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.

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul – Trials Make Love Stronger

I finished the first season of Made in Abyss three years and a week ago, commenting that while I ached to know what would happen next, a long rest was in order, so that I might recover from the emotional wounds throughout that first run, culminating in the shockingly brutal story of Mitty and Nanachi.

Turns out no amount of time would heal those wounds to the extent they wouldn’t be re-opened and—very soul freshly re-crushed—upon watching the continuation of the Abyss story. That’s because the deeper Riko, Reg, and Nanachi descend, the more acute and devastating the horrors they encounter.

This is the third of three Made in Abyss films; the first two were a retelling of the first season, while the third is a direct sequel As such, spoilers throughout.

Case in point: upon arriving at one of her mother’s favorite spots in all of the Abyss, the Garden of Flowers of Fortitude, they encounter one of Bondrewd’s delvers, the Umbra Hands, harvesting tissue from other delvers who have been infected by a parasite that not only feeds off you while you’re still alive, but feeds itself to you in order to keep you alive. Lovely!

Few anime do soaring vistas like Abyss, and there’s something just so otherworldly and dread-inducing about the sight of the Fifth Layer’s Sea of Corpses, along with Idofront, Bondrewd the Novel’s domain. But as cold and unyielding and inhospitable as the spinning ghost city seems on the outside, within resides one of the sweetest, warmest, most human souls they’ve yet encountered: an adorable little girl named Prushka.

Prushka is Bondrewd’s daughter (voiced by Minase Inori), who is initially suspicious of outsiders coming to help her dad when she thinks she should be enough. But once she meets Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, they open for her a whole new world of questions and information about the Surface (she was born in the Abyss).

It’s so strange to see Prushka acting so lovey-dovey with Bondrewd, perpetrator of countless acts of sickening biological crimes, especially since he and his Umbra Hands resemble evil robots. And yet that evil robot still has a strange gravitational pull Nanachi finds hard to resist. Nanachi can’t forgive Bondrewd, but something still draws them toward him. Nanachi was something of a child figure to him, after all, so Nanachi sees Prushka as a younger self.

Bondrewd has bad news for Riko: while she may have her mother’s White Whistle, only the person for whom the whistle was made can use it to activate the altar that will take her down to the Sixth Layer. He offers them accommodations to “think things over”, but there isn’t any doubt his intentions for them are about as far from harmless as they’re all far from the Surface.

Despite her cozy room, soon Riko wakes up alone, and upon exploring, finds that she’s trapped in a small area with the only exit being a stair Prushka warned will cause “strains of ascension” if climbed. When Riko attempts to climb them anyway, she loses all sense of touch and balance, grinds her baby molars away and falls down the stairs, gaining cuts here and there. But she hallucinates far worse: as the very concepts of what and where are gradually eaten away by white light.

Ultimately, the reason Bondrewd does anything all comes down to curiosity and the aspiration to reach the bottom of the Abyss and learn its infinite secrets, same as Riko. It’s just a matter of scope and scale. Riko has managed to retain her humanity throughout her descent. But while has the affable dad voice and general form of a man, there is simply nothing left of Bondrewd’s humanity.

After Nanachi offers to stay with him and help him continue his research in exchange for Riko and Reg’s safety, Bondrewd tells them that, uh, unfortunately, he’s already tossed Reg to his Umbra Hands, who restrain him, slice off his right arm (along with Incinerator) and start collecting his bodily fluids. That’s when Riko, who was helped up to the upper level by Prushka, intervenes, and Prushka learns the truth about her father for the first time.

With Bondrewd showing his true horrific colors loudly and proudly, Nanachi, the most experienced with how he operates, comes up with a plan to take him out. This involves luring him into a nest of giant seven-tailed scorpions, trying to infect him with parasite larvae, and finally Reg crushing his body with a giant boulder.

Naturally, Bondrewd praises both Reg and Nanachi every time they toss a new tactic at him, saying things like “wonderful” and “I’m surprised.” After all, Nanachi is one of the creations of which of which he is most proud, one who unlike Mitty and the others was able to receive the “Blessing” of the Abyss rather than fall victim to the Curse. You’d could mistake it for fatherly pride if, again, Bondrewd had a shred of humanity. But his willingness to offer love and pain and suffering in equal measure disqualifies him as both from being either a parent or a human.

