Rolling Review – Made In Abyss (06)

MadeInAbyss_06_00.png

Episode Synopsis:

Riko and Reg have reached the Seeker Camp; a haven for cave raiders nestled at the bottom of the Abyss’s second layer. Here they meet Ozen, a White Whistle and former companion of Riko’s mother, as well as her apprentice, Marulk. Ozen allows them to stay the night, but it appears that not everything is well in the isolated refuge. In the morning, their host offers to explain the situation, but also delivers grim tidings of Lyza’s fate.

Review:

After the sobering jaunt through the Forest of Temptation, episode 6 gives Riko and Reg some time to get their bearings and enjoy the relative safety of the Seeker Camp. The structure looks like something straight out of a classic JRPG, built into a massive upside-down tree and sporting an enormous telescope with which to observe the approaches from the rest of the Abyss. Though more claustrophobic than the vistas we’ve been treated to so far, it’s still another beautiful environment in a show that’s already sported a lot of them.

MadeInAbyss_06_01
Most of these locales wouldn’t look out of place in good old FFIX

Unfortunately for our young adventurers, the warden of the camp is much less inviting. Ozen the Immovable is as impressive as she is unsettling. Her character design is fantastically striking, and the show goes to great lengths to make it clear just how strong she is without contriving reasons for her to show it off.

MadeInAbyss_06_02
Nice people don’t get narration like that… just sayin’

If Ozen is impressed that Riko and Reg have made it so far into the Abyss, she hides it well. Her open contempt for these children is strong, but considering that she went just as deep as Lyza, she’s not speaking from a position of arrogance, but one of hard-earned experience. She and Lyza were the ones who carried the infant Riko out of the Abyss all those years ago, and Ozen makes it clear that she thought more than once about abandoning the child. However, there’s a certain way in which she talks about Lyza that shows how much she cared for her, which hints at a much more nuanced character that I hope we continue to learn more about.

MadeInAbyss_06_03
There’s also more going on with Marulk, but I think you should learn about that for yourselves

In the camp, we also get to spend time learning more about the details of cave raiding with Ozen’s apprentice, Marulk. Though she’s only about Riko’s age, she too made it far into the Abyss, and apparently impressed Ozen enough for her to take the girl in (another hint that Ozen may have hidden layers we haven’t seen yet). Through Marulk, we hear more about some of the mysterious relics found in the middle layers, and the role the Seeker Camp plays in exploration and salvaging. It’s more solid worldbuilding through the eyes of children, which is something the show continues to do very well.

Of course, the other thing Made In Abyss does well is feed a sense of subtle yet ever-present dread by reminding us that the Abyss is as terrifying as it is magnificent. When Riko wakes up in the middle of the night, she encounters a nightmarish creature that looks like a rack of ribs grew terrible arms. Though hardly the goriest thing I’ve seen in anime, I found it deeply unsettling. I’m sure that’s partly because it reminded me of the moment Dark Souls made it absolutely clear that it was not messing around.

MadeInAbyss_06_04.png

After Riko’s late-night scare, Ozen offers to explain what she’s just seen. The implication is that Riko will finally be confronted by some of the true horrors of the Abyss and consider turning back. I’m a little dubious as to how that’s going to play out, since she’s already stumbled upon people being devoured and their voices turned into lures for fresh victims (crap on toast, Made In Abyss, that was gruesome), without showing much terror. Still, Ozen also tells Riko more about how she recovered her mother’s whistle, which may put her quest into question in a more personal way.

Summary:

The show continues to be rock-solid in terms of story, world- and character-building, and presentation. We get to interact with some new and compelling characters who I’m definitely interested in learning more about. Frankly, the only complaint I have is that while Ozen’s appearance, dialogue and movements all play into making her seem aloof and dangerous, her voice actress leans a little too hard on the creepy voice. When every line sounds like it’s being delivered by someone trying to spook you at a haunted house, it loses some of the impact when she says something that’s supposed to be truly concerning.

Still, that’s a minor complaint at worst, and I’m nervously excited to follow Riko and Reg as they learn more of Lyza’s fate and the nature of the Abyss itself.


Previous                                         Next

Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (05)

Thank you, Narrator Lady, for reminding us how doomed these kids are.

