「成れ果て村」 (Narehate Mura)
“Village of the Hollows”
In the first few minutes, I was so caught up in the cute fuzzy creatures, I almost forgot MiA’s darkness. That gruesome scene with Meinya getting its eyes and butt guts popped out jerked me back into the horror. It goes without saying, you can’t trust appearances, especially here.
Deeply symbolic of desire’s destructive capacity, the city dwellers look the way they do after sacrificing their humanity, binding themselves to their desires and the Abyss. The protection they are offered in return removes the illness inducing force-field and strictly upholds justice in the community while allowing them to pursue their pleasures. According to the rules, you can’t steal, but it’s ok to harm something else so long as it’s already been paid for or occurs outside the city border.
In a symbolically gruesome take on consumerism, value is based on the individual’s emotional attachment to something, paid in the currency of body parts. In a rather uncomfortable scene, Riko is encouraged to sell herself to buy her mother’s notes (which, thankfully she didn’t- although I was half expecting her to sell a toe or a finger).
The animation of facial expressions was brilliant, conveying the creatures’ baser emotions. The bystanders reveling in the carnage of the execution was quite disturbing. Even though these creatures are no longer human, their expressions of joy and pain are very much human.
After squeezing the guts out of Meinya a black goo strips the offender down to its very skin. Never mind that Meinya will recover- the other creature never will, which hardly seems fair. It looks like an arbitrary system-how does one even accurately assess monetary value for something like companionship that goes beyond cold cash? Sure, the creature shouldn’t have squeezed Meinya, but how much capacity for logical thought did it have? The innocent way it looked at the whirlwind, it clearly didn’t know what was going to happen-like sending an animal to the chopping block. That scene was gut-wrenching- like Nanachi, I could barely take those pitiful cries as they held the remaining scraps of their treasures. It was very symbolic that the treasures were deep inside the creature-so often something carries value not because of cold cash in a wallet, but emotional attachments we carry within us.
A punishment that exceeds the crime exudes a warped, merciless justice. Riko and crew need to be just as careful as they would around Bondrewd’s lawlessness. If Riko and company accidentally harm someone’s property, things will quickly go south. I could totally see Reg bumping into something by accident, setting off that goo.
I feel bad for Reg having to face that toxic looking slime in this installment of Riko’s food adventures. I can’t help but chuckle at Riko’s reactions-“We won’t be able to eat this anywhere else!”- damn right about that. Should they really leave her in that toilet though? It looked highly suspicious, especially with all manner of weird things with weird fascinations in this town.
We (or at least Reg), is introduced to Faputa-the Hollow Princess who moves with freedom and stealth. With those hints at her past and her existence outside of the town’s rules, it would seem she is the missing link between Riko and company, the Prushka thief, and the Sages. I find it curious that unlike the other inhabitants, she is not bound to the Abyss- whether because she has no desires to tie her down or possesses some sort of power- we will have to see. I wonder if she will be a benevolent princess or a malevolent one?
Made in Abyss is never easy to watch. It unsettles in a very powerful and visceral way. There aren’t all that many anime I would make that statement about. Or indeed, that the experience of watching them is truly unique. Kyousougiga comes to mind (wholly different vibe, obviously). Maybe Shin Sekai Yori. But beyond simply sharing the trait of uniqueness, comparison is pointless – by nature, the experience with each series is totally different. Among all the shows I find truly to be masterpieces, MiA is among the ones I “enjoy” the least, in the narrow definition of the word.
That’s not to say I don’t love it, though – I do. Indeed I think it’s better to say that I enjoy it on a different level and in a different way. The closest comparison I can make (and it’s one I’ve made before) is Hunter X Hunter – especially and most obviously the “Chimaera Ant” arc. Like Togashi, Tsukushi has an unerring sense for how to disturb an audience. And the complete lack of boundaries adds a great sense of danger – nothing seems out of bounds (though a few things obviously are for practical reasons).
As good as the first two episodes of Retsujitsu no Ougankyou were, with this one the season really kicks into high gear. This was classic Made in Abyss, starting of course with the hors catégorie worldbuilding. The hollows in this village, starting with Majikaja, are utterly fascinating. I love Gotou Hiroki’s performance here – he gives Majikaja an incredible sense of “otherness” This is like so much in Made in Abyss – enchanting and disquieting at the same time. There’s a wonder to the place and these creatures, gorgeously brought to life by Kinema Citrus, but an underlying sense of wrongness that just won’t go away. We know more or less how this fantastical setting came to be, and that knowledge colors our elemental reaction to being there.
This question of “value” is central to the place, and it’s pretty metaphysical and hard to quantify. It starts with Prushka, who’s being chiseled away at but apparently (according to Riko) doesn’t mind. Majikaja explains that it’s because this is not her “true form” – and once shaped into it, her value will increase. But of course just what that means isn’t immediately clear. Riko obviously isn’t looking to sell, but in point of fact – as Riko will find out at the market soon enough – the most valuable thing around is Riko herself. Human children “have great value”, and Majikaja himself would like to get a piece of the action.
