Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.6
What does it mean to live in the Abyss, this far down? We've seen what people will be willing to do in order to survive, obviously, but while the Village of the Hollows has given us a very strange approximation of a functioning society, it is by its very nature something that exists outside of the natural order that the rest of the Abyss has been governed by, thus far. There's Ozen and the other underground Raiders at the Seeker Camp way up in the second layer, I suppose, but even then, their humble abode is little more than a stopgap between the “real” world and the true wild of the Abyss deeper levels. Bondrewd has his lab, too, but whether or not he is truly “alive” at this stage in his monstrous metamorphosis is debatable.
So, here we are, just one episode (and two agonizing weeks) away from the conclusion to this stunning second season of Made in Abyss, and I must ask again: What does it mean to live, in a world this hostile, this cruel, and this hell-bent on consuming every last morsel that you have to give? Faputa hasn't quite figured it out yet, but based on everything that occurs in “Value”, there's no doubt that she's going to find out, one way or the other.
I've been talking a lot about the show's rich themes and phenomenal payoffs, lately, but I don't want anyone to think I'm also not factoring in how goddamned incredible Made in Abyss has been on the level of pure spectacle, this season. The first half of The Golden City of the Scorching Sun wasn't necessarily filled with moments that pushed the show's direction and animation to their limits, but the production crew has been firing on all cylinders and then some ever since the climax of this year's story started to take shape a few weeks ago. While the editing and choreography aren't quite as gob smacking as they were last week, that's hardly damning, since the carnage that Faputa deals out (and receives) this week is still stunning to behold. Kevin Penkin's score is also continuing its white-hot winning streak, to the point where I wouldn't even be mad if someone argued that these last two episodes have basically functioned as the best and most labor-intensive AMVs ever made.
Still, I cannot stress enough how well Made in Abyss is serving its characters and themes, even when the spectacle of Faputa's fury has been pushed front and center. This isn't just some sound-and-fury lightshow. “Value” is a living and bleeding chronicle of all of the fury and sadness and loneliness that Faputa has been forced to endure for the last century-and-a-half, and at the same time, it is a profoundly moving and empathetic testament to the kind of pain that every one of the Abyss' explorers must endure. Misaki Kuno makes sure that we don't just hear all of that suffering; we feel it.
Her pain is not limited to her physical suffering, either. When Nanachi rolls in with Belaf in tow, recharged and brimming with fire-eyed purpose, she allows the dying dragon's one final act: To gift Faputa with the same olfactory sense-memory that he gave to Nanachi, and the flood of all of Irumyuui's past love and hope nearly breaks the immortal princess. Before, Faputa was merely the burning fire of her mother's rage and indignation, but Irumyuui was never just her pain, and even now, all of these decades later, she has so much warmth to give to her greatest treasure, one final maternal blessing from a poor girl whose dying wishes have yet to be fully realized. Even as the walls of the Village come crumbling down and the beasts of the Abyss come to tear her apart, Faputa's greatest pain is not the teeth ripping into her flesh and bones. It comes instead from the light of life fading from Gabu's crushed body, and from the lack of recognition in her Prince's eyes. It comes from the sudden and crushing realization that, in the fire and ruin of this terrible pit, she is forgotten, and she is alone.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Wazukyan, Bondrewd, and who knows how many others made fulfilling their mission their sole purpose, to the point where everything—and everyone—else is merely a means to an end. They have chosen to brave the Abyss on their own, and we can plainly see what that has done to them.Faputa does not need to resign herself to merely existing as an instrument of her dying mother's vengeful will. As Belaf and Gabu and Reg keep trying to make her see, Faputa can forge herself another path. When the Villagers willingly offer their flesh and their lives to restore their Princess to life, they are telling her that she must, because her value is not determined by fate, or by the whims of the friends she loves or the monsters she hates. It will not be easy. It is going to hurt. But Faputa has to make a choice.
The is the Abyss' cruelest lesson, but also its most vital: You will never make it alone. You may last for a long time, to be sure, for hundreds of years even, if you have a mad prophet's cunning. You may discover such incredible and terrible sights that will change and transform you forever. You may make it farther and deeper than anyone could have ever imagined. You may survive, down in the Abyss, but survival has no meaning if you have nothing to lose, and loss is a worthless concept if you are unable to open their heart to all of the joy and loss and pain and triumph that comes from trusting another heart with yours. Survival may be possible in solitude, but nobody can truly live on their own.
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun is currently streaming on HIDIVE. James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.
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