Frankly, a little bit of a slow episode when it comes to exposition, but really interesting nonetheless. Dynamics are starting to gather up steam, and secrets behind the Neherete village are starting to unveil. There are several important things that happened during the runtime, but this is the first time the party has actually separated from each other, each going their own way. Reg has his important meeting with Faputa, just so happens that maybe he knew her from his past, Faputa inspects him and confirms he is actually the Reg from her past. Simply delicious storytelling as it’s hinting at Reg’s stolen memories. Faputa being a Neherete, who has seemingly lost all empathy for human life or pain itself, stabs Reg on a wound that has yet to fully close causing him a lot of pain. And yes once again Tsukushi-san indulging as much as he can, as it almost seemed that Faputa was this close to giving reg a full BJ. She even asks to confirm and see his chin-chin. Eh, but that’s Made in Abyss for you.
On the other hand, Nanachi is hanging out with Majikaja, who drops a couple of very important hints about someone precious to Nanachi. I can’t really talk about the details of how exactly Nanachi was able to meet with Mitty once more, without really going into spoilers, but once again MiA is being shy and coy about its storytelling, garnering enough interest and attention to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Even during the most inconsequential of events. How and why is Mitty back? That is for the next episode to divulge, however, it’s clearly linked to the village itself. As Majikaja explains a theory I might accidentally divulged last week (oops!).
In the Neherete village, the balancing is not about good or bad, it’s not about putting out with words how much you love something, but the connection a soul has to that thing. It’s somewhat the idea of actualized worth, but of the deep dawn of the soul. Someone might lie to themselves enough that they believe such a lie to be true, and eventually, it seeps down into their soul and becomes true, but in actuality, it’s more about wishes coming true. You can see it in the forms the Neherete take, they’ve divulged back into their primordial forms, but a form of their worth.
And so we come to Riko, being stuck in that toilet that eats bugs and – well you know – she finally gets over her food poisoning. One thing to note about the toilet thing is how Tsukushi-san subverts your expectations. It’s a bidet for all intense and purposes, but a subversion of it, it’s completely Japanese, but turned on its head and made from the fetish and horrific. If anything, it’s trying to make you feel something. And it’s working.
So Riko goes out and finds a couple of good-for-nothing Neherete who wish nothing but to cause harm to Meinya, again! But turns out Maaa comes to the rescue, this little guy might have come off as bad, but the balancing has probably made him change his heart, and realize that his intentions were actually never bad. Much like Faputa, Maaa is but a child, and sometimes children do things out of curiosity, to explore the world and learn from making mistakes, such was the thing that happened with Meinya at first, but having learned his lesson. Maaa comes to the rescue and takes Riko out of there, soon after the balancing takes effect, Maaa and Riko are able to leave the black goo, but the rest of the Neherete do not. It seems even being an accomplice to a bad deed might get you punished by the village. Maaa gives Meinya back to Riko and goes from happy to incredibly sad in the span of a few seconds – he didn’t want to do anything bad, just wanted to hang out with Riko on her adventure. Riko notices this and comes back for him, asking him to join her in her market outing. A gold halo surrounds them as they happily stroll toward the village center.
This is really interesting to me because if the village punishes evil deeds, it might also help those of pure soul. Those that seek to understand each other not through words but emotions. Maaa and Riko speak a different language, yet through simple facial expressions and empathy, they are able to get along and share Meinya with each other. When you think about it, it’s actually quite wholesome, a breath of fresh air, for the suffering that is yet to come.
And of course the final cliffhanger, Nanachi meets a new character, who once again I can’t talk about without spoiling, but we saw this serpent-like dude in episode 02 for a brief moment. Now Mitty sits in a pot, with a giant smile, and just a tiny little tear forms in my eye. A heartfelt reunion for sure.
Back in the day we used to have a saying: “there’s nothing in the world like a Grateful Dead concert”. I’ve applied it to Golden Kamuy before, and you could definitely apply it to Made in Abyss. Crotch-sniffing, extended toilet scenes, and the most epic world-building this side of Miyazaki – this series is as unique as it gets. It looks and sounds so gorgeous, even as it shocks and disgusts you at random moments. In a way I think it’s better that MiA is so singular, because I wouldn’t want every anime experience to be this intense. And because I enjoy the weekly reminder of just how exceptional it truly is.
Tying this all together, of course, is Tsukushi-sensei’s mastery of intricate fantasy plot construction. I do get the sense (accurate or not) with him, as Togashi, that there’s a finished story in his head before he sets out to write the first chapter. Obviously this is a complex web we’re entering into now, and this episode raised more questions than it answered – but it did give us a few answers. It also split the main trio up and gave us three separate storylines, which is not something Made in Abyss typically does.
Let’s start with Reg and Faputa. Poor Reg’s dignity is never safe, and Faputa has no boundaries. She even reopens the wound on Reg’s navel (oddly, still unhealed), rather thoughtlessly. She clearly knows Reg – or thinks (or acts like) she does. This teases Reg with the prospect of learning more about who he is, but between the sniffing and the puncturing Faputa makes it clear she’s a threat. Reg losing his memories of their relationship would be unsurprising, given what we knew literally from the very beginning. But – as Reg points out – how is it that Faputa calls him “Reg”? That was a name Riko came up with on the surface, from after the time of Reg’s memory blackout.
