Rolling Review – Made In Abyss (10)

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EPISODE SYNOPSIS:

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.

REVIEW:

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Reg’s reactions to Riko’s suffering are nearly as hard to watch

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.

SUMMARY:

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.

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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.


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Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (09)

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Episode Summary:

Riko and Reg leave Ozen and company behind and descend through the Third Layer of the Abyss.  The center of the shaft is smooth and impossible to climb down with Reg’s arms, so the pair finds their way down by using animal dens.  In one of these dens, a powerful creature attacks them, and Reg is forced to use his Incinerator to kill it.  This leaves Riko alone in the Abyss for two hours while he’s unconscious.  She immediately gets herself into trouble, but perseveres through it, finally coming to the realization that she couldn’t have made it without Reg (who finally awakens as the episode closes).  It’s a lesson that will surely be reinforced frequently as they approach the Fourth Layer.

 

Episode Review:

The show makes a hard shift away from the compressed time on display in the previous episodes, putting every minute of Riko’s fight to survive the Third Layer without her protector into clear focus.

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I must say I prefer it this way, as the exploration from the characters’ point of view is much more interesting than having a summary of what happened, as we did with Ozen’s survival training.  There’s plenty to take in, from the strange ecosystem of the Abyss…

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Stone-cold Riko prepares to throw live critters off a cliff to distract local monsters

…to the ruins of the civilization that lived here…

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A boat embedded in the wall?  That must make for quite the story.

…to the unique structure of the caves here.

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Of course, while I’m enjoying the scenery, Riko and Reg don’t have that luxury.  Riko’s impetuous exploration quickly places her in mortal danger.

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As with the hippo from last episode, Riko stands stupefied in front of her impending doom, with only Reg’s quick intercession keeping her alive.

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Well, both his quick intercession and his LASER HANDS, that is

This attracts the attention of an even larger monster that the pair are barely able to evade before Reg falls asleep, giving Riko a warning not to move until he awakens.  Riko, finally aware of how tenuously she clings to life down here, sits down to wait and – oh, who am I kidding.  She immediately, like within 5 seconds, realizes she’s hungry and decides to go find food, dragging Reg along with her.  She doesn’t seem to have a single self-preservation instinct in her body, a point made crystal clear when she follows the scent of fruit deep underground (red flag!) to find it emanating from a glowing (double reg flag!) hole in the ground (klaxons to full power! Sound the alarm!).  Instead of wondering, she steps right up to it and is eaten by a large plant filled with digestive juices.

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To her credit, she quickly realizes the position she’s in and begins stabbing her way to freedom.

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She gets points for determination and quick thinking, but if this had been anything but a stationary monster with a slow death by disintegration, that probably would be the end of the show right there.  I don’t know what it’s going to take for Riko to start assessing her surroundings before charging ahead, but she really needs to learn that lesson soon.

The rest of the episode sees her confront an upward slope, which under normal circumstances would be a minor inconvenience, but here in the Abyss is a nigh Sisyphean climb.

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On that terrible incline, she confronts auditory and visual hallucinations caused by the curse and comes to the realization that she couldn’t make it without Reg.  As Reg finally awakens and the two stand at the entrance to the fourth layer, I hope she takes that lesson to heart, because things aren’t getting any easier.


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Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (08)

Brendan will be stepping in for Scott this week, who will return next week.

Riko's hair and jacket make her look like the female Geomancers from Final Fantasy Tactics, which only makes her more endearing to me.
*breathes in*

CHILD.

Episode Synopsis:

Like, ten minutes into Riko’s ten-day survival camp with Reg, she about gets herself wrecked by some sort of subterranean hippopotabyss. The pair then make it their mission to bring down the most moderately dangerous game. Elsewhere, Ozen reminiscences about Lyza.

Review:

Little bit of a slow week, eh? Technically I think more in-universe time passes in this episode than in any of the episodes since the second one, but almost a fifth of the run time is flashback, and even in the present it seems like very little actually happens. While we do at least get to see the kids put together a plan and execute it, I was a little disappointed that we skipped to the end of the training without a montage. I was even more disappointed that Reg managed to refer to an event that didn’t make it into the episode, and that I wouldn’t give an even chance of being relevant further on, though I guess they might surprise me.

Really the meat of this episode lies in Ozen’s memories of Lyza that she shares with the audience and her knowledge of the Abyss that she shares with the protagonists (including the fascinating tidbit that time apparently flies when you’re in the most disturbingly hostile environment known to man). As far as the latter goes, it does seem a little convenient that Riko & Reg get shepherded down their path by someone who knew Riko’s mother very well (and who thought that they were the bestest of besties until some BOY came along), but, on the other hand, I can see this being a positive development for the story.  Without this infusion of knowledge and equipment, the pair would just be skulking around every layer of the Abyss until they meet their unceremonious end (or at least Riko’s) when some yacht-sized abomination accidentally crushes them to death when it rolls over, or reflexively eats them before they know what’s happening, or something. Now they know enough to be dangerous, and can get into some real trouble.

Specifically, we’ve now got a name and a warning for the dude that we catch a glimpse of in the OP, so there are pretty good odds that, before the season is over, we’re going to run afoul of a powerful White Whistle who will be thinking only about how he can separate our heroes from anything they’re carrying that’s remotely useful. There’s actually a handful of other neat revelations in this episode (one of them destroying my theory that Leader is in some way related to Riko), so I’ll give a net positive to Ozen’s flashbacks, even if a couple of them seemed unnecessary.