Episode Synopsis:

Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient–

Wait

Wait; no – that’s The Trap Door, a series of UK claymation shorts from the mid-80s about living above an uncharted cave system that regularly spat out bizarre creatures. Some of my earliest memories must be watching those old PAL tapes…

…my family is weird.

Anyway,
Riko continues to display chutzpah, knowledge, and resourcefulness as she and Reg begin traversing the second layer of The Abyss. Unfortunately, she also continues to display how her lack of training, experience, and physical capability leave her dramatically unprepared for this journey as the pair come across more denizens of the deep on their way to the Seeker Camp. A near-fatal encounter leaves Riko without her notebook, but the stress causes Reg’s “muscle” memory to reproduce the energy beam from the prologue, giving this episode its title: “Incinerator”.

Review:

Anyone else ever see that movie Predators? I know there’s a few of us out there. Did any of you think back to the scene where one of the aliens had set a trap with a dead dude and a recording before Riko and Reg put eyes on the corpse-weeper? High fives all around.

For real, though – this place is insanely dangerous. If Riko can be carried away by a creature this easily, and subjected to enough of a vertical rise in layer two for the curse to cause her to throw up and pass out in seconds, she really shouldn’t be down here. She survives, barely, thanks to Reg rediscovering one of his features, and he also saves them from the Princess-Mononoke-lookin’ inbyos.

Beyond brushes with the local wildlife, a good chunk of the episode is also spent further examining the culture of cave divers…

Riko waxes philosophic on the cyclic possibilities of the food chain in The Abyss.

… (those knorks though) and also on Riko being intensely delusional.

Oh, child. Your optimism is as bottomless as this pit, isn’t it?
(we probably are going to see that again, though)

Speaking of both cave diving culture and delusions, does Riko really think that she and Reg are just going to waltz into the Seeker Camp and everyone there is simply going to let them continue to descend? I mean, I guess she does now, since Habolg gave them some supplies and told them that she already has a personal relationship with the camp boss, but surely her plan was to stop there even before that revelation.

Shiggy’s description of the layers in episode three implies that every color of whistle corresponds directly to a maximum allowable depth. Red Whistles can’t descend into the Forest of Temptation without abandoning hope of rescue; only Black and White Whistles can go to the Goblet(s) of Giants; only White Whistles can go to the Sea of Corpses, and the label of the Capital of the Unreturned is really just a name for the depth beyond which literally no-one has ever returned (with reports from the descended seeming to suggest that a lot of ancient edifice remains intact). Presumably the transition from Blue to Moon Whistle comes with access to the Great Fault, although that distinction may not be a particularly useful one if it’s as featureless as it looks – perhaps leading to the additional administrative distinction of allowing Moon Whistles to be instructors. The map has that half-boat sticking out of the cliff, though, so there’s probably something cool down there.

Where was I… right, so Riko’s already a layer out of her depth and wants to go further, but I suppose that’s really going to depend on what she can negotiate with the Unmoveable Sovereign, or, perhaps more likely (since Ozen doesn’t seem to be thrilled with Lyza’s decision to abandon their mission and save her daughter), whether she can slip through her fingers.

Musings and observations!

I was wondering before (I think), but why didn’t Reg take his red whistle? It would make it less likely for him to be immediately identified as a threat by other cave divers (case in point: the Seeker Camp lookout).

Where did the Moon Whistle getting eaten come from? He’s pretty freshly dead. Maybe he was part of Leader’s expedition to retrieve Riko and fell – if so, maybe Leader and their remaining companion will venture into the Forest of Temptation after him, if not after Riko, and we’ll see Leader again after all.

I wonder if Ozen is at all related to the orphanage director.

They’ve got a similar black & white thing going on with their hair

There’s a little less scenery to ogle in this episode than the last one, but everything still looks great. The monsters are drawn with more recognizable line-work than before, but they also spend a lot of time up close and personal, so it may have been necessary from a being-able-to-tell-what’s-going-on standpoint (perhaps in addition to cost and/or logistics).

The music in this show is so good you guys. It’s tonal and ominous and mmmmmm makes me happy and worried at the same time.

