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.

Psycho-Pass – 22 (Fin)

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Akane doesn’t believe the law protects the people so much as the people protect the law. The law in the culmination of mankind’s amassed hopes and dreams for a better world to live in; without that collective input, the law—and society—cannot exist. When the will of the people is usurped by a system like Sybil, the momentum of human progress towards that ideal goal is arrested.

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I said all Akane cared about was saving Kogami’s soul, but once it became clear after a heartbreaking sequence of events that she wasn’t going to be successful, I realized I was wrong about her becoming lost if she did fail, or that her desire to save Kogami was selfish. To her, no matter how vicious Makishima’s crimes were, on-the-spot execution is a crime, and she does everything in her power to prevent that crime. She just came up a bit short.

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She wasn’t being selfish; she was being patient. She doesn’t like Sybil anymore than Kogami or Makishima, but she knows society as it is can’t live without it; not yet. So she’ll continue being one of their ideal poster girls. She does exactly what she’s done every time something horrible has happened in her life, whether it was her first traumatic experience as an inspector, losing Yuki, or losing Kogami, twice: she moves forward.

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Sybil is disappointed that Akane couldn’t deliver Makishima to them, but that doesn’t mean they cut her loose. They “lower her ratings” a bit, but they’re sitll all outstandingly high. They want to someday reveal themselves to the world as they did to Akane, and when that happens, they want the people to accept them and be happy about it, and they think Akane and people like her will help pave the way to that. Faced with that grotesque hubris, sucking up her pride is actually quite selfless on Akane’s part.

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Two months pass, and we’ve got some changes, all of which do a decent job of setting up the second season that arrived a couple days ago. That’s right, because of the timing of my watching of Psycho-Pass, I will not have to endure a two-plus year wait, but will jump right back into it. Ginoza is now an enforcer, Shion and Yayoi still seem to be having pretty okay sex, and Akane is now in charge of the division.

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Perhaps most awesomely, the show ends on a note that may not bode well for Akane’s chances of exacting the change she wants, rather than the “evolution” Sybil seeks. That’s because the show ends just like it began: with a young and eager rookie inspector arriving on a tense crime scene, and the more seasoned inspector telling her they afford to go easy on them. Only this time Akane is the seasoned one and Shimotsuki Mika is the even younger rookie in question. That’s some fantastic symmetry there.

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It may intrest you to know that even though we only saw her for a brief moment, I found myself identifying more with Mika, as I did with Akane when she was new. Considering how long this show has been around, I kind of feel like the second line that Mika represents, who can only repeat the deeds or mistakes of her forbears. Similarly, most of what I’ve prattled on about in these twenty-odd reviews may have already been said before in different forms, but better to have stumbled on this great piece of quasi-Utopian fiction late than never. Thanks for bearing with me. On to Psycho-Pass 2.

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Psycho-Pass – 21

It's Tiltrotor Time!
It’s Tiltrotor Time!

—I didn’t expect you to get here so soon.
—Don’t underestimate the MWPSB. You’re not the only one who can drive Makishima into a corner.

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Akane may as well have said “Don’t underestimate me. Don’t think I’ll stand idly by and let you become a murderer. That is not going to happen on my watch.” All great things must end. This is the beginning of the end of Psycho-Pass, and it’s a good one.

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The gap has narrowed between Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Both have chosen their weapons for the endgame: Sybil—for all intents and purposes God—has bestowed upon Akane a righteous weapon with which to do His work: a non-lethal Paralyzer with the safety de-activated. It did so because Akane convinced them to give it to her, lest the MWPSB use “more primitive” weapons that could harm or kill their beloved Makishima.

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But it also narrows because Sybil was right: telling her the truth motivated Akane like nothing else. Her colleagues notice it; Yayoi says she’s “the most constructive of all of them, but also the most depressed-looking.” Masaka sees that she’s bearing a great burden, even if he doesn’t know what it is. But Akane’s Crime Coefficient is a calm, breezy 24. She’s been chosen, and she’s putting aside everything to save Kogami.

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This show was never really about the intense rivalry between Kogami and Makishima. That was a sideshow. Rather, it was about Akane coming into her own; it was about the tragedy of someone as brilliant and moral as Kogami becoming a latent criminal and being reduced to glorified hunting dog duty by Sybil, who now seeks the same person who put him in that spot. And it’s about Akane drawing a line. Kogami may be a latent criminal, but he Will Not Be A Murderer. Her goal is as selfish as Kogami’s, if not moreso.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love Akane to death. She’s one of the best anime characters I’ve ever come across, and her journey has been engrossing and epic. But let’s not forget a couple things: One, at the moment she’s still a servant of Sybil, which may purport to be beyond such concepts as good and evil, but by any measure, the society it maintains is by no means ideal.