None of the tactics against him end up working, because the Umbra Hand who escorted Prushka simply takes the mask off of the crushed Bondrewd and places it on his head, thus transforming into a new, untouched Bondrewd. Turns out all of his Umbra Hands are him—and his immortality is tied to a relic called Zoaholic. The fight ends for now, and Bondrewd returns home with Prushka.

If Zoaholic didn’t make Bondrewd insane, the act of splitting his soul and essence into multiple bodies still removed what was left of his empathy or humanity, which is why he ends up having Prushka cruelly vivisected just like all of the other orphan children before her. He’s satisfied her experiences with Reg, Riko, and Nanachi helped “perfect” her, and this is the natural next step. She is never told this would happen, and never asked if it’s okay.

Her body is marked with “X’s” to signify the parts that will be cut away and discarded (most of it) until all that is left is a mass of “fleshy curse repellant” to be placed within a suitcase-sized cartridge. It is in this way that Bondrewd staves off the curse; using the pain and suffering of still technically-living children as his strength.

It’s truly skin-crawling, horrible, horrible stuff, and even though I had a reasonable suspicion that Prushka was doomed to a Mitty-like fate, I was still not ready to see even a little of that fate carried out, nor would I ever be. No one would!

By the Riko, Reg, and Nanachi return to Idofront to rescue her they’re way too late, while the sight of the “processing” room brings back Nanachi’s memories of assisting with said processing. When Bondrewd arrives, Riko and Nanachi they buy time for Reg, who hooks himself up to Idofront’s power supply and ends up rebooting in Berserk Mode.

Bondrewd tells Riko that his own White Whistle is the result of sacrificing his own body and soul, and that all White Whistles are made in this way—with a willing human sacrifice, not carved stone.

It’s then when Berserk-Reg arrives and fights on the same level as Bondrewd, ultimately blasting a huge sphere-shaped chunk out of Idofront. He lands in a pit of Mittys—material for Bondrewd’s cartridges, and we’re reminded of all those lights on the wall representing their lives are labeled: he remembers the name of every child, their unique qualities, and how cute they were. Shudder…

As Bondrewd and Reg are locked in an epic battle, we hear Prushka’s disembodied voice as she recounts her life with Bondrewd, starting as a failed subject. He decided to raise her as his daughter, gave her Meinya as a pet, and gave her a fun and happy childhood, ultimately culminating in her helplessly watching as pieces of her are removed one by one on the operating table.

We hear Prushka because she’s now a cartridge that Bondrewd is currently using in his fight, and ends up being his last cartridge. Even after what he did to her, she still wants to help her dad achieve his dreams—even if it means helping him fight against Reg, Riko, and Nanachi.

Thus aided by Bondrewd, Reg can’t defeat him with one arm, which is why he was buying time for Riko to retrieve his other arm. Even disconnected from his body, she’s able to aim it at Bondrewd and fire it, blasting him to pieces.

As this is happening, Prushka pleads with everyone not to fight, because they’re all going to have adventures together. An image of that dream appears in the climax of the battle, and is pretty much the most heartbreaking goddamn thing I’ve ever seen.

Then Bondrewd falls to the ground, finally beaten, and Nanachi stand over him. True to form, Bondrewd isn’t bitter about losing; on the contrary: he’s never been happier to find someone with stronger aspirations, will, and love defeat him. It means they, not him, are worthy of exploring the greater depths of the Abyss, and all the curses and blessings therein.

Riko holds the spent cartridge of what’s left of Prushka, simply red liquid that spills everywhere, and very understandably begins to bawl in absolute despair. But then she notices an object lying in the puddle of liquid: a White Whistle. Turns out Prushka’s soul willingly became the sacrifice necessary for Riko. Now her dream of going on adventures together can be realized.

With that, Riko gains the means to make her Last Dive, along with Reg (who learned a great deal about what his relic body can do) and Nanachi (who found a degree of closure in her vendetta with Bondrewd). Bondrewd, oddly enough, is still alive (after a fashion), but no longer a threat to them, and indeed is happy to see them off as they enter the “elevator” that will take them to the Sixth Layer, that much closer to Riko’s Mom, whatever’s become of her.

