I’m like half-joking when I say this but Made in Abyss needs to stop. This is too much for me. I don’t care if Riko acts all excited about exploring the deeper levels of the Abyss or Reg assures himself (and the viewer) that he’ll protect her. This show is not fooling me. These kids simply aren’t welcomed there and seeing them so close to death is stressed me out. And I know death flags were raised on Riko and Reg since Episode 1 but this was still the most harrowing and and most uncomfortable episode so far. I was barely able to to screencap this episode because I was just staring at my screen, processing what was going on.
There is something intimidating about this episode’s single monster: the Orbed Splitter. Part of the threat level owes to its design: a strange cross between a hedgehog and bear with all sorts of spikes protruding on its body and a round red face with five eyes that are just gaping black holes. Additionally, Riko and Reg only face one of them and the creature is depicted as extremely deadly and intelligent. We’re used to Riko and Reg being able to throw ideas at each other and outsmart the creatures they face so it’s extremely hard to sit through seeing the pair get outsmarted and injured throughout this “fight”. Part of me expected Reg to use the Incinerator and while in hindsight, it would’ve helped a ton, I don’t think anyone can blame Reg’s indecisiveness. Imagine if Reg missed and faints or other Orbed Splitters showed up while Riko is left with an unconscious friend. Riko would’ve been in serious trouble if anything in Reg’s plan went awry.
Then there is the aftermath which is where I think the dread peaks. Seeing Riko bleed from her eyes and ears while Reg is faced with the Orbed Splitter’s poison swelling Riko’s arm was tough to sit through. And this scene is dragged to an effectively agonizing slog. You see Riko beg Reg to amputate her arm, Reg reluctantly going through the process of said amputation, only for bugs to fester around as any sign of life in Riko begins to vanish. This scene is so methodical at making things worse that it keeps you glued to your seat and you have to wonder how things could possibly turn up. And I have to admit: that’s extremely impressive for Made in Abyss to pull off considering that such a dark tone was hinted at since the very beginning. I knew a moment like this was coming but this show proved that I was still as unprepared as Riko and Reg were for the deeper levels of the Abyss.
Fortunately for Reg, him and Riko get the help of Nanachi, a sentient life form, seemingly native to the Abyss, who can bring Riko back to normal health. If that sentence sounded like I did not sound at all alarmed at the existence of sentient life in the Abyss, that’s because I was reflecting the numbness Riko’s ordeal made me feel as the episode dropped such a huge revelation. Right as Nanachi flat out tells Reg and the viewer what she is, I immediately was like “….wait….WHAT?!”. I’m so used to the Abyss being so feral and out to kill you so the idea that people can naturally be a part of the realm’s ecosystem boggles the mind. I have to wonder if Nanachi is a human who evolved into an anthropomorphic animal thing or if she is simply a creature who’s mutated and developed sentience. Regardless, Nanachi’s existence suggest one thing about the Abyss: those foreign to the Abyss will be attacked and those who can truly live there must become a part of it.
- Once again, the background work is fantastic. The fourth layer kind of gave me a bit of a Xenoblade vibe with all the towering platforms and streaming water (reminds me a bit of Noctilum from Xenoblade X).
- Part of me hopes that someone will go back and get Lyza’s pickaxe (provided that the Orbed Splitter is nowhere to be found). I just like the idea of a pickaxe that can fire bullets so it’d be a shame if Riko and Reg permanently loses it.
- I want to quickly acknowledge Shiori Izawa’s performance as Nanachi. Izawa generally plays supportive or minor characters in anime but I think casting her in this big role has a lot of potential. I really like how Izawa invokes a lot of passiveness into Nanachi’s character and making Nanachi sound a bit older in spite of the character design looking a very cutesy.
- I have a serious question about Nanachi having all that raider equipment and whistles. Does she pick those off of dead explorers? It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if the reason behind it is a lot more sinister.