Made in Abyss
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Made in Abyss ?
Based strictly on the standards Made in Abyss has set for itself this season, this seventh episode might be the weakest so far. Its writing is just a little too ham-fisted, and the visual direction has taken just enough of a dip in quality to be noticeable. That said, the worst episode of Made in Abyss so far is still one of the best episodes I've seen all season, so the bar of quality remains agreeably high. Despite my quibbles with some aspects of the script and direction, there's still a bunch of great stuff to dissect here.
The biggest bombshell of the week is definitely Ozen's explanation of Riko's true nature, and how it relates to the artifact she harbors in her camp. The cube (which reveals its meaty innards with some wonderfully uncanny flesh tendrils) doesn't exactly protect living creatures from the effects of the Abyss. Riko wasn't just in danger as her mother carried her back to the surface; she was dead, allegedly stillborn. The cube's effect is actually to reanimate the tissue of anything that dies within it, though the effect is only temporary. So it turns out that Riko and the grotesque hunk of meat and bones she encountered last week are actually similar creatures, undead bodies brought back to life by some unspeakable curse, destined to someday revert to their pallid and lifeless forms. This is an excellent reveal, as it further cements the cloud of death that hangs over our protagonists heads and gives a new twisted bent to Riko's motivation. She isn't just a girl looking for her mother; she is in some ways an inhuman creature instinctively scraping its way back to the dark center it calls home.
At least, that's what Ozen claims, though this episode reveals her to be a dubious source of information. She considers her cruel and merciless beating of Reg and Riko just her way of toughening them up for their adventures ahead, but I'll admit that the confrontation between our robot boy and the mysterious White Whistle was a bit disappointing. The animation isn't as fluid or dynamic as it's been in recent weeks, and the naturally muted color palette of the Seeker Camp gave much of the episode a somewhat murky feel. The direction of the scene was somewhat choppy and awkward, with the transitions between the focus shots during the dialogue feeling slightly off.
The writing itself was also all over the place this week, starting with the frankly unnecessary tag featuring Habo and the other kids back on the surface. Like some of Ozen's scenes later in the episode, this bit felt like unnecessary exposition, killing some of the tension built up by last week's cliffhanger. What I found more troublesome was the script's insistence on taking what was already effective subtext and transforming it into more obvious text. Scenes like Riko declaring she doesn't intend to live long, or Ozen explaining the religious zeal with which Cave Raiders approach the Abyss, all communicate themes the show has already done a great job expressing through natural dialogue or even just visuals. In a lot of ways, these scenes felt like a stealth recap, retreading and overexplaining previous plot points and ideas.
Still, this negativity is offset by the consistently high quality of Made in Abyss even on an off day. Ozen was an especial highlight this time, with her childish madness giving the entire episode a much-needed air of ambiguity and tension. Her handling of Reg and Riko's inexperience makes sense, and while I'm not sure how I feel about the plot pausing to send the kids to boot camp, I appreciate how the story ties Ozen's relationship with Lyza into her treatment of the children. In a way, it makes Ozen's descent into madness more pitiable while maintaining its eeriness; she's always had an “irredeemable” personality, but she's even more detached and unhinged now than she was when Lyza was Riko's age. Plus, I loved the reveal of her grotesque, modified flesh being the secret to her incredible strength; that kind of visceral detail is what sets Made in Abyss apart from the pack.
My main concern at this point is that we're over halfway through this season, and it feels like Reg and Riko still have an incredible amount of ground to cover. We still haven't even met the bunny girl from the OP and ED! (I know a bit about her already, but I want to keep things as spoiler-free as possible). Given how much of the manga will be left when this season has wrapped, we can only hope the show gets a second season greenlit soon. Even now, I'm starting to dread the day that Made in Abyss isn't around anymore.
Made in Abyss is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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