Quite appropriately, the end credits pull double duty as an illustration of that elevator descending ever deeper  into the Abyss, accompanied by an achingly gorgeous song that is a collab between MYTH & ROID and Kevin Penkin. Penkin, of course, also contributed the score and outdoes himself in the task; his music has been and continues to be a vital piece of what makes Abyss so unique an special.

It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to end this in less than 1500 words, but whatever; this was basically four episodes of the anime comprising a Fifth Layer arc, enshrining Bondrewd the Novel as one of anime’s all-time most monstrous and compelling villains, exploring the ways ambition can mutate “love” into a heartlessly destructive force.

It also ably reinforced Abyss’ uncanny ability to tear its viewers’ hearts and souls to bloody shreds before painstakingly sewing them back together with delicate threads of hope. And with a second season in the early stages of production, the story of Riko, Reg, and Nanachi is far from over.

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.

Made in Abyss – 12

This week, while waiting for Riko to heal, Nanachi teaches Reg the “true nature” of the abyss, calling it, essentially, a physical, if invisible, trap of barbs that are easy to descend through but quite difficult to ascend. The Abyss itself is both something that doesn’t want anything going in, but also won’t let anything that does get in get out easily, or without exacting a toll.

That toll would seem to extend all the way tot he surface, where lil’ Kiyui (Kiwi) has come down with an awful fever; a growing trend that is claiming lives. When Girou (Gilo) takes him off the island onto one of the ships of the “Caravan Fleet” docked there, he recovers immediately, without any medical treatment.

It would seem that all that was needed was to get further away from the Abyss.

And yet Riko, like her mother Lyza, her mentor Ouzen, and Nanachi and Mitty, couldn’t help but get closer and closer. The longing to reach thebottom of the netherworld and discover its secrets is far more agonizing than any trap, predator, poison, or curse. It’s a curse in and of itself; an infinitely seductive world beneath the surface, simultaneously beckoning and warning.

Good News: Mitty isn’t trying to eat Riko, she’s merely being friendly, and as Nanachi says, uncharacteristically “emotional” toward a visitor (though it’s doubtful they have many other visitors). She also points out Mitty was once a girl like Riko, then demonstrates to Reg how terrible her cooking ability is, prompting Reg to commit to cooking for RIko once she wakes up.

Meanwhile, Nanachi uses a thin, transparent “fog weave” to very effectively demonstrate the physical qualities of the Curse of Abyss; how it morphs to take the shape of whatever it covers, and the consequences of recklessly bursting through it.

Back in the hut, we’re “treated” to one of the more disturbing sequences in the show: Riko, covered in a fleshy film of her own, sits in the pitch black darkness but for a hole, through which Mitty’s eye peers. Riko peers back, and hears not the cooing and moaning of the present Mitty, but the more lucid cries of the girl Mitty once was. Chilling.

Continuing her lessons, Nanachi places a device in Reg’s helmet so she can communicate with him in real time from afar as he responds to a call for help from a Black Whistle, who then bristles when he sees a mere child has answered and begs him to flee.

Of course, Reg isn’t an ordinary kid, and he has a score to settle with this particular piercer, so with Nanachi’s aid he reaches out and grabs the curse, (which the piercer uses to predict the future with its red “nose”) and fires Incinerator at point-blank range, forcing the beast to shed 80% of its quills and withdraw.

Reg calmly asks the stunned Black Whistle to relay a message to Girou up at the Belchero Orphanage: “They are continuing their adventure.”

Even being almost killed won’t sate Riko’s longing to continue, and Reg knows that, so whenever she wakes up and is well and strong enough to do so, they’ll resume their descent. Reg, grateful for all of Nanachi’s help, asks if she’ll accompany him and Riko on their journey.

It’s not that Nanachi outright refuses their offer, but has a request of her own that is more pressing: she asks if Reg will kill Mitty for her. We heard through Riko the misery Mitty lives in each and every moment; almost gone but not gone enough for it to not matter.

Barring some kind of miracle that could save her, killing Mitty would seem to be a mercy; it’s just that after what happened with them and Bondrewed, Nanachi hasn’t been able to herself do what she know needed to be done. She hopes there’s enough emotional separation for Reg to do it instead.

