Made in Abyss – 13 (Fin)

Always cold and hungry yet full of longing to see the wonders of the Abyss, the still-human Nanachi was lured, along with a good deal of other disadvantaged children, to their doom by the dastardly White Whistle Bondrewd the Novel.

On the way down to the unreassuringly-named Sea of Corpses, Nanachi meets the ebullient Mitty. Weary at first, they hit it off almost immediately, buoyed by the exciting, life-changing adventure they’re about to undertake.

Did I say exciting and life-changing? I meant nightmarish and life-ruining/ending. One by one Bondrewd comes for the children until Nanachi and Mitty are the only ones left.

Neither has any idea what’s happening to the others until Bondrewd comes for Mitty, but not Nanachi, in the night. But Nanachi, now all alone, follows them, and sees and hears things she shouldn’t.

Bondrewd takes Nanachi’s disobedience as an auspicious event, and places them in a tube right beside a frightened, already-trapped Mitty, and calmly explains how the “experiment” is going to go down. The two descend to the Sixth Layer, where a horde of formerly-human things gather around their tubes.

Then the ascent begins, and all of the Curse is transferred to Mitty in a graphic, gruesome, and thoroughly upsetting sequence. Nanachi can only watch in the other tube, absolutely powerless to help. Mitty was Nanachi’s one and only true “treasure”, more important than any relic they might have found in the Abyss.

But, as we know, Mitty isn’t gone. Well, not totally. To Bondrewd’s delight, the double-dose of Sixth-Layer Curse not only took Mitty’s human form, but made it impossible for her to die. She is constantly disintegrating, regenerating…and suffering.

Nanachi flees Bondrewd’s clutches with Mitty (though it’s highly likely he lets them go) and eventually finds a place to live. But there is nothing Nanachi can do for Mitty. It’s not that they can’t put Mitty out of her misery due to emotional considerations…it simply isn’t possible.

Not until Reg and Riko came around. With his Incinerator, which Nanachi calls “Sparagmos”, or the “light that returns to the cardinal point”, Nanachi believes she can finally free Mitty’s long-suffering soul from what’s left of her body.

Reg asks for time to think it over, and worries that if he kills Mitty, Nanachi will feel they have no more reason to live, and might take their own life. Nanachi promises they won’t, and convinces Reg of the only right and proper course of action when they tell him that when they one day do die, Mitty will be left alone, suffering for all eternity.

After preparing a tasteful site for “sending off” Mitty, Nanachi only halts Reg from firing Incinerator for one last goodbye to her treasure, then tells him to do it. The ensuing inferno consumes every bit of Mitty until there’s nothing left. Just like that, she’s gone.

It’s ruinously sad, but I’ll admit, a HUGE relief her suffering is at an end. After all, her last words as a human to Nanachi in that tube were “kill me.” Hers was the kind of pure lasting suffering that’s hard to imagine or even comprehend, but I can grasp the catharsis, even if the hurt remains in the hearts of those who sent her off.

Things thankfully take a lighter turn when Reg awakens to find Riko is also awake, and starting her rehabilitation. Riko takes an instant liking to the cute and fuzzy Nanachi, and both Nanachi and Reg appreciate Riko’s far superior culinary skills.

After going through that emotional, visceral ringer, It’s awfully nice to see Riko back to normal. Then she asks if there wasn’t someone else there besides the three of them, and recalls a dream that made her think that.

The creepy dream we saw part of last week is put into context thanks to Riko. She is consumed by a kind of skin (representing her deep illness) and can only cry and panic, but when she sees that terrified, crying eye—Mitty’s eye in the waking world—she calms down, stares back, and tries to comfort her.

Then, after Reg sends Mitty off, Riko perceives it as Mitty (or rather, her soul) being restored to its human form before passing on. Then Riko realizes she needs to “get going”, and follows the light back to consciousness and out of her wounded stupor.

Upon hearing this “dream”, which was likely something more significant, Nanachi looks grateful that someone saw their treasure in the moment she finally achieved her freedom.

Nanachi takes Riko and Reg to a kind of healing hot spring, and enjoys watching Reg squirm as Riko proceeds to have no qualms whatsoever about bathing with him naked, all while quietly asking Mitty to wait “a little longer,” which could either be interpreted as Nanachi planning to take her life and join Mitty soon, or not until after she’s lived a life that now includes two new potential “treasures” in Reg and Riko.

After removing the mushrooms from her arm (another highly painful, unpleasant ordeal), Riko eventually regains the ability to lift her arm and even move her thumb. Reg blames his crappy amputation attempt for the state of her arm, but Riko doesn’t blame him; she asked him to do it, after all. She also heared from Nanachi how tearfully and desperately Reg tried to save her, and thanks him for that, regarding her nasty scar as “precious proof” he protected her.