The most important thing is that we’re back on the descent. For reference, as far as my casual research has been able to determine, the deepest that humans have actually ventured into the Earth is in a pair of gold mines in South Africa which reach almost 4,000 m below the surface. The mines are pretty far inland, though, so that only works out to about 2,000 m below sea level, a depth that Riko and Reg passed back before they made the transition to the inverted forest. Random fun fact: Shiggy says the word “meters” when he describes the layers (well, “meetoru”, at least), but the depths on the map we see in that scene are marked with the symbol which ciphers to the kana for “ro“, which… I don’t know where I’m going with this, it’s just weird.

Yes, I have spent several hours working out the cipher, based on the episode 3 map, other on-screen text, and the parts of the opening credits that don’t involve reading kanji (found a couple of typos, but it’s pretty well done overall). Could I have looked it up? Probably, but what fun would that be? =P

Summary:

We got a decent wrap-up to our mini-arc in the Seeker Camp. I’m excited to leave its relative safety and get back to the dive.


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Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (07)

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EPISODE SYNOPSIS:

Ozen has brought Riko, Reg, and Marluk to her chamber to reveal a secret box.  The truth behind the box is mortifying for Riko and Reg, and spells out terrifying things for what lies deeper in the Abyss.  As Ozen reveals more about her nature and about the nature of the Abyss itself, we are left to wonder…how are these poor kids ever supposed to make it to the bottom of this awful place?

Review:

Oh my…Hello Made in Abyss.  What’s that you have there?  That’s…an awfully large hammer..

An..awfully…large…sweet Jehosefat don’t swing it over here!

Ozen is insane….and I love her character.

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With that out of the way, I’m going to tackle the incredibly unsettling ideas that are presented in this episode.  Spoiler Warning: The contents of this review have massive spoilers for Ep. 7

Riko and Reg get to see the mysterious box that Ozen has in her chamber and it is…horrifying.  We learn that the box is an Abyss artifact that can bring the dead back to life.  It goes beyond that though.  If something that was once living has been altered, and then is put in the box, it reverts back from whence it came.  Hint: that thing Riko saw in the hallway in Episode 6 was Ozen’s dinner previously…

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Ozen…maybe we should get you Netflix or something…

Ozen discusses how Riko was stillborn when Lyza gave birth in the Abyss.  When she was placed in the box, she magically started moving again.  Her creepy mocking voice in conjunction with the fact that the interior of the box bears an uncanny resemblance to female genetalia, give the show an edgy, pseudo horror vibe.  Made in Abyss has been doing an amazing job of fusing the beautiful atmosphere of the Abyss with the sheer horror of the creatures that inhabit it.  Episode 7 pushes this boundary and leaves us with a terrifying notion.  Riko is literally birthed by the Abyss itself.  What this means for her character, only fills me fear for her future.

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You know…most people keep a lamp in their room

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Afterwards Ozen makes mincemeat out of Reg simply to prove that the kids aren’t ready to brave down into the deeper parts of the Abyss.  Ozen’s outfit is awesome, and we learn the secret to her seemingly eternal “youth” (she calls herself an old-lady and her character design makes it hard to distinguish if she actually looks young).  We also get a glimpse into the mentor/mentee relationship between her an Lyza.  As Dan and I predicted, there’s a certain degree of care and dare I say “compassion” that she has for Lyza which extends down to Riko…although it’s very twisted.

That isn’t to say she goes easy on these kids.  Good gracious Ozen…

She wrecks Reg and with mere flick of her index finger practically crushes Riko’s skull.  Heaven help whoever gets in the way of her punch.

To end, I want to discuss another important discussion that Ozen has with Reg and Riko.  She explains that the fact that nobody has even seen the bottom of the Abyss is akin to people believing in God.  The Abyss has become God itself, which opens the story up to being an exploration of numerous themes.  It all make sense and adds to the slightly eerie feel of the show overall, but also gives the tale a sense of grandeur.  The closer people get to “God”, the more warped they seem to become.

Ozen nearly killing Reg and Riko turns out to be a setup for her teaching them a lesson about how tough the journey into the Abyss will be.  She then strands them in the middle of Zone 2 (that’s where we are…right?) and tells them to survive for ten days.  Training montage here we come!  Before anyone else states it, the parallels between this and Fullmetal Alchemist are uncanny.  Ozen is the Izumi to the Fullmetal Bros/Reg-Riko pair.

My only real concern lies with how far the show will go, and I’m already hoping there’s enough love for this gem to merit a second season.  With a stopover for training it looks like we might not even make it out of this floor.  Let’s hope the show continues to be as fantastic as it has up until this point.  Be sure to catch the next episode of Fullmetal Abyss!

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SUMMARY:

Made in Abyss is fantastic but the halt for training episodes may cause the series to drag out a bit.  We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.  Episode 7 serves as a character building episode for Ozen, and we gain a new perspective on the Abyss and Riko/Reg’s journey to the bottom.

The show blends in the fear factor flawlessly as we learn the origin of Riko’s birth and gain insight into just how powerful these Abyss artifacts can get.  The show has kept the artifacts and other details about the Abyss close to the vest so here’s to hoping we get more knowledge about these items as the show closes out in its second half.

As a final note.  What is it with this punishment?!

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