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by Theron Martin,

Made in Abyss

Movie 2: Wandering Twilight

Made in Abyss: Wandering Twilight
Despite a harrowing encounter while descending the Great Fault, Reg and Riko safely make it down to the fourth layer, the Goblets of Giants. There calamity strikes, leaving Riko gravely injured. In Reg's darkest hour, help comes from an unexpected source: a humanoid rabbit who calls herself Nanachi and claims to be a Hollow – a former human mutated by ascending from the Abyss's sixth layer. Nanachi helps save Riko but asks a dear price in return when she learns about Reg's Incinerator. For each of them, that price and Riko's process of healing become the keys to the next stage of their journey. But a new potential threat looms in the form of an amoral White Whistle.

Wandering Twilight, the compilation film that covers episodes 9-13 of the Made in Abyss TV series, had its U.S. debut at Anime Central, complete with the attendance of director Masayuki Kojima, music director Kevin Penkin, and music producer Hiromitsu Iijima. As one fellow press member sitting beside me discovered the hard way, this is absolutely not a movie for the uninitiated. If you go into this one unprepared, you will be in for a rude shock.

Even the darkest scenes in the first movie don't remotely compare to the events of in this one in terms of both intensity and horror. Trimming down the story content did not in the slightest reduce how harrowing and profoundly disturbing it is to watch Riko's injury scene, and a later scene that flashes back to how Nanachi and her companion Mitty ended up in their new forms is only slightly less nerve-wracking a second time around. The scene where Reg honors Nanachi's request also hasn't lost one ounce of its emotional power; attendees who had seen the TV series before found it amusing that Sentai Filmworks was handing out tissue packets with pictures of Nanachi and Mitty on them beforehand.

When I reviewed the first compilation movie, I extensively praised the film for its editing choices. That praise not only continues into this movie, but the editing may have even improved. To keep the length down to around 100 minutes, the bulk of episode 9 is excised. While this does remove a lengthy sequence where Riko has to fend for herself while Reg is unconscious, that content was easily among the most expendable parts of the last few episodes. The removal is handled seamlessly enough that someone who hasn't seen the TV series would not know that it was missing. The same can be said for the removal of the other most expendable scene, which involved one of the orphans falling ill back up in Orth. A snippet of Riko's fever dream while she is unconscious was also removed, but this was completely replayed in a later scene anyway.

Balancing those deletions are two brief new scenes, both of which carry significant weight. One is a memory of Reg's that more firmly establishes something that had previously been hinted at, while the other is an expanded version of the TV series' final scene focusing on Bondrewd. That few extra seconds (and the new character who appears as a result) suddenly ascribe a stronger potential motive for his horrible actions, filling in one of the greater gaps in the TV series' logic. It also makes for an enticing setup for the all-new movie coming in 2020.

Because of the edits, the story flows smoothly through this part, but those edits do also have the side effect of minimizing Riko's participation and the between her and Reg that was so important to the first movie; she's unconscious for more than half of the movie's runtime. This is not as much of a drag as it might sound because of the introduction of fan-favorite character Nanachi. Her world-wise acerbic personality works beautifully with her rabbit-like appearance, and a wonderful performance by Shiori Izawa brings her to life in a uniquely endearing way for the audience. This is an excellent example of an anime character who's not defined solely by her cuteness in either visuals or personality sense, and a lot of humor results from her interactions with Reg, especially when he's two steps behind her thought process. Her awful backstory and clear understanding of the weight behind what she asks of Reg is also key to making the the movie's emotional and dramatic climax have such a strong impact.

Any comments about the technical merits of the film would be just a repeat of what I said about the first movie, so I will just add that this continuation is vastly more graphic and does not do anything to lessen concerns about the inappropriate framing of young characters. (Again, I did not feel that the relevant scenes were aiming for titillation based on the way director Kojima presented the scenes, but your mileage will vary.) While the fully-orchestrated musical score shone brightly in the first part, it's actually at its strongest in this film, especially in key scenes toward the end. Those who listen carefully may notice a few new pieces; director Kojima explained in a later press session that these were leftovers from what Penkin had made for the TV series that just seemed to fit better in movie form. I would agree.

Overall, the second movie fully delivers on the promise of the first. Those who are only familiar with the franchise from the first need not feel that they will be out of their depth or missing anything crucial.

Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A

+ Perfectly edits the story down to feature length, strong on all technical and storytelling fronts, cathartic conclusion
Some scenes will be very difficult to watch

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Production Info:
Director: Masayuki Kojima
Script: Hideyuki Kurata
Music: Kevin Penkin
Original creator: Akihito Tsukushi
Character Design: Kazuchika Kise
Art Director: Osamu Masuyama
Jun Kimura
Takayuki Takagi
Mieko Tsuruta
Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks

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