Made in Abyss – 12

When it comes to content, Made in Abyss is really out there where the buses don’t run.  Really special anime like this are a unique experience, and there’s nothing else out there right now which brings all the elements to the table this series does.  It helps to have a brilliant source material to draw from, obviously, and this show seemingly does.  But as an adaptation this really is the whole package – art, animation, music, casting, pacing.  It makes you think and it makes you feel, it respects your intelligence and it challenges your preconceptions.  How can you ask more out of a fantasy series than that?

What Made in Abyss also does is defy predictability, a trait that makes it that much more precious in a medium where predictability is increasingly valued above any other commodity.  I certainly didn’t expect an extended return to Orth and the orphanage this close to the end, but that’s what we got in the pre-open.  It had been hinted at earlier that Kiyui would fall ill, and indeed he did – in fact, he’s close to death from fever before a visiting pharmacist takes him to her ship and he miraculously recovers.  Jiruo suggests this is the “birthday death disease” – which finds its victims dying on their birthday (and two orphans whose birthdays are unknown have recently passed away).  As always, whenever “Abyss” answers a question it asks many new ones – what causes this illness?  Will Kiyui die if he returns to Orth?

Another surprising turn is the sidelining of Riko from the narrative for two episodes (and counting) this close to the end (though of course it’s not the end for the manga).  Ordinarily this might be a problem, but as I was watching this episode my feeling was that it was actually a positive.  Partly that’s because Nanachi and Reg have great chemistry, and their on-screen relationship is fast-forwarded by their alone time together.  It’s also frankly because Nanachi is rather more interesting than Riko, who’s a fine character in her own right but really the least interesting – and dynamic – among the main cast of Made in Abyss.  I’ve noted that in the context of the story Riko fills more or less the same role as Gon, and I think that’s still true.  But that Gon is the most compelling character in Hunter X Hunter in spite of that is testament to what an extraordinary creation he is more than anything else.

There’s a quote at the end of the prologue that I love, because it frames the story of “Abyss” so beautifully: “Longing seizes people more powerfully than poison and more deeply than illness.  Once it catches hold of you, there is absolutely no escape.  That is quite a curse, and yet adventurers all willingly devote themselves to its pursuit.  For them, a life without longing is more terrifying than death itself.”  That’s true in Made in Abyss, but it’s also just true.  Nanachi makes note of it later – how it drives people to confront the curse of the Abyss and creatures that can predict the future as they try and make meals of them.  It drives Riko, it drove Lyza and Ozen – and maybe once it drove Nanachi, too.

This series guards its secrets closely, but it continues to allow a little light into the shadows, inch by inch.  Nanachi’s attempts to explain the curse to Reg using the “Fog Weave” are stubbornly abstract, but in the end they do paint a picture – in my mind I see a row of spikes and a “do not back up – severe tire damage” sign.  It’s as if the curse (which Nanachi also describes as a “force field”) tries to make the trip into the Abyss one-way for almost everyone who attempts it.  It’s this force field which allows “Orby” and the other creatures of the depths the ability to predict the future – because the curse reacts to the living things around it (I’m still a little fuzzy on how that works, to be honest).  The curse is weaker the farther you get from the central shaft – though one senses there’s more to the magic of Nanachi’s hideout than that.

The next thing Nanachi does it try to “show Reg the world as she sees it” – which involves a two-way radio in his helmet and an encounter with Orby and a black whistle who’s under attack from it (did Nanachi know that would happen?).  It’s interesting that Nanachi refers to cave raiders as the “greatest threat” to her, and she means it – that’s not going to stop Reg from trying to save the black whistle, though.  Which he does – with Nanachi’s help – and gives him a message to take back to Jiruo, though he keeps Nanachi’s presence a secret.

The other great mystery of the moment is Mitty, who continues to show an obsessive(ly creepy) interest in Riko.  There’s an extremely unsettling moment which strongly suggests that the girl Mitty once was is still self-aware and trapped somewhere deep inside the hideous monstrosity she’s become – which is, let’s be honest, a horrifying thought.  There’s a deep connection between Mitty and Nanachi, clearly – whether that extends to the time before one of both of them became “hollows” is unclear, but Nanachi certainly saved Mitty (and likely herself) from someone (male) who was doing terrible things to both of them.

The final unpredictable turn comes in the final moments of the episode.  Not when Reg asks Nanachi to accompany he and Riko when they continue their journey – that was expected – but when Nanachi asks Reg to do her a favor and “Kill Mitty for me.”  The change that comes over Nanachi here makes it obvious that this is brutally difficult for her – that indeed, she never wanted to ask this of Reg at all.  That suggests that whatever imperative compels Nanachi to do so must be a powerful and painful one indeed, but there are so many layers of darkness in this story that surprising as that is, it doesn’t ultimate come across as a shock.  With only next week’s double-episode finale remaining, it really feels as if we’ve just begun to explore the true depths of Made in Abyss.

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20 comments

  1. D

    I really want this anime is successful in the long run. The more of a chance there’ll be a second season there is the happier I’ll be. As far as how the plot of the story is going, I have no idea how or even if this season is going to end satisfactorily.

  2. Maybe it is the lack of Riko, but the recent run of episodes have been absolutely stellar.

  3. M

    It also has to do with the fact that the lower you get in the abyss, the higher the stakes and until now, we’ve only just been skirting around its edges.