Riko, like Reg before her, asks Nanachi if they’ll join them as they continue their journey further down the Abyss, and Nanachi agrees. The credits then roll over a lovely montage: Riko ties her backpack to a balloon and releases it, and they prepare for their journey as it makes its harrowing ascent past all the layers they’d passed, even requiring Marulk to free it from a branch and repair it.

It eventually reaches Nat, who looks shocked and elated to finally possess evidence of Riko and Reg’s progress. Having completed their preparations (and the construction of a big, sturdy new backpack), the new party of Riko, Reg, and Nanachi leave Nanachi’s cozy house behind, in search of trying to satisfy that most unstoppable longing for the unknown.

Meanwhile, in Bondrewd the Novel’s lab, he notices one of dozens of lights has gone out; a light signifying Mitty’s life. He is proud of and grateful to Nanachi for having finally gotten it done, as if letting them escape was yet another experiment. And he’s eager to meet her again. Ouzen was right; she’s kind and pleasant compared to this evil bastard.

And there we are; that’s a wrap! At least until a second season comes along. While I can assure you there are very few shows I’d want to jump into the second season of immediately, and this is one of them, I think a good long rest is in order, to recover from the emotional wounds it left in this final, epic, horrendously devastating yet still somehow hopeful, and achingly beautiful finale. I want to believe Riko’s mom is waiting for her. I have to.

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Re-Kan! – 09

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The mystery of who Amami is making a very specific kind of handmade chocolate for, and why, isn’t all that mysterious. But as always with Re-Kan, the emotional resonance, not the mystery or animation, did most of the heavy-lifting, and succeeded admirably.

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Not only that, as we watch Amami’s activities through the lenses of both her living and dead friends, all of whom have fairly reasonable theories, I felt the episode kept things in doubt long enough for the final twist to have some impact.

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Working with the info we’re given from the start, Amami is going to make a traditional Japanese sweet, the recipe for which she learns from the kindly wife of a grouchy old humbug who infests the park scaring the Valentines-crazed youngs away.

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The episode staves off the last piece of the puzzle with the use of editing and camera angles to keep the wife’s status up in the air until Amami finally presents the chocolates to the husband, at which point we see he is a widower.

Yet again, Amami did a favor for a ghost who couldn’t do it herself: make chocolates for her still grieving, lonely husband. She also doesn’t disappoint the ravenous Yamada or her friends by offering all of them chocolates, so everyone wins!

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When the grumpy old man is alone again, he polishes off the whole box of chocolates, and realizing his departed wife is still there beside him on some plane or another, thanks her, his heart having been lifted from the gloom. The final shot that tracks from him sitting alone on the bench to the shadows of both him and his wife, was quite lovely and affecting.

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Re-Kan! – 08

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Teachers in anime are usually portrayed as single, miserable, and resentful of the youth that surrounds them, but Re-Kan! is a trend-bucker, so in its world, two of the teachers at Hibiki’s school, Moriya-senpai and Kimura-senpai, end up getting married. They’re a very cute couple, and both the guys and girls are super-excited.

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Around the same time, however, a new ghost appears before Hibiki, one unlike any other she’s encountered before. This is the ghost of a very young girl who can only say one word: “Morya.” The Samurai concludes something is tying her to the living world, but she can’t seem to remember what. Yamada suggests they give her new memories to make up for the one’s she’s lost, but first they have to teach her to talk properly, which everyone, even Inoue, gets in on.

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In the cold open that sets the bittersweet mood of this whole episode, we see her and a boy of the same age in adjacent hospital beds. The boy turns out to be “Morya” or Moriya-sensei, who Hibiki brings to the girl to play with for a while. There, he remembers that he used to give his carrots to her in the hospital, but now he can eat them himself. He’s grown up.

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While spending the night with the motherly Hibiki, the girl finally remembers the rest: she loved Moriya and he her, and they promised they’d meet again when they grew up. She was sicklier than him and couldn’t keep her promise, but she still loves him. With her memories restored, she’s able to pass on, which she does in the arms of Hibiki.

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Hibiki, along with Inoue and the others, had grown quite attached to the little girl as they taught her how to speak properly and played with her. For Inoue, she’s another example of a ghost who she didn’t have to fear; and more to the point, a ghost that needed help that she wanted to help.

They’re sad to see her pass on, but in doing so inspired the friends, starting with Yamada, to look more closely at the bonds they share and spend as much time with one another, making new memories as they go forward. This Re-Kan! was another poignant, earnestly-felt triumph, exploring the bittersweet nature of loss, love, and life with grace and dignity.

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Re-Kan! – 07

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Hibiki’s ridiculous generosity and utter inability to say no to a ghost is taking its toll and  burning her out, so her friends stage an intervention on the streets, insisting she needs a break from her supernatural drudgery. They head over to her house, which while not a Gothic haunted mansion, could certainly pass for that house in Kwaidan with a few minor tweaks.

