with fevers and severe diarrhea and become bedridden. Then some begin to morph into bizarre forms.

Irumyuui, one of the first to get sick, is clinging to life when a glowing gold egg relic is found, and the Interference Units they befriended tell them it’s basically a wish-granting egg. It’s also apparently more effective if used by a juvinille as opposed to a more world-weary adult.

Vueko asks Wazukyan, and he agrees, that Irumyuui should have first dibs on the egg. In fact, he welcomes it being used on her, as he believes she will be the savior to everyone there. Vueko, looking deep into his eyes, believes him, because she believes him to be a divine prophet.

One morning, Vueko hears Irumyuui’s voice, and it’s full of mirth. Despite gradually metamorphosing into a hollow, she apparently feels no pain, and always has a wide smile on her face. Vueko is happy, but the others continue to grow ill, lie down, and never get back up.

One day, Irumyuui gives birth…after a fashion. But the “child” has no organs for taking in nutrition, and so it soon dies in her arms. She gives birth to another, and another, and another…all in fun colors, but all meet the same fate.

As Vueko can only be there and comfort Irumyuui in her continued moments of grief and loss, she also rues the day she gave the egg to Irumyuui. While it technically granted the girl’s wishes, it also twisted them, like a Monkey’s Paw, into something awful.

Then the day comes when Vueko becomes ill and can’t even get up to comfort Irumyuui. She seems resigned to her fate—the same fate countless others faced in this beautiful godforsaken place. But then suddenly she’s being fed a tasty-smelling stew, and before she knows it, she’s ambulatory and free of illness.

She walks out onto a promontory, where Wazukyan greets her warmly. As he promised, Irumyuui would end up saving everyone, and so she did. Was that stew made of Irumyuui’s body? Her stillborn offspring? I don’t know, but when you find yourself living within a legend, finding and keeping a foothold means making choices one might not have made on the surface.

This was one of the tougher watches of Made in Abyss’ run, but also a crucial one, lending us insight into the desperate choices a ragtag group of exiles made simply to continue existing. Vueko is right that she technically started this by putting Irumyuui and the wishing egg together.

In the present she might think she’s a “bad person”, but just like someone isn’t choosy about the “water” they drink when they’re dying of thirst, she, Irumyuui, and everyone else were doomed if they did and doomed if they didn’t in this place. Given the choice of death or chance, in the intrepid spirit that brought them this deep into the Abyss, they chose the latter. Only those others who’d been through what they did can stand in judgment.

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 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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