Meanwhile, Majikaja and Nanachi have more rather philosophical discourse about the village and its value system. Majikaja tells her that it’s based on “signals of the soul”, the only things that reveals true worth. When Nanachi points out that some are experts in self-deception Majikaja says something rather profound: “If someone can fool themselves with their own words, then that is their truth.” When he asks her what she values, Nanachi replies “Mitty” first, unsurprisingly. Then “also, those other two.” And, effectively, “everyone else can go to Hell.”
As for Riko, she’s still on the (incredibly gross) toilet, which Tsukushi lingers over with lurid glee. She remembers the words of Jiruo, who scolded her on the importance of drinking lots of water after diarrhea (very true). and then to force herself to eat as soon as she could. With that in mind she sets off looking for Reg and Nanachi (she’s rather panicked at their absence), blundering into the village with her usual absence of caution. She manages to get herself in a very tight spot, where Meinya is once again subject to some extremely rough handling. One suspects this would not have ended well if Maaa hadn’t come along and saved the day (it’s not about to let Meinya be squished after already having suffered so much for doing so itself).
Now the reveals start coming along, hot and heavy. Maaa leads Riko to the market (Riko takes pity on it for its obvious dismay at being left behind), where the smells of a local lunch counter (delicious mixed with feces) draw her in. Unsurprisingly Riko dives right into the food (roast testicle) without a thought for what it will do to her, and the proprietor speaks her language. Not only that she says one of the patrons does, too – Wazukyan, who she introduces as one of the three sages. That’s two from the premiere now accounted for, albeit with different appearances.
Nanachi is about to encounter two more, as Majikaja leads her to Belef’s lair (I certainly wouldn’t have recognized him). Not only is he there but Vueko seemingly as well – and perhaps in control of the shadowy entities that execute the balancing in the village. And something that looks very much like Mitty, too – enough to convince Nanachi, who should know intellectually that such a thing is not possible. As I said, more questions than answers – but at this point we can be assured that Tsukushi will tie all this together in an elegant fashion that respects the rules he’s already established.
I love the translation of the last sentence-“Once one has finally found their treasure…one’s value will transition, and one’s journey will end”-specifically the usage of the word “transition”. Transition is more gradual- as opposed to change, which sounds more sudden. It implies an intermediate stage. In science, you have what is known as the transition state when a compound is shifting from one form to another. Many of the creatures in the Golden City (specifically the more cognizant ones) seem to be in a transition state-they no longer appear human, yet they possess the speaking and thinking faculties that are still human. Take for example Kaja or the chef.
Then you have the poor creature Maa (who luckily survives, though looking much the worse for wear). Meinya is a transition point for Maa, who moves from past treasures to new ones, from being a loner to joining a band of friends (or at least co-habitants- who knows if it processes concepts like friendship).
Even Reg is at a transition-halfway between retaining the innocence of who he thought he was and re-gaining the memories of who he “really” is. What’s interesting about the gradual nature of transition is that in it, you’re already so far entrenched in a new stage, you can’t turn back- yet you still have bits and pieces of the previous stage, making it painful if you don’t want to let go.
Reg definitely feels this-will he like what he finds out about himself and how will this change him when he does find out? Having met with Faputa, it’s probably too late to turn back, especially if this was destined to happen from the start. From his exchange with Faputa, he must have done something that demanded repayment, tasked with bringing something of high value to her.
“Is it the girl or the Hollow?”-a crushing statement. Reg has always been so earnest, so pure-if dealt with the ultimatum that one of his friends must be sacrificed, it would rip him apart. The question is-which is the real him-the pre or post memory loss Reg? Kaja unwittingly addresses something of the sort “If someone can fool themselves with their own words, then that is their truth.” I would like to say that the true him is the one he wants to be because that would be the version of himself he wants to actively strive towards, even if he started out as someone different.
However, if he is only himself because of the memory loss, will re-gaining his memories also revive his other ambitions? According to the Signal of the Soul, value is determined by connections to the things around it. Which is an intriguing concept that also addresses my questions on the seeming arbitrariness of just taking someone’s word for a value. Given this system, Reg had to have known he would need to be emotionally invested for the currency to be worth anything. He couldn’t just kidnap a random human and get the same value as he would a friend, suggesting the memory loss was intentional. It’s easier to make friends when you are unaware that you will be selling that person off.
Back to the word “transition”. The original Japanese word “utsuroi”, in addition to transition, also relates to a time lapse, such as the change of seasons. This has interesting connotations given how just prior, Faputa brings up the point of immortal Reg eventually seeing his friends’ deaths if he stays with them. We also have the time lapse between the 3 Sages as we saw them in the first episode and the Sages as we see them now in their Hollow forms. I say Sages, because only two of them, Belaf and Wazukyan, have been explicitly identified in their Hollow forms. Belaf wins the prize for being the most elegant Hollow in his delicately wrought snake-like form. The story telling is truly exquisite- connecting the threads between the characters and events using flashbacks and phrases rather than direct exposition. There seems to be no such thing as a castoff remark or scene in this story.