Made in Abyss has always been a little gruesome around the edges, but its most recent episode took Riko and Reg's quest to a much darker place shockingly fast. This week in anime, Nick and Steve discuss whether all this pain and hardship will be worth it in the end.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read ANN's weekly coverage of Made in Abyss here!
Hey Nick! I am completely reconsidering my career plan of becoming a spelunker, how about you?
Hey Steve, I'm reconsidering my career plan of watching anime.
Smart! Okay, before we get into everything that happened this week (and hoo boy it is a lot of everything), let's first share our impressions of Made in Abyss up to this point.
Yeah, we haven't really discussed the series on This Week in Anime before.
shame on us
In short, my thoughts are that the show's been great from the word Go. Lush art and animation, a fascinating world with some simple but really engaging characters, and all around a top tier production. But I'd also been kinda apprehensive to discuss it much because, before the season started, every single person I talked to who'd read the manga spoke about it the way wizards talk about Voldemort.
And I kinda have an inkling why now. But my opinion has been largely the same. This is my favorite show of the summer season, hands down. It's just an uncommonly good production for a television series, from the background art to the soundtrack, and it's all in service of a poignant meditation on both the heights and limits of human curiosity, and how that shapes everything from our culture to our economy to our own personal wishes and motivations. It's about as close to a modern classic as any anime for me, and it scratches the same dark sci-fi/fantasy itch that From the New World
Absolutely. It's been all-around excellent, and the main reason I put off talking about it was because it was just uniformly great. There might be a weak scene or solitary moment, but on the whole it's been pretty unimpeachable. And there's only so many ways you can say "this is really good" without repeating yourself. Plus: Ozen
she's my mom
And yeah, I think the only slight complaint I could levy against it is the pacing, which can be a little too ponderous for its own good. For example, episode 9 was largely anime-original content, and while I enjoyed it, I did question the decision to slow down the series even more than they already had. Although in light of episode 10, I think I understand why they did.
I can get that, but the show's been so great at building a sense of place and atmosphere in the Abyss that I've been happy to just wallow in it week-to-week.
Same. The mood of the show is nothing short of incredible, and the vistas of the Abyss are intoxicatingly gorgeous.
And then this giant bear made of hate shows up
I hate this spikey boy.
So it's not like the show hadn't had dark moments before. It's literally about two children crawling into the depths of hell.
The first new creature they meet down there is a giant flying ferret that mimics the cries of the dead.
Yeah, the show has never been shy about describing the horrors of the Abyss, and it's all but been said aloud that Riko knows she's embarking on a journey she's never coming back from. But it's one thing to be told these things and quite another to see them in action.
AND BOY DO WE SEE THEM IN ACTION
So I think the big question is whether this episode furthered the story in an appropriate way, or was it just torture porn for the sake of it? All the murmurings leading up to it had me dreading the latter.
That's a complicated question, honestly, and I think the answer is going to depend heavily on your tolerance for stories about pain and suffering.
For the record, I'm not a squeamish person, but seeing Riko bleeding from her ears and eyes had me recoiling as far back into my seat as I could. This is NOT an easy episode to watch. It's not even an easy episode to REwatch.
I was actually okay up to that point. Gruesome as it was, there is something distinctly unnatural about that image that gave me enough distance to not be too put off. It was when Reg tried to pull off Riko's glove and she shrieked in pain that made me lose it.
Yeah that's the moment where I think I started tearing up.
I think most anime fans are pretty used to violence and gore if they've been around the medium long enough.
I've seen gallons of blood paint many an animation cel.
But episode 10 takes all of the show's strengths in presentation and laser focuses them to make the whole situation feel as traumatic to the viewer as it does to the characters. And good lord is it effective.
I WAS SO WORRIED FOR THESE CHILDREN
I need to commend both Reg and Riko's voice actors for their stellar performances. (And Riko's seiyuu
, Miyu Tomita
, is a relative newcomer!) I don't know if there are voice acting awards for anime but there should be and they should win them. I could feel Riko's pain, Reg's desperation, and their compassion and love for each other despite the hopelessness of the situation. It broke my heart.