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Hibiki’s dad concurs, and produces a pair of sixth-sense-sealing glasses her mother used to wear when she needed a break from ghosts to, ya know, eat or sleep. I like how this story subverts the standard anime glasses girl trope. Sure, they make her look even more adorable (and more bookish), but they also fundamentally change how she interacts with the world. Simply put: all contact with that which most people cannot see or hear ceases. It really is like a vacation.

But the urge to take them off and sense of who’s floating around her—and more importantly, the urge help them—is strong. So Inoue makes a very childish threat: if she takes off the glasses, they won’t be friends any more, and it works; Hibiki keeps those puppies on like her life depends on it.

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Her sidekicks Roll Call Samurai and Kogal don’t like it, but they’re big enough to realize Hibiki could use a break. But when the little sister of a boy Hibiki is playing with goes missing and it starts to get dark, Hibiki desperately needs more sets of eyes to search for her.

Hibiki makes a very difficult phone call to Inoue, who is studying and absolutely scared shitless by Hibiki’s foreboding ringtone. Hibiki seems ready to accept the end of their friendship, but Inoue assures her not to worry. If it’s an emergency, it’s fine to take the glasses off. Hibiki does, and show us yet again how handy it is to have an army of the dead at one’s disposal.

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The balance of the episode is a New Year’s shrine visit by the whole gang. While I miss Glasses Hibiki, I loved how she lets spirits vote on what she wears, and the fact Inoue got drunk and loose-lipped on Amazake, and her friends decided to get her to open up.

To their disappointment, her response to almost every question is “Nana!”, so ingrained is her love for her late gran. Hibiki, not wanting to do anything untoward, simply asks Inoue if she’ll be friends with her in the next year, for which Inoue offers a more sober tsundere response of “I suppose.”

We finish things off with a fun little brawl between the incorrigible Ero-Neko versus Samurai and the Killer, who are sick of the cat’s sexual harrassment, as Kogal watches with enthusiasm.

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P.S. Like Hannah with Food Wars, I’ve taken over Re-Kan reviews from Zane in order to even out our workloads. -Preston

Re-Kan! – 06

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Amami Hibiki is a lovely young woman, but let’s be honest: she’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes, at an age when she’ll be forgiven for letting her hair down and misbehaving now and again. After Narumi (no slouch in the goody two-shoes dept. herself) wonders out loud (and loudly) why Hibiki can’t ever act like a “normal high school girl”, we’re introduced to a whole new Hibiki—a Kogal Hibiki!

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The sight of Hibiki all Kogal’d out—and Kido Ibuki ditching the good girl voice for one of constant irritation—is already worth the price of admission. But what makes this another quintessentially Re-Kan! episode is that Hibiki’s new look and act is the result of the ghost of a high school girl from ten years ago possessing her.

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The deal is, the Gal-ghost will make Hibiki more like a “normal high schooler”, which isn’t really possible since the high school world has moved on in the last decade, but never mind; and in exchange Hibiki will lend the ghost her body so she can “pass on.”

Until then, Gal-Hibiki’s attempts to act aloof and cool and use outdated lingo provide entertainment to her friends, including the group’s journalist, Uehara Kana, who is always snapping pics and documenting her encounters with ghosts on her blog, following the journalistic tradition of her parents, for which she’s secretly proud.

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Worried about what the Gal-ghost will do in Hibiki’s body, her friends follow her, discovering she’s summoning someone to meet her. When she discovers she’s being followed, she’s annoyed and a little embarrassed, as they observe her actions and explanations increasingly out of step with her ko-gal persona.

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All is revealed when the day of the meeting arrives. The person who meets her is her mom, who coincidentally is one of Hibiki’s shopping buddies, whom she shopped with the day before in Hibiki’s body. The Gal-ghost is angry that her mother hasn’t moved on from her untimely death, or had a new daughter, and is even still making enough dinner for three ten years later.

But the Gal’s host, Hibiki, explains to her that a mother will never forget their child no matter how many years pass, nor will she ever see her departed daughter as worthless. The mom catches up to her and beautiful catharsis ensues. No longer guilty for dying so soon without accomplishing anything in life or giving anything back her her mom (a false charge on her part), she’s able to pass on.

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Before she does, sticks around within Hibiki just long enough to make sure Kana doesn’t make the same mistakes she did. Kana organized a Christmas party for everyone, despite the fact what she wanted most was to hang out with her parents, who are always busy. The Gal-ghost orders her home, and to Kana’s surprise, her folks are there waiting for her.

By serving as the Gal-ghost’s vessel, Hibiki not only got some rad fashion tips and education in early 2000’s jargon, but was able to help Gal forgive herself and pass on, but through Gal, helps her still-living friend re-connect with her parents.

So it’s a good thing for both of them Hibiki isn’t just another normal high school girl!

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