On the subject of being worried: the last time I saw an anime ED with people doing this:

…it, ah, didn’t end well. I will also note that the OP and ED change slightly in this episode (the OP in the ending frame, and the ED with a minor addition midway through), though what the point was in hiding the Seeker Camp inhabitants in the ED given how much it focuses on a character who is still yet-to-be-introduced is a mystery to me. Perhaps my greatest criticism of Made in Abyss so far is revealing a future group dynamic outside of the show proper (though Reg does spend an awfully long time up and about before firing the incinerator actually takes its toll).

Summary:

Made in Abyss is moving right along: we’ve covered about the same vertical distance that we did last episode ( ~1300m \ ~4400ft). It seems like we’re probably going to stay at the Seeker Camp for a little while, but if that means learning more about the history of The Abyss in some well-structured exposition and flashbacks (which, at this point, I am fully confident that this show can pull off), I am 100% all for it.


Previous                                         Next

Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (04)

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00005.jpg

Episode Summary:

Riko’s adventure begins in earnest, as she and Reg begin rapidly descending the Abyss in hopes of evading any pursuit from Leader and the others.  Along the way, we get a taste of what the journey will bring, from ancient ruins to terrifying monsters to simply finding food.  The intrepid duo also encounter Riko’s uncle Habo, who gives them some food, a vaccine to prevent sickness in the second layer of the Abyss, and a worrying warning about the guardian of the Seeker Camp that sits at the entrance to the the second layer – Ozen the Unmovable.  Undeterred, the two continue, reaching the edge of the second layer.  Riko is now considered to be a suicide by those on the surface, and her further progress will only be impeded by the challenges of the Abyss and those who live in it.

 

Episode Review:

It’s a little strange to feel proud of a character for charging recklessly towards her own death, but Made in Abyss makes you really want to root for poor, doomed Riko and her protector, Reg, if only because of her irrepressible optimism.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00007
Figure 1: Irrepressible optimism

Despite barely having a plan and a supply situation that will require them to scavenge constantly as they progress, Riko is nothing but excited for her journey.  It helps that Leader left her a message containing a copy of her mother’s final journal, as well as a message from him to her that spurs her to faster action.  Well, that and Reg, who is assuredly the only thing that might keep Riko safe for longer than a day down here – I don’t even think she has a weapon beyond her survival knife.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00002.jpg
That is a pretty sweet monster-alert system you got there, Reg
Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00037.jpg
Seriously, what was your plan if you didn’t have Reg’s Bionic Commando powers?

Thankfully, this isn’t going to be a tale of a useless princess being protected by her robot knight.  Riko may be all of 12 years old and unprepared for fighting, but she does have a good set of survival skills and the tools to use them.

Speaking of fighting, they encounter their first terrifying denizen of the Abyss.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00022.jpg
Why is every creature down here awful?

What’s interesting about it is that for this monster, and another one that appears later on, the animation style changes.  It feels like the creatures have been run through some kind of blurring filter, smooshing together all of the internal color lines and making them almost seem… rotoscoped or something.  I mean, they clearly aren’t but it’s really hard to describe the effect.  In any event, it makes the encounters with these monsters really stand out, and makes them feel very different than the characters we’re following.  Probably this is because if the monsters were drawn with the same rounded softness as the characters, they wouldn’t look menacing at all, and so this difference in animation really highlights the danger these monsters pose.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00023.jpg
Not even kidding, Riko, you would’ve been eaten Day 1, 8’ o clock without the Reg-Arm

Much of the rest of the episode (not counting the minor encounter with Habo; the episode summary really says it all) is some absolutely stunning background stills that the characters move through.  The other Con Artists have each said as much, but it’s worth stressing – nothing this season, or for that matter, several seasons, has looked this good.  Please enjoy the following gallery:

I’m almost more excited to see the various areas of the Abyss than I am to follow Riko and Reg’s adventure.  Especially because of the warning given to Riko by Habo about her upcoming meeting with Ozen.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00052.jpg
The way this line was delivered, in context, made me shudder.  I’m worried for you, kid.

In summary, I am totally hooked for what will happen next, and what the next area of the Abyss will bring.

Made in Abyss Ep 4 -_00031.jpg
Oh my god you guys are so screwed.  Go in there so I can see more.

Previous                                         Next

Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (03)

 

Episode Synopsis:

Riko sees a message left by her mother that reads “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting”, and instantaneously assumes it’s for her. She decides that now is the time for her to get out of the confines of the orphanage and deep dive into the Abyss. The other kids support her, but Nat is strongly against it. After all, this will likely be the last time Riko sees any of them ever again.