Weirdly enough, I think that's part of why I'm actually okay with this episode. Like it's exceptionally brutal. It's one of the few times I can remember wanting to actively look away from my screen as something was happening. But I have seen tons of similar sequences in lesser anime that feel like they're reveling in the pain of their characters. Like this is a crescendo to a story and their characters' screams are there to top it off. But MiA makes it feel as harrowing and desperate for the viewer in the same way as its characters. The entire sequence is filled with perspective shots of Reg looking down at Riko, scanning back and forth trying to figure things out. We're placed in their headspace to experience this with them.
And it also builds on the content of the previous episode, which recapitulated Riko's single-minded devotion to finding her mother at the bottom of the Abyss, combined with a realization of just how much she cares about Reg. Her journey is his journey now. Her suffering is his suffering, and vice versa. It's not just that they can only survive this trip by depending on each other--they genuinely care for each other, and that's the crux of this episode. Riko took care of Reg last week, so now it was Reg's turn to take care of Riko, no matter how cruel and impossible that task seemed.
All that said, I don't blame anybody for being 100% put off by what happened because holy shit.
Seriously one of the most harrowing 20 minutes of anime I've ever seen. But on the other hand, it could have been so much more graphic than it actually was, so I'm thankful for that.
I'd argue it's pretty dang graphic honestly. To its credit, it doesn't wallow in the misery like it could have, but there are some shots that made my stomach turn.
I mean like, there are smart shots of Reg picking up a rock or slowly drawing his knife. The camera cuts away from what would be the goriest moments, like CUTTING THROUGH HER BROKEN ARM JESUS CHRIST, but you still know what's happening because of the way it's established.
But yes it is still plenty graphic.
RIKO NO YOU ARE NOT ALRIGHT
OH YEAH, THAT WHOLE THING HAPPENED
I think right around here was where my jaw met the floor and refused to leave.
That moment is such a perfect culmination of what we know about Riko as a character. I love her. She's spunky and determined, and her relationship with Reg has been a joy to watch. But she's always harbored a twisted obsession with the Abyss and finding her mom no matter the cost. It's that darker part of her character that we finally see in action, that she's willing to give up her hand, if not more, to reach her goal. Both her determination and her weakness are in focus during this scene, just another reason why it works so well.
It's an immensely powerful scene that's rewarding (albeit difficult) to rewatch. You should probably do that with the sound off. And maybe only the subtitles on.
Props also to the sound designer for making those blood squelches as disgusting as possible.
Lemme tell ya, skimming through this episode for screenshots was something. I looked like Reg by the end.
I was EXHAUSTED and at my wit's end when suddenly, our savior appeared:
NANACHI THANK YOU
It's kind of bullshit actually. I watched this happen three times, and I didn't get any cute bunny creature to comfort me or teach me CPR.
After nine weeks of teasing at her existence in the ED, having her show up to rescue us from the show's most hopeless moment felt magnificently cathartic.
The show throws us for a twist with Nanachi though. The entire time, I was hoping Ozen or some other adult would show up to save our heroes, but instead this not-human arrives out of the blue.
And I like that! Her intervention doesn't feel cheap because, a) oh my god I would have been fine with anything interrupting that scene, and b) more seriously, her whole existence is a reminder of the cruel permanence and mercilessness of the Curse. Even if Riko's hand is saved, it's never going to be the same again. And neither Riko nor Reg are ever going to be the same again.
I think that'll decide how I ultimately feel about this turn, and the show overall. For as much as this worked for me in the moment, it's still a pretty drastic event, so how the show follows it up will be important.
I doubt even this will shake Riko's resolve to reach the bottom, but I wonder if she might not end up even the tiniest bit more unsure of herself. And Reg is definitely gonna have second thoughts about everything. Of course, they might react differently, but the story's roots have always been planted in the thoughts and feelings of its characters, so I'm sure whatever happens will be satisfying to watch.
I guess we'll just have to see. There's three episodes left and a lot could happen in that time.
And the last episode is double length at that!
And hey, if things go south there's always the movie version
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