Made in Abyss – 11

Thanks to the careful ministrations of Nanachi the Hollow, Riko’s arm is stabilized and she’d given another 12 or so hours of life to play with.

Turns out Nanachi had been shadowing her and Reg since they reached the Fourth Layer, but only revealed herself out of pity for Reg, who mewled like a “lost little kid” when Riko went blue.

She warns Reg Riko is far from out of the woods: to save her life, he’ll have to go back out into the Goblet to collect a number of items within those 12 hours.

Then another sound comes from the tent, and Nanachi introduces Reg to OH GAAAAAAAH JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT … THAT THING? Honestly, after the “meat” Ozen brought back to life and last week’s gruesome ordeal, you’d think I’d be more desensitized to the horrors of the Abyss, but “Mitty” provides another, well, layer of darkness and dread.

Nanachi makes it clear that Mitty in her current form (which is barely a form at all) is nearer to the rule, not the exception, where Hollows are concerned. Both Nanachi and Mitty ascended from the Sixth Layer. Both were changed irrevocably, but only Nanachi maintained her humanoid form and mental faculties – an “exception among exceptions.”

Mitty is…well, hollow. For most humans who undergo such a transformation, death by their comrades usually follows, but not in this case. Nanachi not only hasn’t put Mitty out of her misery, but keeps her around like a kind of pet.

Perhaps it’s an act of penance. In some flashes of the past we see what is probably a pre-ascent Mitty—a girl with eyes the same reddish hue as the eye of post-ascent Mitty—and a younger, post-ascent Nanachi being praised by the White Whistle Bondrewd the Novel, who is happy “the experiment” was a success. Perhaps Nanachi and Mitty were the subjects of that experiment, and only Nanachi survived (relatively) intact.

Reg collects all the items on Nanachi’s list without too much difficulty, only to learn that just one of those items—the purple mushrooms that grow on shroombears—was necessary to save Riko; the other things were merely for Nanachi to eat. But Nanachi makes a good point: she cannot forage for food while tending Riko, so someone had to.

Reg is also instructed to wash Riko’s soiled clothes at a nearby riverbank behind Nanachi’s hut. The utterly gorgeous verdant landscape he beholds is peppered with graves, somewhat souring the awe with melancholy.

But Reg starts seeing things – the field of flowers of fortitude, Blaze Reap marking a grave – and also hears his own voice speaking to Lyza. He wonders if he buried Lyza, but remembers Ozen said “no one was buried” there.

The thing is, “no one” could be construed as “nothing human”—i.e., a hollow—but when back in the tent, what’s left of Mitty suddenly approaches a sleeping Riko. Does this behavior suggest that Riko’s presence is somehow drawing out the humanity in Mitty, like the mushrooms are drawing out the piercer’s poison? Does Mitty recognize Lyza’s daughter?

Made in Abyss – 10

Riko and Reg’s first impressions of the Fourth Layer are that it’s very damp, humid, and majestic. the “Goblets” that give the Layer its name are filled with something that smells “vinegary”, which leads me to think it’s another kind of digestive juice you don’t want to be wading around in too long.

While looking for a place to camp (the first place they found had an odd presence shadowing them), they encounter an orbed-piercer – a predator that can kill them a heck of a lot quicker than gut juice. It’s a fearsome thing to behold – a growling yet unreadable red face with five holes, surrounded by shaggy white fur and poisonous barbs that can cut through steel.

Scary looks and pointy bits aren’t the only things in its arsenal – the piercer is also a lot smarter than the beasts they’ve encountered thus far, as Ozen warned them they would get. It’s quick, crafty, and thinks a step ahead.

Reg can’t get away from it, and in a matter of moments, three absolute disasters occur: they lose the Blaze Reap, their best weapon against tougher beasts (Reg dare not use his Incinerator); their umbrella shield is easily shattered, and one of the barbs pierces Riko’s left hand.

Reg has to deal with that quickly before the poison spreads and kills Riko, so he does something else that threatens her life: he escapes by ascending. In the fourth layer, humans start bleeding profusely out of every orifice, and that’s what happens to poor Riko.

As if that wasn’t grim enough, Riko’s hand swells to three times its size, and before passing out, she tells him the only thing for it is to cut her hand off. Reg breaks the bone first and then fights back tears as he works away at the arm with his knife, but the blood attracts a cloud of bugs that interrupt his work.

