Wow, I finally get to do a single episode review as opposed to two episodes together. ….and what an episode to do it on!
Riko and Reg have reached the fourth layer – the Goblet of Giants. Most of this layer consists of massive goblet-like plants (actually many different plants growing as one) filled with warm water, and the whole area is extremely humid and steamy. ‘I heard something fucked up happens in this episode’, I say, and start to assume that this setting is perfect for a hot springs style episode, and maybe there’s more nudity than comfortable on such young-looking characters, and that’s what was so fucked up. Maybe we get to focus on Reg’s robo-nads again, because its actually been a few episodes since they’ve been mentioned.
It wasn’t a hot springs episode.
Reg realizes that something has been following them. I knew that this was the episode in which Nanachi, the rabbit-thing that features in the opening and ending, is introduced, so when he said it seemed like whatever was following them was highly intelligent, I assumed it was her.
It wasn’t her.
Reg and Riko soon find themselves face to face with a terrifying monster called an Orb Piercer, which is basically a gigantic venomous porcupine from hell (or the Abyss, same thing really). It’s too fast to use the staff on and they end up losing it, and Reg can’t use his Incinerator out of worry for what could happen in the next two hours, and in the attempt to defend against it, Riko gets stabbed in the hand. With the poison spreading fast, Reg realizes that the only way to escape from the monster is by going up. Ascending in the fourth layer is far more brutal than any previous layer of course, and causes horrific full-body pain and, here I quote, ‘bleeding from every orifice’. ‘well gee this is surely the most fucked up thing to happen in the episode’ I say, wincing as exactly that happens to Riko.
It wasn’t the most fucked up thing to happen in the episode.
In bloody, screaming agony, Riko is lucid enough to realize that the only way to stop the poison from killing her is for Reg to cut her goddamn arm off, so he is ordered to do that. But break the arm first, to make it easier. This unbelievably, brutally traumatic scene drags on for what seems forever, culminating in Riko apparently dying and Reg breaking down into screaming, crying hysterics, until Nanachi finally shows the hell up to save the day.
You know, I am no stranger to pausing anime I watch for whatever reason – sometimes it’s hard to concentrate and I want to come back to it later, sometimes it’s some comically shitty thing I’m watching for First Impressions and I have to take a breather because there’s only so much bullshit one can process at once. But I can’t actually remember the last time I had to pause something because I legitimately felt faint. Violence in anime doesn’t usually phase me, it’s usually too ridiculous and over the top to truly feel queasy from – even speaking as a pretty squeamish dude who feels faint looking at needles. Not to mention that when people are getting their heads ripped off or whatever, it’s over pretty quickly for them. But when a young child is having her arm broken in an incredibly drawn out scene for the purpose of cutting it off to be rid of her grotesquely swollen poison-filled hand, screaming in agony the entire time, that’s different. Christ. I’m getting goosebumps just remembering this.
I saw a lot of people reacted in shock to this episode saying this was when they realized Made in Abyss wasn’t a cutesy kids adventure story, and to be honest I’m pretty surprised that it took them this long. There’s been pretty terrifying things going on long before now. So while I’m certainly not surprised at what happened, I was a little shocked at the brutality in which it was portrayed. Oh and by the way, the amputation attempt doesn’t even succeed because of Riko’s sudden ‘death’, so we all had to witness that cruelty for (almost) no reason. Apparently, things get even worse from here. Hurray! At least now I’m prepared?!
Brutal and horrifying as it all was, it was extremely well-done. Part of what makes the scene so confronting is that the way it’s framed makes you feel like you’re there and feeling every part of Reg’s stress and anguish. I haven’t reached this part in the manga yet, but I already am willing to doubt that it wasn’t as effective as it is in the anime because the sound and voice acting really adds a lot. Hearing Reg scream and wail like that when he thought Riko had died, with very real agony in his voice, was heart-breaking. In all, it’s a harsh lesson. Riko is a smart girl, but she has definitely been too reckless before now (especially in the previous episode). She has the understanding that one wrong move in the abyss will kill her, but at the same time, she seemed to be acting under the assumption that she won’t, or even can’t, die. This was basically a huge wake-up call, and, terrible as it was, completely necessary. The fact that it’s the first time she’s portrayed as actually being terrified of dying rather than just scared of whatever monster is chasing her also says a lot.
However, when Reg eventually manages to revive her from ‘death’ by giving her mouth to mouth, I’m again kind of confused about what kind of robot he is. I know it seems to have been established that he’s a mysterious relic himself and the way he works is ‘shut up that’s how’ but it had been explicitly pointed out in the first episode that he doesn’t breathe. Unless he’s still able to expel air from himself in some fashion, or perhaps he only doesn’t breathe when he’s unconscious. It was just kind of a ‘wait, huh?’ moment.
Anyway, uh, hi Nanachi! It’s a shame your grand entrance got slightly overshadowed there. I’d been looking forward to seeing her and learning more about her – she introduces herself as a ‘hollow’, which I believe is the result of the ‘loss of humanity’ one experiences when ascending at a lower level than this one. Now, it’s been established that the effects of the curse are worse the deeper the level, and look, maybe it’s just me, but if the curse of the abyss beyond ‘bleed profusely from every orifice’ is ‘turn into a furry’, that seems like a hell of a better deal.