Made in Abyss' first season ended this week, leaving behind an ocean of tears for many fans. This week in anime, Nick and Steve pick up the pieces in the wake of its emotional conclusion.
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Well Nick, it's the end of the summer season, so it's time to say goodbye to our favorite trio of spunky spelunkers, those happy kids who now continue on their very fun, totally not dangerous journey through the welcoming and friendly depths of the earth. Yes, of course, I'm talking about Made in Aby--[uncontrollable sobbing]
Sorry, I didn't catch that Steve. I was busy taking a big sip from my Seeing Old Yeller At Age 6 Deeply Traumatized Me And Now I Have A Pavlovian Response To Sad Pet Stories mug
JOKE'S ON ME FOR THINKING MITTY WAS JUST HORRIFYING JUST THREE EPISODES AGO
I mean, she's still horrifying. Especially the noises she makes. I don't know who mixed the sound on her crying but I want them to die.
She's basically crying all the time, and girl, I can relate now.
No beating around the bush today, Made in Abyss' finale left me a sobbing wreck who needed to lie down immediately after it ended.
It's simultaneously one of the most heart-wrenching and life-affirming hours of anime I've ever watched. Every bit as spectacular of a journey as the one Riko and Reg have been on.
But let's start from the beginning. We finally get Nanachi and Mitty's backstory, and it's a doozy, to put it lightly.
Once upon a time there were two adorable orphans, who followed a priest into the unknown in hopes of a better life. Little did they know, the priest was actually a golem made of shit, given life by the darkness that dwells in the hearts of all men.
I really like how much this part emphasizes the spirituality of the Abyss, even if it's through the corrupted lens of Bondrewd's ambitions. And, let's mince no words, this guy fucking sucks.
It's another bit of superb worldbuilding. Even with no mention of a church surrounding the Abyss, the characters and narrative have already treated the netherwold with so much awe that it makes perfect sense that some would view it as a god itself. But it's decidedly not the love and virtue God. It's much more uh, Bloodborne-y.
It's very much God in the sense of the cosmic and the unknowable. And it fits for the way Made in Abyss emphasizes the importance and insatiability of human curiosity. Religion is built on mystery, and the Abyss is nothing if not full of mystery.
And speaking of, it doesn't get much more Bloodborne-y than Ozen's outfit.
And like any good religion, there's somebody ready to co-opt its teachings and reputation to do some horrible, horrible things.
It's telling that the first villainous presence in the show isn't born of the Abyss. It's a man. The Abyss is merciless, but it's impartial in its cruelty.
Yup. The Abyss is hostile, dangerous, even lethal, but it has no malice. Its horror lies in how it doesn't care about human life at all. Bondrewd, on the other hand, loves human life. It makes for great test subjects. It's astounding how quickly this show made me hate him given only about five minutes of screen time in a 13-episode series.
Turning an entire village of orphans into a writhing slurry of fleshy monstrosities certainly does elicit some strong feelings from an audience. Anime is no stranger to bad dad and dad-adjacent figures, but Bondrewd is a cut above the rest.
And yet it doesn't feel like cruelty solely committed to shock the audience. Bondrewd wants to understand the secrets of the Abyss, the same as Riko or Lyza.
Oh yeah, that's the most frightening part. Bondrewd feels like a totally logical extension of what we know about cave raiders. Just taken to its cruelest, most ambitious extremes. He's exactly what I feared Ozen to be when we first encountered her.
It's just brilliant writing. Shocking, harrowing, but irrevocably tied to the established ideas of the series that allows it all to work without offering larger context or more detailed explanations.
And then we come to the meat of the finale. Or as I like to call it
i am seriously going to delete photoshop from your computer
That I wasn't banned from discussing this show after last time
is a huge miscarriage of justice.
Anyway, the first half of the finale is all about Nanachi convincing Reg to kill Mitty, or as we come to understand it, to free Mitty's soul. Because Jesus Christ poor Mitty.
I was legit put off by Mitty's appearance at first, but half-way thru this finale I loved this jellyfish dog made of pain.
There are so many layers to this tragedy. The tragedy of Nanachi and Mitty's friendship being ripped apart. The tragedy of Mitty's lonely immortality. The tragedy that the only way Nanachi can think to help Mitty is to try different methods of killing her, just as Bondrewd did. The tragedy that none of these work. The tragedy that the only way for Reg to show compassion is to take Mitty's life. It all sinks deep to the pit of my stomach.
I'm glad you're able to put all that into words, because even days after watching it I've had trouble with that.
So far I've managed two: "fuck" and "me".
It ends the best way it could have, yet it's still unavoidably tragic. That image of Reg hugging Nanachi tight, both heaving with sadness, won't leave me any time soon.
The middle portion of the finale was just one lengthy emotional gutpunch for me. You know what's gonna happen. You know why it has to happen. But seeing it happen, especially rendered as beautifully as it is, leaves you feeling exhausted and miserable. But to the show's credit, it doesn't stop at that grief. It builds upon it and harnesses it to bring its characters and audience to a place of reaffirmation rather than misery.
Yes. It's the refrain that Made in Abyss keeps coming back to, and it's the reason why this show is so much more than grief porn. Mitty's death is upsetting, but Riko sees in her soul the spirit of the White Whistle Mitty wanted to be, and that in turn gives Riko the strength to continue her own journey.
Likewise, Reg and Nanachi gain the conviction they need to follow her down into the Abyss' depths. Even if it's a one-way journey, their bonds are strong enough to bear it. And personally, I have a renewed desire to see them collectively slug Bondrewd right in his stupid wannabe Daft Punk
SAME. But seriously, it's a sequence that comprises everything I've loved about this show from the start. It's a beautiful moment that's as sad as it is enchanting. It finds hope in what could have been the darkest moment in the entire story, and it all comes across as almost effortless. It's a perfect capstone to this series, even if it's not the end of the story. SEASON 2 PLEASE.
The final montage of their balloon rising past all of the trials, tribulations, and friends they encountered along their descent was the perfect finishing blow. Absolutely, completely, utterly fucking destroyed me. Just the perfect symbol of their hopes and dreams, of the human spirit itself, ascending despite all the harshest forces of their world being thrust against them.
It's a staggering accomplishment, and recognition to Kevin Penkin
for composing one of the greatest soundtracks I've ever heard. It's a phenomenal work that cements MiA as a modern classic.
Bravo, Kevin Penkin
! I've been listening to the OST
nonstop since the finale, and there are parts that still make me choke up. There are just so many little things about the finale that my mind keeps turning to, like that Riko's friends find her balloon in the same exact place where she first found Reg.
It's one of the many things that show how carefully this adaptation was constructed, and how lucky we are to see something of its caliber. It's certainly not without fault, but a show of this type hasn't resonated with me this strongly since From the New World
It's truly a unique show, the kind we don't get very often at all. While it's maybe not an all-time favorite just yet, it's earned every bit of praise it's gotten and then some. I honestly don't know what else to say besides repeating how strong the show is at everything it approaches. It's fantastic. Go watch it. There you go.
One more thing, because I just thought of it again, and it's tearing at my heart. We don't see Nanachi make a grave for Mitty, because their entire house is a memorial resembling her. They made it so that their best and only friend, even lacking her humanity, would have a place she could recognize as home, as a part of herself. And it will continue to stand like that, in one of the few havens untouched by the Curse.
I will be inconsolable if we don't get a second season from the same production crew, but this season will still stand alone as a rare triumph, and I cannot recommend it enough.
And so, in conclusion: Fuck me.