Made in Abyss
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Made in Abyss ?
Somewhere in the pre-production stages of Made in Abyss, I imagine Masayuki Kojima and his crew at Kinema Citrus had a difficult choice to make. Do they fit as much of the manga as they can in the twelve episodes they've been allotted, or do they maintain the source materials more measured and thoughtful pacing? The former route means getting to the most visceral and engaging content of the story more quickly, but it sacrifices the mood and ease of worldbuilding that the latter option affords. Obviously, Made in Abyss has chosen the path of faithfulness to its source manga, and I think it's for the best, even if it occasionally produces bumpy patches like last week's episode. Thankfully, this week got the pacing and direction just right.
For about two-thirds of the episode, I was convinced that we had another uneven entry on our hands. After building up Riko and Reg's wilderness training last week, I was surprised to see how low-key and uneventful their ten days in the Abyss wilds ended up being. Their trials and tribulations weren't exactly a cakewalk, but nothing that occurred this week felt too threatening compared to what Riko and Reg have already dealt with, Ozen included. What's more, only a few days of the ordeal are even covered in detail, which gave the story an even breezier feel. Initially, I was miffed by this approach, but upon some reflection, I ended up really digging what the show was doing this week.
Much of Riko and Reg's time in the woods is less about producing tension and suspense and more about reinforcing how their dynamic works best. Riko is book-smart and tenacious, but she's also still a little girl, and her headstrong nature and lack of experience can get her into trouble. Meanwhile, Reg is a literal deus ex machina, a walking Get-Out-Of-Instant-Death-Free Card that lives a little too much in his own head. When they really take the time to work out a plan and commit to their teamwork, our Cave Raiding Dynamic Duo get the job done great, with Reg's strength complementing Riko's smarts just enough to keep them both alive. This is a point the story has hit on before, but I ultimately think it was valuable to see the two refine this relationship and learn how to adapt to the increasingly strange encounters they have as they descend.
What makes this departure work best is how the episode threads Riko and Reg's relationship back to Lyza and Ozen's. There's a parallel to be made between Ozen's inhuman strength and the power the robotic Reg holds in his hands, though Reg is obviously more in touch with his humanity, though I don't think that irony is lost on the story. Lyza herself gets more dialogue here than ever before, revealing her to be a mischievous and stubborn woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to her daughter. With wild eyes and a starkly confident disposition, Lyza present herself as a beautiful and powerful vision of the woman Riko is destined to become.
Or, rather, the woman Riko might have become if she weren't a reanimated corpse compelled to venture into the horrifying depths of the unknown Abyss. Ozen's flashbacks seem to indicate that she was being honest about Riko's origins, and once again we find the specter of death looming over these kids, despite their successful training. Marulk's tearful goodbye at episode's end was a surprisingly effective and emotional reminder of the stakes of this adventure. The poor child has bid farewell to countless doomed adventurers, and Made in Abyss takes the opportunity to make sure Riko and Reg don't forget that they could be just as doomed as all the rest. For all the drama and intrigue of the past eight weeks, these two children are still only at the beginning of what promises to be an arduous one-way journey.
Thankfully, the show's artwork has managed to stabilize again alongside the writing. While there are a couple of off-model faces and stiff animation here and there, none of it manages to distract from Made in Abyss' forgiving storybook style. Kevin Penkin's score is also used to full effect this week, and the ethereal vocals and haunting atmosphere of his music perfectly complement the bittersweet tone of the episode. Riko and Reg have had some time to learn and grow in the Abyss' second layer, but they need to be ready for anything as they continue their journey. As Ozen warns at the end of the episode, there are other White Whistles awaiting in the depths, and none of them are as kind and forgiving as her. Poor Reg shudders at the thought, and I can't help but do the same.
Made in Abyss is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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