Our young adventurers descend into the fourth layer of the Abyss; the Goblet of Giants. This bizarre landscape hides natural wonders and lethal dangers, including a fierce predator that stalks Riko and Reg through misty pools. Though the children narrowly escape the beast, Riko is wounded and exposed to the creature’s poison. To make matters worse, the pair made their escape by ascending towards the upper levels, and Riko suffers nightmarish symptoms. Reg must now race to save his friend, even if it means causing her more pain in the process.
I’m going to tell you folks something up front; this was one of the toughest episodes I’ve ever watched across many, many shows. If you thought that the secret of Riko’s birth and the brutality of Ozen were Made In Abyss taking off the kid gloves, you haven’t seen anything yet. Episode 10 was agony to watch, and obliterates any concept that our heroes are safe or prepared for their journey.
Before that, however, the episode takes us into another spectacular environment with the Goblet of Giants. We’ve come to expect awesome background art from this show, and we have yet to be disappointed. The fourth layer is in many ways the most alien we’ve seen so far, with enormous plants and vines forming steaming pools high above an unseen surface. It feels right that the Abyss gets less and less familiar as we follow it further down and see places humans were never meant to reach.
One of the reasons for that is, of course, the wildlife. Riko and Reg eventually encounter a large, porcupine-like beast with fearsome poisoned spines and deadly intelligence. While the creatures in the upper levels were clearly dangerous, this one demonstrates a level of cunning and anticipation that makes it far more threatening.
When Riko is struck by the monster’s spine, the episode takes a sharp turn into horror. Reg’s only way to save her is to escape upwards, subjecting Riko to the full curse of the fourth layer. For anyone who forgot what that means…
It’s much harder to watch in action, believe me. We aren’t spared any detail of Riko’s suffering, and even the hope that the bleeding will purge the poison is proven false. Reg’s desperate efforts to save her are harrowing, and I can’t remember the last time my hand snapped involuntarily to my mouth in shock witnessing something like this. Juxtaposing the characters’ youth and cartoonish designs with the suffering on display makes it even harder to watch. Appropriately sickening sound work rounds out the experience.
I often find displays of pain and suffering anime to be ineffective. Wounds and injuries in many shows tend to lack impact and fail to communicate how dangerous they are. This is not the case here. This is not mere shock value; this is the fulfillment of a terrible promise. Made In Abyss is driving home a point it’s been making since it started; this is not a place for anyone, let alone children, to be.
With this gut-punch of an episode, I have no idea what’s in store for our characters. Riko is inches from death and Reg is frantically attempting to save her. The introduction of a character that’s been hinted at up until now seems to have saved our heroes, but there is no way of knowing where there journey will take them from here.
If there is one issue I have with episode 10, it’s that there’s an awful lot of exposition about the predator that wounds Riko. By now, we’re used to her spouting off info about the places and creatures of the depths, so it’s not out of character for her or the show. I feel, however, that the episode may have been even more impactful if more of it had occurred without speaking. In spite of that small disagreement on storytelling, the episode is gripping, suspenseful and punishing to watch, and I’m terrified and excited to see what happens next.