The internet is of course a minefield of spoilers (never is that more obvious than on a week when a Game of Thrones episode has leaked early). For the most part I’ve been successful in avoiding specific spoilers with Made in Abyss, but of course the mere fact that everyone was abuzz about how dark it gets is a kind of general spoiler itself. And I didn’t manage to avoid the news that this was the week that “shit got real”, more or less – we’ve had a taste of it with the Corpse Weeper scene, but I knew to expect things to get generally rougher with this episode.
And so it did. I know things are likely to get even darker, but there was a definite tonal change here. Suggestions of terrors to come became terrors of the moment, courtesy of Ozen the Immovable. One can’t help but note how harsh many of the adults in this world are towards its children in the supposed interest of preparing them for the harsh reality of life (though I’m not sure what the seemingly stock punishment of hanging children up naked is supposed to prepare them for apart from humiliation) – it’s a stark reminder of what a brutal and merciless setting this is.
Ozen is a towering figure, in every sense. She dominates with her physical size, and she dominates every scene she’s in with her overbearing presence. Through a welcome intercut scene with Hablog, Nat and Siggy, we learn than Ozen has been a White Whistle for 50 years (which presumably makes her at least 75-80). The secret of her vitality – and superhuman strength – seems to be the “Thousand-Man Wedges” she’s embedded beneath her skin. Hablog also notes that he hopes Ozen doesn’t tell Riko and Reg about “the vessel” – but soon enough, that’s exactly what she does.
We have our explanation for the beast of last week’s ep, and it’s a gruesome one – it was a piece of meat that Ozen placed inside the aforementioned “Curse-Repelling Vessel“). Apparently the vessel doesn’t so much prevent the curse as make dead things come to life – and the worst part of all this is the revelation (I’d be disinclined to take Ozen at her word were it not for Hablog’s earlier worry) that Riko was stillborn. Ozen more than implies that the only reason Riko is “alive” today is that Ozen placed her inside the vessel, and that it’s only a matter of time before she reverts to being dead.
And then she gets really nasty.
It didn’t really make sense for Ozen to be trying to “dispose” of Reg and Riko here, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t do a good job of convincing me. While Ozen’s news was devastating, I wasn’t thrilled with how useless Riko became here, effectively turning into a gibbering mess even after Ozen set upon Reg (who she refers to as “the Aubade Child”) when he tried gallantly to defend her. And damn, Ozen was vicious – it was hard to watch her smash Reg’s head into the floor and stomp on his gut and rip his helmet off. Eventually Reg tried to use his incinerator on her – and Ozen promptly pointed it at Riko just as it was about to fire. Only a kick from the quick-thinking Reg saved Riko from obliteration.
This is one ruthless woman, no question about it. Yes, she was testing Reg’s strength – and Riko’s resolve – because, as Ozen says, there are things “way tougher” than she is on the lower levels. But one gets the sense that she wouldn’t have hesitated to finish one or both children off if they didn’t prove strong enough to stand up to the punishment. In the end she seemingly gets carried away with how much fun it is trying to see if Reg has a breaking point, and it’s only Marulk’s decision to fetch the other raiders in the camp (ordered to hide by Ozen) that seemingly prevents things from getting totally out of hand.
Does Ozen have a soft spot for Lyza (who finally speaks in flashback, in the voice of the great Sakamoto Maaya) – who she raised up from a white whistle pup? I don’t doubt it. But I also don’t doubt that the intends to let Riko and Reg perish if they’re unable to survive their 10-day survival test in the dark woods on the edge of the Abyss. Even with the reveal that Lyza wasn’t in that grave after all, the idea of voluntarily heading for the bottom of the netherworld seems insane in the face of everything we’ve seen – which makes one wonder if there’s something to Ozen’s observation that “dead things” from the Curse-Repelling Vessel are drawn to the bottom of the Abyss.