Reg and Riko confront the mysterious Ozen the Immovable, who reveals many secrets about her role in Riko’s past. From there, they travel down through the Third Layer, an endless cliff full of dangerous predators.
My apologies for the lengthy break in coverage, I’ve been pretty busy in my day job. Hopefully we’ll resume normal service from here on out.
The vast majority of the important plot beats in this set of episodes centres around Ozen the Immovable, who’s a fascinatingly weird character. It’s not like the ‘evil mentor’ archetype is exactly new, but it’s rarely been played this darkly.or ambiguously. In particular it’s rare for anime to put a female character in this position and the incongruity of that choice just serves to further throw the balance of the audience off. To be clear, that’s a very good thing, as Ozen is without a doubt the most striking and interesting character to appear thus far. In a way I’m almost disappointed that the show falls back to the old ‘secret test of character’ schtick, since she’s so powerful and menacing as a threat, and her showdown with Reg is so dramatic that it’s definitely the standout moment across these four episodes. The scenes with Ozen are also a great way to demonstrate how Made In Abyss uses its entire arsenal to further the atmosphere of a scene. The encounters wouldn’t be half as memorable without Ozen’s terrifying silhouette and some well-chosen camera angles, while Sayaka Ohara plays masterfully against type, with the character’s memorably deep, slightly slurred voice adding a huge amount to her.
The centrepiece of the Ozen arc is of course the revelation that Riko isn’t exactly what you’d call alive, and the Relic used to carry her actually got her up and walking and talking. This is obviously a pretty cool revelation, but I think the way it’s presented deserves some attention also. While Riko is suitably shocked, they don’t grind the plot to a halt for multiple episodes in the way you might expect. Instead, the action and characterisation continue moving and the twist is further played out through Ozen’s flashbacks to her time with Lyza. I like this a lot because it means we continue to get stuff actually happen in the story, while giving the long-term implications of the twist time to settle and contextualising it within more character development, chiefly of the up-til-now absent Lyza.
Cleverly, the production team choose to intercut these flashbacks with Riko and Reg’s survival challenge, thus providing a rough parallel between the pair and Ozen & Lyza. It’s also an effective way of making sure neither story drags too much, especially the kid’s, which is a little too close to a cliche training episode for my liking, albeit one which has the benefit of the show’s immaculate atmosphere and highly detailed creature design. The continued attention that the story pays to developing the Abyss’s ecosystem and food chain is pretty remarkable, and contributes quite a lot to how ‘real’ the entire setting feels. This is especially true of episode 9 which is essentially an extended misadventure from one sort of weird monster to another. I’m impressed by how well the show switches gears, both plotwise and visually, from the slow, creepy and dank forests of the second layer to the frantic tumbles through tunnels of the third layer.
With all this stuff happening, it’s somewhat remarkable that the show still has time for weird tangents and character work, but it does and they continue to be tantalising glimpses into other facets of this world. The entire subplot with Marulk is brief but surprisingly touching, what with his desperate desire for company from children his own age, and his final words to Riko and Reg lend great pathos to the scene. Lyza herself is shown to be remarkably likeable in Ozen’s flashbacks too, and this in turn helps give a softer, more sympathetic side to Ozen herself, tipping her just far enough towards the light side. Reg gets the spotlight for most of the Ozen arc, but Riko gets a day to shine in episode 9, and they continue to be incredibly likeable protagonists, well written and well rounded.
In fact, you could probably apply that to the show as a whole. I don’t think that Made In Abyss has made radical steps forwards across these four episodes, but that’s not an indictment, quite the opposite in fact. Rather I remain pleasantly surprised that it’s managed to keep up such a high level of quality, while at the same time deepening and broadening its world. Probably my major concern at this point is how they’re going to effectively draw the story to a close. Or rather, since it seems obvious we won’t be making it to the bottom in the remaining episodes, how they’ll reach an appropriate point to end this series with the hope of another on the horizon. I’ve got confidence they’ll find a way though, because Made In Abyss has handily toppled every challenge before it so far.
- It’s not made quite clear whether Marulk is meant to be transgender or if it’s just the old anime standby of ‘haha, boys wearing dresses is funny’. I’ve referred to him as male in this piece but feel free to draw your own conclusions.
- I have to state again how incredibly badass Ozen’s armour makes her look.
- I really like the mournful vocal track which plays during Riko and Reg’s parting from the camp crew. It’s got an almost ethereal quality about it.
- The GLORIO crew has affectionately dubbed the Neritanians ‘Pancake Cats’.
- It’s almost hilarious how little attention they pay to Riko’s father. He barely gets a mention before he’s dead.
- Mysterious rabbit girl from the ending still hasn’t shown up. There’s only four episodes left!