Made in Abyss – 03

I’ll just come out and say it: three episodes in, and of all the anime we’ve watched this Summer at RABUJOI, Made in Abyss is the best. It effortlessly grounds a fantastical world (primed to become more wondrous still) with deeply human characterization, in particular the bottomless (no pun intended) curiosity and stubbornness of kids.

Riko’s friend of many years Nat is against her going down the Abyss. He stays against it for the entire episode, right up to the moment she actually descends. He doesn’t change his mind. He’s worried she won’t come back. He’s angry she won’t listen to him when he’s trying to keep her safe. And he’s scared of being alone after she leaves.

Nat’s objections aside, Riko still plans to go first thing tomorrow. And after his very first cave-raiding, Reg decides he’ll accompany her, now that he knows the curse doesn’t affect him (at least not as bad as humans). Riko needs to find her mom. Reg wants to find out what he is and why he was made, and what he was meant for.

Against these lures, Nat doesn’t have a chance, even after Siggy unfurls a gorgeous map of the Abyss and describes all of the exotic hazards and trials that await Riko and Reg (while the Abyss’ equally gorgeous xylophone leitmotif plays). Even though Sigy is merely describing the levels while pointing to illustrations on the map, the limitless grandeur and wonder of the Abyss comes through crystal clear.

Nat finally goes to far trying to dissuade Riko by telling her the most likely possibility is that her mother died long ago, and there’s nothing for her down there. It’s a horribly mean thing to say, and Riko runs off, but Nat immediately regrets hurting his friend.

Sigy and Reg get it, and neither of them want Riko and Nat to part ways without making up. So when dawn breaks, Sigy enlists the help of none other than Nat to lead them to the rarely-used entrance to the netherworld in the slums where he grew up collecting rags before he was admitted to the orphanage. He says he’s sorry and Riko immediately forgives him.

The slums become denser, darker, and dingier, until they finally reach a rickety wooden platform extending over the Abyss. Below them is only inky blackness. It might as well be the end of the world. It is, quite simply, terrifying.

But it’s also tremendously exciting, with a momentous, THIS IS IT kind of vibe. After a thoroughly tearful farewell to Nat and Sigy, the 12-year-old Riko, possibly braver than I could ever be, grabs hold of Reg; he lowers them into the void, and they’re gone, just like that.

How long will that darker-than-darkness last? How accurate is that map? What wonders—or horrors—will await them down there? I won’t speculate—I’ll just keep watching.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 27

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This striking image encapsulates the episode pretty nicely: Hash (or Hush) wants to be able to do what Mika can do, and what what his “older brother” couldn’t do back in the slums. He is at the head of the new recruits who have heard tales of Tekkadan and seek greatness—and purpose—in this new Mars, but haven’t escaped their past.

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We also check in on Tekkadan’s Earth Branch in Edmonton, where Takaki lives with his sister Fuka and takes her to school. Things are still a little delicate, but Takaki will take all the stability, normalcy, and domesticity he can get. He’s an iron-blooded orphan success story; in a way, he achieved what Biscuit tried to but could not. Now that he has it, he has no qualms about paying it forward.

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We jump from a meal on earth to one on Mars, where Hash makes his pitch to Yukinojo: he wants the A-V surgery. “Too old” is the cold reply, along with warmer words from Atra that Hash simply doesn’t want to hear. He’s poised to shove Atra aside, but Mika grabs his arm. And here Hash is: faced with the person he wishes to be more than anything, even at the cost of his life.

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Hash seems an over-eager brat in a hurry to die—until we hear his story, and it’s a sad one. His “big bro” Builth went off to CGS looking for glory, but his A-V surgery failed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Hoping to make the lives of the younger kids like Hash easier, Builth’s actions had the opposite effect, and he took his own life before he could over-burden them too much. But doing so bestowed Hash with a new and potentially deadlier burden: to follow in his footsteps, but succeed where he failed.

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Meanwhile, Tekkadan is going to subjugate the Dawn Horizon Corps pirates, Todo reappears (as a Very Irritating Person), and Fareed has sent the Arianrhod Fleet to Mars to join the pirate fight. Aboard is Iok (who seems put out), Julieta (who seems less crazy but no less devoted to Rustal), and…a new Masked Man.

Who the heck is this? Will he ever speak, or does he rely on the pulsing lights on his face to communicate? I’m not quite sure, but Julieta doesn’t trust him. Nor does Orga trust Fareed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together, at least for a time, towards a shared goal.

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Kill la Kill – 02

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After her battle with Fukuroda, Ryuuko passes out from blood lost to her uniform, which she names “Senketsu.” She wakes up in Mako’s house in the slums and spends the night there. Satsuki awards tennis club captain Hakodate Omiko a two-star goku uniform with orders to launch an armed suppression in the guise of an interleague match. The next day Ryuuko steps in to protect Mako from Hakodate’s hazing, but cannot get Senketsu to activate, and gets beaten, and falls down a sewer.

She wakes up in the office of her homeroom teacher Mikisugi Aikurou, who confirms to her that her father Isshin made her uniform, called a “Kamui”, which is awakened by her blood and can surpass goku uniforms. He gives her Seji Tekko, a glove that will help her easily activate Senketsu, and sends her up to battle Hakodate. Athletic chair Sanageyama Uzu makes Ryuuko fight Hakodate in a tennis match, and after some faults, Ryuuko is victorious. Satsuki comes down to cross swords with her, but low on blood, Ryuuko retreats.

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As you can see above, this series wreaks havoc on the desire for as concise a summary as possible. It quite literally has about four episodes worth of your typical shounen anime stuffed into one episode, liberally seasoned with kooky violence, creative fanservice, and avant-garde environments. It covers a lot quickly and doesn’t stop and wait for the audience to catch up, but those who keep up are rewarded to an experience quite unlike anything else this season; the same thing that can be said of greats like FLCL and Gurren Lagann. They take anime conventions and stretch, contort, and julienne them to their limit and beyond.

Kill la Kill is window-lickingly insane in its presentation, but it’s also audacious, backing Ryuuko into some pretty dark corners this week. The first instance involves Mako’s father, a back-alley doctor who sure looks like he’s dry humping her when she wakes up (the whole Mankanshoku family scene was a trip and a half) As for Mikisugi, he seems to have her best interests at heart, but he should probably choose his words more carefully (and not strip in front of her). Like Ryuuko’s new uni, this show digs into you and doesn’t let go until you’re winded…but quite satisfied.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)