「欲望の揺籃」 (Yokubō no Yōran)
“The Cradle of Desire”
The title being “Cradle of desire” was apropos, referencing the emphasis on motherhood. Albeit motherhood with an empty cradle, which in itself is a pretty sensitive topic.
Previously, we learned that worth is determined by the connections something has. In Irumyuui’s village, childbearing is highly valuable and females’ worth is based solely on their fertility ( i.e. the number of connections they produce). This system is not friendly to women, discarding them out if they cannot procreate. I find it disconcerting that they checked a girl as young as Irumyuui for procreation- a physical and emotional violation. No woman ought to be put through that, but especially one so young as Irumyuui. Traumatically, she loses not just her place in society, but also the love of her brothers and mother.
In Vueko’s gentleness, Irumyuui finds motherly love, commenting that Vueko smells like her. Specifically, that Vueko smells like someone who has mated with multiple people (which has pretty disturbing connotations for past abuses Vueko suffered). Vueko, who also cannot have children, sees Irumyuui as the daughter she could never give birth to.
Initially, not all is gloom and doom-they find water and pets. Not coincidentally, the waterhole they chose resembles the cave Vueko becomes trapped in. However, it turns out the water isn’t quite water, but a parasitic organism that dissolves you, felling the crew one by one. It forces them into the tough position of “would you rather”-death edition. It’s a tough choice, deciding to die by thirst or parasitic invasion followed by melting. It was horrifying to watch their physical transformation-especially with the lingering close ups of bodily excretions. I find it curious that it took Vueko so long to catch it-I guess she’s just made of sturdier stuff, or the explanation will be forthcoming.
Wazukyan is so positive-he remains upbeat even when faced with evidence to the contrary-he reminds me of Riko. Belaf was strange, spying on Vueko and Irumyuui. What he hoped to gain from that, who knows (yet). Perhaps with his Sage abilities he had an inkling of the role Irumyuui would play. I find it stylistically beautiful that they set this episode in dark caves with shadows sometimes obscuring even faces. Very representative of how in the dark the explorers are about their situation, as well as the general thematic darkness.
All hope is not lost-at least it appears so at first. They find a grant-wishing egg, but (of course) only children can use it. Irumyuui is their victim-ahem-hope. The egg becomes embedded in her body, changing her into something partly inhuman. If that weren’t enough, the child births a creature from the egg in her chest. The newborn looks very much like her deceased pet, hinting that it was really a substitute child for her.
Vueko never seems to be phased by anything-her response on seeing Irumyuui in the after-birth: “lick the film off the baby’s head”. I think Vueko was the first to realize the nature of Irumyuui’s wish and wanted her to have that, no matter how strange it looked. The whole grotesque process from implantation to birth was highly unsettling, especially in light of how the mangaka slowly built it up to what came next. It was sickening when they went a step further with the “baby” dying the next day from lack of internal organs and Irumyuui continuing to birth creatures that die one after another.
Motherhood is very personal-a path a woman can choose to pursue or not (in an ideal world) and once down that road, can cause immeasurable joy and pain- emotional and physical. We see it written in Irumyuui’s face as she cuddles her offspring, then heartrendingly grieves over their bodies. This is something deeply personal to her, something that it feels wrong for us as the third-party audience to witness.
I personally find it incredibly fucked up and problematic to fetishize a child’s trauma over her body’s reproductive abilities. I’m dreading next week, if Wazukyan’s statement about the life-saving stew and Irumyuui saving everyone means what I think it does. I get it, messed up stuff is MIA’s signature mark, but this one cut deep. Yet, there were gorgeously stylistic moments, like with the imagery related to darkness. Again, it just goes back to how divisive this series is for me, with the juxtaposition of utter horror and beauty.
Can we all just collectively take a breather first? Okay, you all good? If anything I’m kinda mad that the animation team decided to split this story into a two-parter, making us wait another whole week to see the finale of this heart-wrenching story. I would rather have preferred if they took a week off and aired episodes 07 & 08 as one whole thing so viewers could have had the whole story delivered to them in one big blow. However, that is to say, this episode was indeed pulling at my heartstrings in more ways than one. Even though personally I already knew what was going to happen, it didn’t deter me from enjoying wholeheartedly this big reveal. Finally, we are able to see how the village came to be. The cradle of desire – in the manga translates as greed. And Vueko did mention something about the abyss acknowledging the avarice of the Ganja group. In return giving them the egg-like relic.
The robots mention that egg-like relics are usually known to grant wishes, Vueko asks Wazukyan to give the relic to Irumyuui so that she could get better, but not before long Vueko also falls into the disease with the water. As Belaf, with the help of a big man, cracks open a rock, they discover layers of corpses, the water was eating animals and pushing them to the side, and that how it expands its territory, making them mangle with dirt and sediment. But the Ganja group drank that water, it’s not water but some type of creature that seems like water and acts like water but it’s not actually water. Wazukyan drinks it like there’s nothing wrong with it. Vueko falls into this disease, and is unable to move her body or take care of herself, meanwhile, as the days go on, Irumyuui is transforming into something else, something that isn’t human, she’s getting her wish granted, her biggest trauma was that the tribe above the abyss saw her as cursed and sacrificed her into the abyss with the Ganja group. So the relic grants her that wish and gives her a child, but because they don’t have any organs they are unable to live past more than a day. And so an endless cycle of death and birth starts for Irumyuui, the next day she births another creature, only for it to die the next, and so on and so forth for a little while. However, the rest is for the next episode to reveal.
