The finale has come upon us and we get a double length episode! Really 48 minutes was the opportunity we needed to close out this first season because, while I wish there were 13 more down the pipeline, I couldn’t see this ending being as affecting and resonating as it was without time to really reflect.
Last time I may have misspoken, saying Bondrewd may not be such a great care-taker. Really, he is just a heartless S.O.B. As we learn in Nanachi’s backstory and her hollowfication origin story. Bondrewd found children in some far off land and recruits them, taking those willing to find a way to the Abyss’s next layer. This Winterland I first mistook as Abyss layer the two were seen escaping the last episode but upon further inspection, this is just somewhere entirely different. Which is interesting because we see a young Nanachi reading about the Abyss, meaning the Abyss is pretty infamous in certain places if not all over the world. Nanachi goes forth and is ostracized by the other kids except for Mitty who we now see as a human. It’s easy to understand how much Nanachi takes a liking to her. She’s also not popular but very outgoing so when this bright and bubbly girl decides to befriend the awkward, introverted Nanachi the get along famously.
However, we know more or less how this ends so I’d sometimes berate a show for clearly toying with my emotions when I’m well aware of the end result but Bondrewd’s shrewdness, while hinted, shows its true colors. All the children who think they’re going to be part of some great new advancement in the mystery of the Abyss are merely guinea pigs and lab experiments to merely advance the technology and understanding of the curse. Things feel uncomfortably dire as less and less of the children that began are absent from background. The show uses that dread that we have as an audience and plays with it, contrasting with the children’s gleeful ignorance in a way deepen the scariness of the ordeal as we clue into the missing children’s fates. When Mitty is chosen, Nanachi follows and learns that something is wrong. However, Mitty and Nanachi’s fate is now sealed as that concern leads her to the lab where she gets to participate in the experiment. The containment elevator is designed to drop all the way to the sixth layer and rise back up; the layer that is known for the curse to be responsible for the loss of humanity and life.
Now Mitty’s and Nanachi’s fate, one’s successful hollowfication and the other’s unsuccessful hollowfication, becomes terrifyingly clear. The containment elevator Mitty is trapped in will absorb the effects of the curse while Nanachi will be protected. It’s a bit unclear but the non-lethal “benefits” of the curse will seem to be absorbed into Nanachi as her containment unit uses the opposite type of curse-polarity. It is also hinted that their strong relationship will make the experiment more compatible. Why Bondrewd was experimenting with non-living objects before finally landing to using two human children as the last resort perplexes me but I’m also not sure what scientific breakthroughs he was specifically looking for. It also speaks to how horribly and lowly he thinks of his children experiments.
What follows is hands down to most disturbing depth the show has gone into so far both literally and emotionally. After plummeting into the Abyss, Mitty and Nanachi are greeted the remains of the other hollowed child experiments, a miniature garden as Bondrewd puts it. The agonizing transformation that we see as they ascend and leave the mindless hollows tumbling off is so horrific but you can’t just look away. Deeply terrific animation showcases the kind of stuff I shudder to recall. Mitty’s pleas of “kill me” further twist the knife particularly after her selfless but scared promise to endure the pain for Nanachi’s sake. If only it would end there. Bondrewd finds that Mitty’s hollowfication was so powerful she was rendered nigh immortal, crawling, sputtering and mewling as half her body was cruelly mutilated. Knowing that even after dying once, Mitty would be forced to suffer eternally at Bondrewd’s hands, they escape.
I commented on the last episode how I was expected Riko at least be involved in the “kill Mitty” dispute, thinking of the added layers her very different perspective would bring to shape the conflict emotionally. However, Riko honestly hasn’t been around enough for these characters and their personalities to resonate with her so her perspective I fear would have only caused an artificial drama. Having this be an intimate bonding moment between Reg and Nanachi before Riko even comes to know who Nanachi is was the right answer. Having an entire arc of particular shared knowledge that these two characters went through without Riko present gives them a powerful situation to be able to bond over. Riko’s already had enough of a hard time recovering, to add witnessing death to the pile would have been a bit rushed. Considering how little all the first-hand brushes with danger and tragedy made Riko any wiser or any more hardened, would this have been a useful moment to involve her character? Again, having to keep Riko in the dark about what happened and the two of them having such an emotional moment that doesn’t merely involve Riko, is a more interesting development for the series to take. A few of the emotional stakes of the show have been dependent on involving Riko constantly being in danger so this was a pleasant diversion, if not a bittersweet one. Setting up a “gravesite” with all of Mitty’s toys… interrupting Reg’s blast because she wanted to say a proper goodbye… You got some genuine tears, Made in Abyss… congrats.
This also marks the end of Nanachi’s old life and the beginning of her new one; one that is no longer dependent on taking care of Mitty. As such, it’s perfect timing (and writing) that Riko wakes up the next day and in a sense attempts to fill the void in Nanachi’s heart. Being handsy with her, totally not in the lewd way as she’ll have you know, and cooking her first meal with actual flavor is a beginning to a much brighter future. Riko even manages to bring Mitty back into the picture by way of remembering the dream she had. That recollection simultaneous affirms her soul is finally at peace and perfectly bookends Mitty’s arc without Riko needing to worry too much about the consequences of what occurred. Although Nanachi’s “wait for me just a little longer” is a bit foreboding. She promised Reg (a bit begrudgingly it seems) that she wouldn’t take her own life after Riko was cured, but who knows what emotions will resurface later. Reg and Nanachi have really pulled through as the show’s more interesting characters, while Riko’s mayhem seems to just pull along the plot. At least as a trio there’s more of a dynamic.
It’s clear that they will inevitably cross paths with Bondrewd and he’s been set up as a pretty great future villain so far. We get a post-credits stinger of him noticing Mitty’s what I’m just going to call for now “Life Lantern” having been extinguished, praising Nanachi’s growth and in no uncertain terms challenges her to see him again, though I’m sure he misinterprets the reason behind Nanachi ending Mitty’s life.
The season ends on an incredibly strong note. Despite a bit of a slow burn in the Lookout, a layer three that felt like an after-thought, and animation that didn’t hold up entirely consistently, the place season one wraps up is right where it needs it to be. Reg has improved only to be asked to venture ever deeper and face challenges that his newly learned experience may threaten to become obsolete and Riko is only becoming more and more crippled and underpowered. However, now they have a more experienced companion to shore out those weaknesses. The montage that shows them preparing for the next leg of the journey shows the team more prepared than ever and the use of the report/materials being airlifted back up to the surface is a great way to denote the progress they’ve made and show some old friends and old enemies. It’s quite the satisfying ending to a journey that only promises to get more destructive and scary but not satisfying enough to convince me that studio Kinema Citrus is confident enough in their ability to milk at least one more season out of the remaining material. Regardless of whether or not I’ll begin the manga now, I hope this series reaches the height of popularity it deserves and seems to have picked up in the MAL ratings, which is reassuring to see!
- Recognize the spot that Nat finds the airlifted package? That’s where Riko found Reg.
- Mitty is uh… pretty well endowed, eh?
- Musical accompaniment hit big this episode most likely because it’s expected now whenever we get treated to the gloriously drawn landscapes.
- Riko’s injuries have left her scars and if My Hero Academia has taught me anything, that’s a sign of character’s being cruelly reminded of past mistakes, hopefully, it’s the reminder Riko needs.