That market really is a wonder, in every sense. It’s fantastical, surreal, beautiful. But I knew at the gut level that something bad was going to happen here. First, Riko spots a letter written by her mother – but “look, don’t touch” is a cardinal rule at this bazaar. Majikaja suggests it can be bartered for, but the price is Riko herself – one she’s obviously not going to pay. Then Meinya disappears into the crowd of hollows, a seemingly innocent turn of events that quickly turns horrifying. One of the hollows (Ichiniose Kana) takes a seemingly innocent interest that soon turns gruesomely ugly.
Of course, it’s clear that this strange creature doesn’t literally mean harm – indeed, it doesn’t have any sense of right or wrong in human terms (despite having been human itself at one time). But harm it does, though Nanachi is able to save Meinya’s life. This, however, is only the appetizer. The village itself is “protected” by this sense of value, and the creature now pay for the damage it’s caused to Meinya. Exactly how these seemingly arbitrary values are decided it isn’t clear, but this is literally a “pound of flesh” situation, and this “balancing” is truly terrible to see. Riko winds up with enough of the local currency to buy the trio room and board, but the means by which it was acquired taints it.
Riko’s “leap in and ask questions never” approach continues to get her into trouble – not least where her bowels are concerned. Her state of infirm leaves Reg and Nanachi to explore the village themselves the next day, and it’s clear something big is afoot. When the pair ask Majikaja he tells them that Faputa (shameless as ever, Tsukushi-sensei) is likely arriving in town. “Always angry” is how he describes her (and later doesn’t disagree when Nanachi calls her a “princess”). Reg goes off to reconnoiter while Nanachi drafts Majikaja to lead her to some food and water suitable for human consumption.
And so, the two threads of the season are finally tied together. Faputa is surely the silent village girl the Ganja group took with them on their journey, though she’s clearly changed a lot. As to what became of her comrades any speculation at this point would be just that, but it certainly isn’t impossible that they’re among the hollows in the village – indeed, that explanation fits quite well with what we already know. Past and present clearly converge in the Golden City, and once the truth of just how is revealed it seems certain to be unsettling and probably tragic.
What is the true meaning of value?
Certainly, the inner working of the Naherete Village are coming into play, finally showing their true colors and the disturbance surrounding them. The whole village runs on some type of capitalistic (post hellscape) system where value is determined by the weight of the soul. However it is you who deems value to objects – and people, it’s how the village perceives it. Not only those it seems the whole village of hollows are privy to this fact but live like it’s some kind of code. Yet Maa (Ichinose, Kana) decides to push Meinya like it’s a toy.
Doesn’t that suggest some type of juvenile attitude? It certainly seems that way in my eyes. Maa probably knew that the balancing was going to take effect, and still decided to go for it anyway. In the process, Riko gave Meinya an incredibly high value, because of what that little furry ball of innocence means to her and what it meant to Prushka. It’s a simple concept that provides a lot to think about. Value not of the body and flesh, but of the soul itself, of the bond, that soul shares with others. It’s the actualized worth of things. What you think something is worth, the village will acknowledge that value and assign it to whatever that thing is.
Horribly heartwrenching to see Maa get his favorite things get taken away, like taking candy from a little kid. The things that made him feel safe, the things that gave him uniqueness and self-worth. Get taken away and destroyed with little to no remorse. Furthermore, he suffers a punishment that removes some of his body parts and part of his skin. The balancing made things right on behalf of Riko. Because he caused damage to something that exceeds the value set on himself.
Everything has value down here, even human children.
The vendor was all but happy to let Riko browse his wears until Riko gave something of his, important value, and thus took it away from her because it belongs to the vendor.
Another important thing to note is how the armadillo-looking guy was picking away at White Whistle Prushka, but he wasn’t destroying it, but rather making it into something new, it’s important that Prushka get turned into a musical instrument, as this will help the White Whistle reach its true form. Becoming even more valuable in the process.
Other than that, this episode really showed how things are just going to ramp up from here into weird and disturbing territory.
After heading to the hotel and Riko finding ways to communicate with the hollow, they find a lodge and boarding and even get to eat some very icky-looking food, of course, Riko is not able to digest it.
Very important to note as well, a new character is mentioned and the gang surmises that it’s the character that has been following them around in their adventure, “The embodiment of value”
Faputa can go anywhere without being affected by the curse of the abyss, early on in the episode Nanachi mentions that the curse is not present in this space and they are able to climb up the stairs, Reg comes face to face with this being named Faputa but we are not given any much more than that.
Cut to the Ganja crew and their arrival just after using the elevator to come to the sixth layer, they are greeted by the Naherete robots, who wish for them to follow; Or so it seems. But a giant blue leviathan-like monster eats one of them and soon the Ganja crew realizes they are not in Kansas anymore. Seemingly first praising their gods for finding The Golden City. The monster attack was nothing more than just that – a monster attack, bad riddance to the Ganja crew; it seems as if they just lost one of their tour guides.
“We had still been unable to find a way to survive”
Yep seems about right!
The episode ends with a great cliffhanger because the story of the cave riders from the past is still yet to be explored and they are teasing it beautifully. Once again Made in Abyss shows how beautifully and psychological it can get. Once again I hold with bated breath until next week.