Both Riko and Reg are saved when “presence” they felt before makes its appearance – a rabbit-like creature offering help.

After following the creature’s instructions and giving a very purple Riko the kiss of life (without a moment’s hesitation, or bashfulness), she starts breathing again, thank the gods. Their new friend then leads them to her very cool and comfy-looking home in a place where the Curse of the Abyss has no effect, and introduces herself as Nanachi, what the upworlders would call a “Hollow.”

Made in Abyss continues to plumb new depths of acute peril and danger, not treating Riko or Reg—who are only little kids after all—with any more mercy than their surroundings.

I knew things would never be the same the moment Riko’s hand was pierced, and the entire ordeal to stabilize her was simply gutting, as we weren’t spared the most grisly details (haring Reg breaking and cutting Riko’s wrist was bad, but so was watching more blood bubble out of her eye after he wiped it dry).

Here’s hoping this Hollow person Nanachi can work some kind of magic to save Riko’s hand, even if, as she said, it will never be the same. That seems to be the enduring theme of Abyss – the further down they go, the quicker it is to be slaughtered, and the more things will never be the same.

Made in Abyss – 09

Riko and Reg descend the four thousand meters of the Great Fault (over ten Empire State Buildings, for those keeping count) using the “weakling’s way”, as Ozen suggested: the network of tunnels within the fault’s walls.

They quickly learn why when they inadvertently scare some flat, fluffy Neritantans out onto the edge, where a few quickly become lunch for the flying Madokajacks.

The Neritantans are ridiculously adorable, but this isn’t a place where you can be sentimental about such things if those animals are the only thing you can use to distract the predators that make no distinction between them and you.

Riko and Reg find the ancient ruins of a ship embedded in the fault wall, which raises so many questions, chief among them how it got there. In any case, it’s super cool. But just as the Madokajacks were distracted by the Neritantans, Riko is distracted by the prospect of finding cool relics.

She doesn’t realize until it’s too late that she’s strayed right into a Madokajack nest. Ozen warned Reg not to use Incinerator recklessly, but he’s confident Riko will be safe for the two hours he’s out if he uses it, so he does…and it continues to be a fantastic, if terrifying, sight to see.

What Reg didn’t know is that the strange distant sound he’d been hearing was a Crimson Splitjaw, who he grazed with the beam from Incinerator. He and Riko have to book it fast before he passes out, and they seem to receive som karmic justic when their only avenue of escape is blocked by tightly-packed, Neritantans.

If I didn’t know better, I thought I saw the thirst for vengeance in their beady little eyes. But the roar of the Splitjaw spooks them and they disperse. In a place of relative safety, Reg warns Riko to stay where she is and then passes out. Now who seriously thought Riko was just going to sit around?

No, She’s Got This, and wraps Reg’s extendo-arms around her and drags him behind her…straight into the digestive chamber of a Amakagame, yet another wonderfully bizarre beast of the Abyss. But this is Riko we’re talking about. Does she panic? No, she breaks out her knife and stabs the shit out of the Amakagame until she’s pierced its skin and escaped.

At first, I thought the legions of Neritantans that amassed around her were there to celebrate her vanquishing of the monster that claimed so many of their own—an “okay, we’re even now, you’re not so bad” kinda moment.

Then I remembered she smells like the fruit they love, and they swarm ravenously at her, the cute fluffy-looking animals suddenly a little more threatening. They cause Riko to fall down another steep tunnel, but far from a shortcut, it dumps her at the bottom of hexagonal basalt cave, and the only way out requires an ascent of several hundred feet.

It’s rough going, as Riko experiences headaches, dizziness, nausea, and the kicker: extremely realistic visual and auditory hallucinations. I mean, she might as well be on the holodeck, because she’s in a full-fledged dreamworld.

She knows what (and who) she’s looking at isn’t real…until her mother appears and they ascend all the way back up to Orth in the same gondola at the Seeker Camp. There, the entire city has come out to celebrate their return to the surface. What snaps her out of it? The fact that Reg isn’t there. He’s her totem, and he saves her butt again, without even being awake.