Review:

I don’t know that I was prepared for the story to move this fast and for it to be this emotional. Made in Abyss has this unnatural way of framing very dark subjects in side dialogue and this whole episode gives me this sickening Madoka Magica vibe. Nothing is ever going to go well…is it…?

Episode 3 is surprisingly laid back for the dark content and game changing story beats that it brings to light. Riko is happy as a clam, and excited that her mother left her a message to meet her at the bottom of the Abyss. To piggyback off of Dan (cause that’s the trend we are going for, right?), it really helps that the cast are all children. If the cast was a group of adults I don’t even think the decision to venture into the Abyss would be possible. It’s also the setup for what I feel is a deep tragedy. The naivete of children is something that Japan loves to bend to the point of breaking.

Riko’s nonsensical optimism aside, the hero (and minor butthead) of this episode is Nat. As I stated in the synopsis, Nat seems to be the only voice of reason among Riko’s friends. Despite acting like a butt in the beginning of the episode, he is the gravitas for us the viewers as we remind ourselves that Riko is not just setting out on a normal heroine journey. There’s a sequence where we are talked through the map of the Abyss and each new horror described leads me to believe these kids are never going to make it out of this.

Riko, honey…maybe you should just stay on the surface. We could have a nice slice of life show, eh?

It’s also important to note that this episode adds a layer to the mystery of what Reg is and why he was made.  He’s clearly part human as he possesses human anatomy and thought that isn’t robotic in nature.  He also was something that Lyza took note of in the Abyss and her discussions about him don’t match up with the seemingly innocent Reg we have come to know.  I like that the show is layering all this in, and having Reg contemplate his existance is a an obvious choice for why he would accompany Riko in the Abyss.

You are a creature of the Negamoon Reg!

I’ll stick my negative comments in the middle here, because there was really only one. When Reg decides to go with Riko down into the Abyss, he sneaks off at night to say good by to little Kiyui. This gets him caught by Leader and he makes up a lie about being up to check on Riko, who he claims in having intense diarrhea. I’m not sure if this sequence is supposed to be funny, but…it isn’t. It’s also so obviously a ploy so when Leader believes it and sends Reg on his way, you are left saying, “Why did you even animate that encounter in the first place??”. Also, how does Leader not catch on that Reg is lying?

Keep it up kid! You’re super believable…aparently…

To tie back to the line I wrote up above about side dialogue, I’ll end with the fact that the leadup to Riko and Reg leaving for their adventure is heartbreaking. The Abyss is heavily guarded due to the fact that illegal artifact raiding has been known to occur. It is in this episode that we learn about the Wharf. Riko and Reg need to sneak into the Abyss from a less…savory location to avoid detection, so Shiggy tells them to meet him late at night. Nat appears and takes the gang through the Wharf, revealing that he was born there and left alone after his sister died. As we walk through the Wharf with him we learn that it’s basically a hive structured slum for those not able to live in the countryside. It’s all told through Nat’s calm voice stating things like, “If I hadn’t been picked up, I would have just died of disease or starvation..like most of the kids around here”. Through this simple set of words we see a whole new world open.

The finale of this episode has Nat unable to stutter out how sad he is to see Riko go. Riko finally breaks down and cries, telling him that even if she never makes it back, they will always be connected by the Abyss, because those who are lost leave their voices behind to guide those who venture in. I have the worst feeling about this and everything in this scene made ME almost cry. Hang in there kids…

As with the previous 2 episodes, everything in this show is beautiful to look at. Each shot could be a poster in your house. The sequence with the map blew my mind as it harkened back to Seirei no Moribito where animators poured so much love into 2 second shots.

Summary:

With gorgeous art and strong world building I highly recommend getting into this show. Just..be prepared for tragedy because my female instincts tell me there’s a storm a comin’.


Previous                                         Next

250 Podcast Downloads

Hi Everyone!

According to the stats our podcast has been downloaded 250 times!  We just want to say a huge THANK YOU! to everyone who listens to our podcasts.  It really means a lot.

Image result for excited anime face

If you don’t currently listen to our podcast and you’d like to, check us out using our RSS Feed: http://theconartists.podbean.com/feed/