Made in Abyss finale

One more show to go this summer, and for me was by far the best. That said, I had to get psyched up to watch the long finale of Made in Abyss; what were they going to put the kids through this time?

Nanachi and Mitty, before the ascent.

The arduous parts pretty much come in the first half, as we watch the still human Nanachi, a smelly street urchin who joins up with white whistle Bondrewd’s young volunteers to go down to the 5th level, and then the sixth. And she meets an adorable, excited redhead girl named Mitty, and I had to close my eyes for a minute. The scenes after that, preparations and more bonding, are weighed down with dread until we get the inevitable experiment scene, and yes, we see the transformation, and it is as grotesque as I feared.

That heaviness over with, we switch to another one. Mitty can’t die, and it’s not for want of trying by both Bondrewd and Nanachi, the former for science, I suppose, and the latter out of compassion, but Reg’s death-ray can do it. But Reg is not sure he wants to, not only because Mitty is a living creature, if you call that living, and also because Nanachi is devoted to her. We see them discuss it (Mitty’s soul is trapped in that body, they just can’t abandon her–she is immortal but feels pain), think about it, but finally, they are ready. For all the soul-searching the two have to do, these scenes don’t feel wither rushed or slow, just enough time to for both of them to demonstrate the doubt and grief they’re feeling.

Hi Riko! Sleep well?

After that it lightens up a bit. Riko finally waking up feels like a fresh chapter in the story, and her instant affection for the embarrassed but obviously pleased Nanachi gives the story the happy lift we all needed at this point. At this point, along with cute domestic scenes, we get mystery, namely Riko’s “bad dream,” a connection with Mitty that was hinted at last week. Both Riko and Mitty were suffering but somehow reassured each other in that closed space. I can’t help but probably wrongly speculate that Mitty had to vanish from that peephole before Riko could wake up, or Mitty somehow helped Riko mentally recover from her ordeal. Probably we’ll never get the whole story, and maybe we shouldn’t.

But overall the tone remains light for the rest of the episode. In the closing credits we watch the three make preparations to go farther down, while a message balloon they sent up retraces each level we’ve seen, and allows us meet all the characters again. A beautiful way to top off the season. Actually, the final episode as a whole couldn’t have gone any better. It gave us everything that the show is famous for, the cute characters, strange concepts of life and death, cruel behavior and horrible suffering, beautiful and grotesque things, more glimpses of an amazing fictional world, and gorgeous art and animation. Even if we couldn’t have predicted the events this time (and it pretty much went the way I expected, plot-wise), it was told so well, each part taking as long as it needed and nothing more, that it was never dull the way hour-long episodes can be. This is the best anime series I have seen in years. Now all we can do is wait for a second season. Don’t tell me there won’t be one.

One more of, well, you know …
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Finales: Tsurezure and PP, plus Abyss 12

Some of the couples are right back where they started.

The finale of Tsurezure Children has basically two scenes, the first being a comedy-ridden sports festival soccer tournament where we see most of the couples we’ve been following interacting on the pitch and on the sidelines. Sort of touching base with them one more time. Most of the relationships don’t change, but we get a good deal of Chiaki/Kana’s complicated situation as the latter insults the former until he saves her from an errant ball, more “hmphs”, then she cheers him in a strange way and he gets inspired. After that we turn to the sweet, heartwarming part, the last class before summer break and everyone wants to go to the beach, except Takano doesn’t want to go if Sugawara isn’t, and vice-versa. Who’s going to break through this? Let me just say I was pumping my fists over the outcome. Happy about Chiaka/Kana, too, but really those two ought to take better care of their phones.

So not every couple got to the finish line, and there’s no indication we’ll be getting a season two, which is a damn shame. This was a consistently funny and sweet show throughout, and, with Made in Abyss, a highlight of my weekly viewing. It juggled countless relationships and made them all interesting and fresh to watch, partly because, while every couple’s issues were different (an amazing feat right there), they were always recognizable. And while this show was a comedy, it wasn’t cruel to any character. The kids are new at this, they are awkward, they make mistakes, and I rooted for them to push through that and to get what they want, and I’ll say it again, it’s a damn shame we won’t get to watch them succeed. I want a second season!

One more of Takano, who finally took a step forward.
And one more of Kana, nicely summing up.
Reg’s revenge.