Oh man, I have to talk about that scream, Irumyuui VA (Kuno, Misaki) did such an amazing job, that combined with the amazing music of MiA sent chills down my spine, one of those moments that I looked at the manga and wondered if they were going to do it justice in the anime, but they certainly did and even more so.
I’m tiptoeing around here, not really wanting to spoil anything for those that have yet to read the manga and are anime only, how are you guys doing, are you okay? Do you need a hug? All jokes aside, things are about to get even worse, this is the episode that pulls you back into the darkness of MiA it was always there, the story just had to build up these characters and make us care for them so that later it could destroy them. What an absolute treat.
Before the episode ends Wazukyan feeds some type of broth soup to Vueko, in hopes of making her get better, he also says that he fed something similar to the rest of the Ganja group in hopes that they will also get better. Think about what is going on, what is the current situation, where did he get meat to bake this soup, and let your imagination run wild. Heartwrenching for sure.
My first thought after this episode, honestly, was that Tsukushi Akihito must have had one heck of a messed-up childhood. I consider myself a fairly imaginative person and a modestly decent writer, and I’m someone with a relatively dark outlook on life. But there’s no way I could come up with stuff like this – it would just never happen. The sheer level of existential despair coupled with the shocking way it manifests itself makes Made in Abyss pretty unique. The only think I can really compare it to is “Chimera Ant”, but even that’s not really a good comparison. What Togashi does there is fundamentally different to Tsukushi and MiA.
Not for the first time, I find myself struggling to concretize just how I feel about this series. I admire it hugely – both the writing and the execution of the adaptation. I deeply respect any story that can impact me on such a fundamental level. But do I enjoy it? Do I like it? I honestly don’t know the answer. The way I felt after watching this episode… I mean, on some level you’d have to be nuts to actively search for things that make you feel that way. But in the sense that what we crave from fiction is for it to make us feel something – anything – deeply, it’s like a drug.
Irumyuui is the key to everything here, certainly. She can read the strange glyphs the exiles find in a cave (though I don’t think she understands the words). As Vueko bonds with Irumyuui more and more to the point of single-mindedness, her recounting of these events turns into a survival story. Certainly the exiles can’t go back up – even if the “elevator” that brought them here can – but the Shourou Layer is clearly going to be no easy place to settle. The exiles find three interference unit robots to help them, but there’s only so much they can do. As is so often the case in the situations, water is the first priority for survival.
The exiles do everything right (under Belaf’s leadership) in finding water. They narrow down the options the robots provide them to the one which appears not to be befouled and doesn’t require venturing into dangerous territory. They boil the water before consuming it, even though it looks and smells pristine. But it’s this decision which sets the wheels of their fate in motion. They also have to deal with the creatures of the Abyss – some of which they hunt and some of which hunt them, including the little furry creature that Irumyuui has adopted as a pet.
Irumyuui carries the weight of her expulsion from her village along with her shame over not being able to bear children. It’s Vueko’s own cruel past that literally and symbolically binds the two of them, and she begins to think of herself as the girl’s mother. But soon, the children start falling ill – the first symptom being diarrhea (shit is definitely a major Tsukushi fetish) with eggs in it. And it turns out that the “water” they’ve been drinking is another of the weird and terrifying creatures of the Abyss, and it begins to warp their bodies into strange inanimate forms. They have no other water, but this water is killing them.
In the throes of desperation Wazukyan finds what looks like a giant golden egg in the knapsack of one of the children that has died (being a prophet allows him to see things, clearly), which the interference units recognize as a “Cradle of Desire” – or a wish-granting egg. One of them tells Wazukyan that the egg is responsible for what happened, though it’s not clear exactly how. Adults should steer clear of it, but a child – especially a fearful one – may be closer to its visceral wavelength. Vueko convinces Wazukyan to let Irumyuui convey her wish to the egg, and this is the final fateful fork in the road leading to the present moment.
I think what happens next is pretty obvious. It’s bad enough that Irumyuui’s fondest desire is warped into this existential despair-producing cycle of dead offspring (which resemble her dead pet). What happens after, well… I suppose one can’t judge Wazukyan if they haven’t walked in his shoes, but it’s a deeply shocking turn of events. As to how it reflects on the present, it seems likely now that Irumyuui isn’t Faputa after all – though with everyone undergoing transformations, I suppose that’s not impossible. They’re certainly connected – maybe Faputa is an offspring that survived, or came into existence in some other way connected to the Cradle of Desire.
This horrifying turn of evens is surely what drove Vueko to take the actions that got her imprisoned beneath Iruburu for how knows how long (and just how long strikes me as an important question). Ultimately the main import of this arc strikes me as being Reg’s origin story, but for now the exiles and their story are the emotional center of it. The Abyss continues to draw humans into it, and seems almost universally to bring them nothing but death and despair. Yet they’re still drawn to it in spite of themselves – it has a powerful appeal that makes one throw caution to the wind, much as a certain manga about it does.