However, at nearly two hours, it’s really time he does wake up, and none too soon, either, as the Splitjaw that was after them before has found them again. Riko decides it’s time for Blaze Reap, but even as she wielded it and faced down the Splitjaw’s charge, it just didn’t look like she’d be able to do much damage.

Fortunately, Reg does, and uses his superior strength and speed to land a critical blow on the Splitjaw’s jaw, with the axe’s power causing multiple explosions that disable the beast once and for all.

With both kids awake and safe, Reg apologizes for going out so long, but Riko is actually appreciative: she learned by doing that taking this journey all by her self really would have been impossible, while Reg is certain it’d be impossible for him too if he didn’t have Riko with him.

Next up, the Fourth Layer: The Goblet of Giants.

Made in Abyss – 08

“If they die now, it just means they didn’t have what it takes to go any further.” Harsh they may be, truer words were never spoken. Despite her ice-cold demeanor and gloomy, threatening affectation, I have no doubt Ozen would be immensely disappointed if Riko and Reg died during their ten-day survival test.

Now obviously they’re not going to die—and she probably knows that. There may be a lot of bugs when they use fire and a grumpy hippo-like beast who doesn’t want them near his water, but Riko and Reg make a great team, and they have, after all, lived and survived off the land up until now.

Thus Ozen would be worried, even if she was capable of being worried about the two kids passing the test. Ozen takes us back to when Lyza introduced her to a frail-looking young man named Torka whom she married. In a classic Ozen move, she fast-forwards to after Torka has passed away from the effects of the Abyss, and Ozen has to deliver a stillborn Riko.

But as much of a ‘hassle’ as it was, Ozen remained faithful to her dear apprentice, who had progressed so far only to go through so much pain and anguish, and assures the suddenly-alive baby Riko of her “strong sense of duty” which continues to the present now that Lyza’s daughter has descended to her lair.

The product of her duty returns, dirty and exhausted but very much alive after ten days. Reg points out it feels like more, and when Ozen invites them to sup with her, she tells them of how being in the Abyss warps one’s sense of time (among other parts of the brain), such that while Riko has lived ten years since coming up to the surface, to Lyza down in the netherworld it may have felt like a scant ten months; possibly even less.

Needless to say, this is very heartening to Riko, but Ozen warns her and Reg to avoid the three White Whistles besides Lyza who are lurking in the lower layers as they speak, and when she says one of them isn’t “kind like I am”, you know she’s not joking: she, and everything we’ve seen of her, is still kinder than The Sovereign of Dawn, Bondrewd the Novel. 

I love the idea of White Whistles being their own tiny, elite tribe of eccentrics, and to think they get more eccentric (and less human) than Ozen is…a little unsettling. She’s also still not sure what to make of the note Riko thought was written by Lyza.

After giving Riko her mother’s pickaxe, Blaze Reap, she sits her and Reg down and begins to tell them all of the things they’ll need to know as they continue their descent. These are secrets usually kept between White Whistles exclusively, but as Riko is the spawn of one and is headed to their realm, it only makes sense. It’s a sobering experience for Reg to hear of all the strange things on the lower layers, and Ozen doesn’t mince words.

But Ozen isn’t trying to discourage them; only to prepare them as much as one can be prepared. When it comes time to say goodbye, Ozen isn’t present, so Marulk and the raiders see off Riko and Reg. Marulk is particularly sad to see them go, and her tears not only cause Riko and Reg to tear up, but me as well!

Ozen recalls one final pivotal exchange she had with Lyza after they returned to the surface. Lyza, whose face is finally fully revealed, has not only taken on an apprentice (Jiruo, AKA Leader), but has made the decision to make another descent in order to allow Riko to decide for herself what kind of life she’ll lead. She asks Ozen to tell Riko about all of the miracles that had to occur so she could live; Ozen agrees.

Back in the present, with her duty now done, Riko and Reg set out for deeper depths approaching the terrifying sheer pale walls of the Great Fault and the Third Layer. While it seemed strange and alien at first, the longer we spent in the Inverted Forest, the more comfortable, even cozy it felt.

The edge of the Fault couldn’t be any less hospitable. It will be exciting to see what other wondrous sights they’ll see in this newest setting—and what fresh devilry with which they’ll have to contend.

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