Which leads me to Made in Abyss 12, and while this one has another episode to go, a long one, I hear, it too will end and have me sobbing in frustration. Back up on the surface there’s a strange curse that kills off children on their birthday, except Kiyui recovers, to the shock of Jiruo. So this is the “True nature of the curse” that the episode title is named after, not the nature of the abyss curse, well, they’re probably related. The episode jumped from this scene to others. until a shocking request from Nanachi at the very end, which I won’t spoil. Every one its own was effective, but didn’t work with the other scenes as well as they could have.

The creepiest scene of the episode for me.

Anyway, we jump to Nanachi explaining the latter curse to Reg in ways I really didn’t understand, except a cloth covers you. Then more confusion as Nanachi has Reg take on that orb piercer by thinking something weird and jumping sideways. … Wait, if he used his blaster, why didn’t he fall asleep? And a very odd vision (flashback) at something distorted looking through an eye-hole. With hindsight it was the scariest moment of the episode. All of these things, topped by Nanachi’s request at the end, didn’t mix well, but at the very least there’s more weird things about the abyss for us to ponder, and there’s what Nanachi asked at the end.

Princess Principal finishes with a stumbling episode where we learn that the revolutionaries’ plot is to drop the cathedral ceiling on the queen, and then Princess will, I guess, assume power and start the big changes, or the plot fails but causes enough unrest that the Republic invades. Not sure of the logic of either, really. Meanwhile, the other girls regroup and even Ange makes it back, only to have Dorothy trick her in some way that matters to no one. Anyway, the girls provide just enough trouble that the ceiling dropping (done with a key in a lock) doesn’t happen, everyone escapes, Ange and Princess reconcile, L returns for unexplained reasons and kicks the general out of his chair, and the girls hang out in Casablanca. But what about the revolution now? The rebels Princess talks to seem unsure whether to rebel or to obey her orders. In other words, it’s a half-baked episode full of missed opportunities for fun (the ceiling, for example) and unexplained details.

No, just episodes.

I bet they’re angling for a second season, but I’m not sure the show deserves one. Most of the episodes were stand-alones that didn’t do much for the big story arc, such as it was. And when they finally came up with one, it was a mess. It’s too bad because this was a potentially rich world full of possible story ideas and an excellent steampunk aesthetic, and I rather liked all the characters in it. If they had worked on a bigger overall arc, and they had two unfriendly nations to work with, it could have been much more interesting. Instead, they chose to focus on the girls themselves. As I said, I liked them, but they weren’t enough to carry the series. This show was a regrettable miss.

Abyss 11, Princess 10, Tsurezure 11

I didn’t expect Made in Abyss 11 to be as intense, unrelenting, and painful as #10, and so it wasn’t. I’m also happy that the whole episode wasn’t simply a long infodump by Nanachi. We got a little information, sure, but the show continues to do a very good job at slipping the necessary info (and not more) when we actually need it. Instead we got a lot of treatment for Riko, and while some of it was kind of disgusting (I didn’t need to know about the butthole, thanks), it really wasn’t so bad. What bugged me the most was Reg’s persistent pleas for Nanachi to save Riko, even though, all the while, she’s been doing just that, not to mention his endless apologies and thank yous. When she sent him off to find things for Riko (heh) I think it was partly to get him out of her fur. And she saved them probably because Reg wouldn’t shut up.

That aside, we get to see more wonders of the abyss, none of it deadly this time, and more of its grotesqueries. The parasitic mushrooms (now sewn into Riko’s arm) I could handle, but I almost lost it when we meet Mitty, Nanachi’s roommate, and living proof of the damage ascending from the sixth level will cause you. But Mitty might be more than an object lesson, as it gets very interested in the resting Riko at the episode’s end. When you consider the episode’s other big event, the flashback for Reg that suggests he not only knew Lyza but perhaps buried her, and his hallucination of the “grave” ozen mentioned, you get the chilling thought that Mitty could be Lyza, and if not that, Lyza might look like that now, anyway. Oh, not to forget the flashback we get from Nanachi–wonder whose whistle that is? And so, a sort-of respite episode fascinates us with more hints, and no one had to cut off an arm.

Princess Principal 10, at the very end, with two episodes to go, gives us a story arc that lives up to the premise of the series. Their boss, L, has been replaced by a guy with medals they call the General, and he orders the to assassinate Princess. It’s an excellent idea–I can’t think how they’ll get out of it, and we have to consider just where the hell L went, and why General, a spy, wears all those metals. Also, which Princess? Say they get rid of the blonde girl. Ange can just step in, since she’s actually her, but that would really mess things up for Princess, even if they faked her death. Yeah, a lot of things to chew on. As for today’s episode, a former classmate at spy school turned double-agent, one of the better episodes, but I’ve had trouble caring once I realized there wasn’t going to be a big story arc in this series. I had more fun looking at the art and enjoying the steampunky atmosphere, as I usually do.