  4. F

    pls don’t bully Riko, she is a nice girl.

  5. M

    In the manga, the cooking scenes give a Shokugeki no Souma vibe. It’s really hilarious amidst all the terribleness happening in the abyss.

  6. M

    Nanachi’s body language before asking the question and Reg’s smile falling of his face just made me feel terrible. That is by no means a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact.

    Reg could barely take off Riko’s arm off in the most tense of circumstances, its going to be really hard to watch him try to take a life, even if its the best for Mitty.
    I feel we had a sense of what its like living like that through Riko’s dream. It seems Mitty’s humanity is still in there somewhere, but she is just unable to express it beyond screams of hunger.

  7. I haven’t read a page of manga in almost 10 years, but – if MiA doesn’t get another season – I will absolutely break that streak. It’s been so long since I’ve watched an anime so endlessly intriguing and unique. In other shows, I might start to get annoyed at there being so many unanswered questions (with more being asked literally every ep), but here I feel confident that the creators have the answers.

  8. I don’t think a second season is impossible, but it may be a while even if it happens. I’ll take up the manga when this one is over unless there’s an immediate announcement.

    You should read more manga – it’s a stronger creative medium than anime these days, by far!

  9. A

    is there any good recent political manga out there? the last one I really enjoyed was Hiroki Endo’s “Eden”, and some of Naoki Urasawa’s work, but it’s been years since I came across anything similar.

  10. Hey Enzo, I just wanted to point out something, which is an error you make in almost every other post now. It’s not to nitpick, but because you’re otherwise good with words and writing is obviously important to you…

    Almost invariably, whenever you put two things together (“X and Y”), I’ve seen you always put the pronoun in the subject form (I, he, or she) instead of the object form (me, him, her), which is of course fine when it’s the subject. But when it’s the OBJECT (very often with a verb, and 100% of the time with a preposition), you still use the subject form, which is wrong. For example, in this post, “Not when Reg asks Nanachi to accompany he and Riko when they continue their journey.” It should be “accompany HIM and Riko,” and if you think about it (and one of the most elegant ways to easily test yourself), you wouldn’t say “ask Nanachi to accompany he” or “ask Nanachi to accompany they.”

    With prepositions, probably the biggest offender I’ve seen is after the word “between.” For example, something like, “The final exam created the biggest chance for dialogue between he and Deku”… which is wrong because you can’t say “between they.” So it should be “between HIM and Deku.”

    I notice a lot of people doing this, because of a lot of over-correcting for “me and you” to “you and I,” — but in reality, it ends up being “me and you” being more correct more often…

  11. For what it’s worth, it’s “you and me,” if we’re going to nitpick the hell out of people.

  12. h

    mad respect to made in abyss,the best I can say about it ,is that it gives me the same vibes as something written by Togashi, yeah that’s a special series right there,special on every front

  13. h

    I will quote Bakugou made in abyss takes indisputable first place this year

  14. While it’s hurdling with titans (Shouwa Genroku for mastery and Boku no Hero for consistency), I think we’ve got ourselves a solid Top Three. While we know the first one for sure if you’ve followed Enzo this winter, it’ll be nice to estimate who’ll end up second place. I believe we’ll know by next week.

  15. This, however, might be amongst the most conceptually creative, innovative and distinct series I have ever experienced — right up there with Hunter x Hunter. And the execution is up to par, too… It just magically comes together. This will be a really tough pick, I feel, especially if Enzo does end up taking up the manga.

  16. J

    For me, Riko (as crucial as she is to the narrative and characterizations) will always be the sticking point that holds MiA back from being up there with the very best. Yes the ante has been raised significantly recently, but I cannot escape the opinion that a conscious Riko during this arc would be too jarring to the mood and not offer much useful that Nanachi wouldn’t already know – apart from the obvious gastronomic knowledge! Riko’s story has been told at this point, so it will be interesting to see how she is written as the mysteries surrounding Reg & Nanachi (who will surely join the duo on their journey?) put and keep them in the spotlight.

    It is slightly irksome that I can’t even call Made In Abyss my favourite series this year, but that speaks more to Rakugo’s brilliance. I’m sure for many others the situation would be reversed. But to have two series that demonstrate such mastery of the craft is a rare treat in any year, let alone one that continues the inexorable slide towards timidity and Stalker numbers. Let’s hope there are enough people around for this to happen again someday.

  17. s

    Made in Abyss is like little else I’ve experienced, in any medium. I agree with Scott: the open questions make me excited, not annoyed. I think that’s indicative of real mastery of the material. It feels so much like a genuine world, with real love and pain and real consequences. My son (14) compared Nanachi’s care of Mitty to parenting a child with profound special needs. I was floored by his connection, but not surprised that this show inspires such deep thought.

  18. h

    you guys are gonna make me watch Shouwa Genroku

  19. Watch Tsuki ga Kirei, too.

  20. K

    Another brilliant episode and again dreading the end of the series next week. One thing that keeps popping my head is that This series reminds me of FMA while My Hero reminds me of HxH – both shows i think i would never see anything like them again and here we are….so there is that glimmer of hope that I won’t have to wait another almost a decade to see something as wonderful again.

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