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That means she’s willing to capture Makishima alive and give him to Sybil in exchange for Kogami’s life. But the more efficient way to deal with the Makishima situation is, indeed, taking him out. He would say himself, nothing is eternal. He lived life according to his own will; that is probably enough for him. He doesn’t want to join Sybil. And yet if he did, and became part of the brain trust, he could do far more harm for a far longer time.

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What I’m getting at is, it’s probably better for society for Makishima to die, not to be turned over to Sybil. That’s an assumption, of course, but let’s not pretend Akane is any purer than Kogami in this situation. They’re both driven by emotions. Whatever you want to call it: respect, admiration, longing, love—Akane feels it for Kogami. He’s all that matters right now. If she loses him, either by murdering or getting himself killed, I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t end up lost.

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But as much of a super-sleuthing dynamo as Akane has been these last couple episodes, she still makes a critical miscalculation, rushing to the control room to take control of the emergency power, assuming that’s where Makishima will go. But he’s not there. He’s where Masaoka Tomomi and Ginoza Nobuchika are. Akane is too late in warning them, and Masaoka ends up the first casualty in this final battle.

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It is, as befits Masaoka, an excellent death. When Ginoza is crushed by a booby trap, Makishima emerges, and Masaoka fights him to defend his maimed son. When he has him in a lock, Makishima, wily bastard that he is, lights a stick of dynamite and tosses it at Ginoza. Gino orders his dad not to let go of the culprit, but Masaoka can’t fight back his love any more than Akane can. He grabs the stick, which blows up before he can toss it away. We’ll miss you, Pops.

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Then Kogami arrives, bandys words with Makishima for a while. He can’t do much with the revolver in the dark labyrinth where fate has chosen their fight to take place, and it comes down to something even more primative than guns: blades. Akane still has her trump card, but can she make it in time?

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This shit’s heavy, man.

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Psycho-Pass – 20

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Note: I had planned to finish the first season of Psycho-Pass before the new one arrived, but I didn’t want to rush things…and procrastinated! -H.

Psycho-Pass has gotten noticeably talkier in the episodes leading up to what I can only imagine to be a mind-blowing finale, but when the talking being done (and the talkers themselves) are this compelling, I can hardly complain. This time, Akane’s own Dominator speaks to her. As I suspected, she’s firmly on Sybil’s radar, and they’ve decided to tell her the truth, in hopes it will motivated her to help them acquire Makishima.

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Action-wise, there’s not much to speak of here, at least early on: lots of standing around listening to the voice of Sybil, as Akane continually calls bullshit. We also have Akane having conversations in her head with Kagari, Makishima, and Yuki. By scanning her mind, Sybil believes Akane shares their desire to maintain social harmony, and the belief that society as it is would break down if Sybil were brought down.

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These conversations serve to reinforce the kernal of the idea that first took root in her mind the first day she joined the MWPSB: that the system is not absolute as she thought. It is not perfect, which means it cannot claim absolute authority over society. Sybil basically expels what little regard she still had for it by revealing their true nature as puppet-masters. But because they can still decide whether Kogami lives or dies, she makes a deal with them.

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Once that deal is made—with her pointing a Dominator at her chest and telling Sybil to make its damn move—it gave me every confidence that she’d hold up her end of the bargain, but it probably isn’t wise to take Sybil at its word. Her flashbacks also reminded us that unlike most of the population, her immense natural talent in many disciplines (or luck with tests as she calls it) gave her a choice they didn’t have.

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In effect, that choice from a variety of futures afforded her a measure of free will. Sybil indeed cleared up a great many things for Akane, and it’s like a fire was lit beneath her. At the home of the murdered agricultural official, she breaks out her super-sleuth skills, channeling Kogami to Ginoza as she talks. Kogami is already at the granary where Makishima intents to poison the crops.

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Akane showed us a lot this week, like just how much she’s grown and matured. I love how disappointed and disgusted she gets the more Sybil tells her. But it also confirmed to us that she’s far from the cold and emotionless automaton she feared she was, or that her clear hue would seem to indicate. Why else would she agree to giving Sybil exactly what they want, essentially serving as their pawn, for Kogami’s sake?

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