It was hard to say which part of Tsurezure Children 12 was the best, that is, until the final scene, with Kyouko taking an important test and actually trying to pass for once. If she could focus she could probably pass, but part of her is embarrassed by what the other kids are thinking of her, and another has esteem issues. It helps that Akagi stays out of the way for once. This scene stole the episode for me, but all the other bits were strong, too. There’s more mingling of couples as Takano gets details about how Kamine did it (Kamine/Gouda is the the model couple that others try to emulate), and it might FINALLY be getting through her thick skull that she likes Sugawara. It helps that she learns the vice-versa as well. Chiaki take possibly another step backward, while Takase and Kanda slowly advance,

Tens: Isekai Shokudou, Abyss, Tsurezure

Love those wings the fairies have.

Isekai Shokudou 10 is another routine episode where we meet still another magical race, cute little fairies with butterfly wings, led by their queen, Tiana Silvario XVI, and Victoria advises them to try a fruit crepe, though I suspect anything sugary would work for them. A few months later and the fairies are leading local contingents to the restaurant, and while we don’t see all of them inside, I like to imagine them fluttering all over the place, though, sadly, the show’s budget doesn’t really allow for that. The ones we see just float and hover. Then Fardania, traveling, meets up with Christian, a friend of her dad’s and they have … natto spaghetti. I didn’t know that was a dish. They then decide to try it with rice and like it even better. I wonder what the elves would think if the restaurant carried traditional Japanese food …

At least from this angle we can’t see why Riko’s screaming.

Made in Abyss 10 is even more harrowing than last week’s. It starts out quietly enough, with Riko going on about this 4th layer and its enormous cup plants full of hot water, and then an orbed splitter shows up and the kids’ fun trip immediately goes to hell. Riko is stabbed by a poisonous quill that will kill her, and, even worse, the only thing they can do is go back up, and the curse is especially bad at this level. Starting from the stabbing up to Riko’s apparent death, we get the most violent, visceral, and gripping scenes that I’ve seen in a while, and will purposefully never watch again. Scenes that made me turn my head because I didn’t want to watch, but of course I did.

Finally, Nanachi.

Okay, that weird character, Nanachi, that we see in the ED, shows up at just the right time, a little too conveniently for my tastes, but Riko would have died for sure otherwise, and with maybe three episodes to go it’s about time they introduced her. Not sure what they’re going to do with her with so little time to go, but I expect next week will be a healing and infodump episode, so we will probably find out.

He deserved that.

Tsurezure Children 10, let’s check the scores. Scene 1, Yamane/Kurihara has little progress made, in spite of Yamane’s pal Tomomichi shouting out each character’s subtexts because the lovebirds are too scared to get any closer. It doesn’t help. Kamine/Gouda have a head of the pack, dealing with every problem they have by talking it out and forgiving the other’s peculiarities. Then it’s Chiaki/Kana, who actually watch the previous couple’s latest kiss with admiration, but still can’t get settled to do the dirty deed themselves. Frankly, I blame Chiaki, who really ought to take the initiative, and what the hell was he thinking taking some liquid courage first? How was THAT going to put Kana in the mood? On the other hand, I think their games are actually getting in the way of further romance, so maybe this will knock some sense into him, well, along with Kana’s punch.

Tsurezure and Abyss 9, Re:Creators 20, Princess P 9

A lot of these kinds of looks in this episode.

Tsurezure Children 9 feels like a letdown though the content is perhaps the purest display of how kids can over-analyze every single thing their prospective sweethearts say and screw up any progress they’ve made, or say the wrong thing and regret it immediately. The best example is the Kanda/Takase scene, where both kids, desperate to get back on track with the other, almost mind-game themselves out of a relationship for good. She thinks he might not like her anymore, while he’s trying to find a way to confess. It’s a miracle they agreed to be friends after all. No wonder the episode was called “Square One.” Meanwhile, Kamine and Gouda, after that kiss, talk themselves out of another one, though they both clearly want to. Takano, the queen of fooling oneself, might slowly be getting it through her thick skull that she likes Takurou, but now HE’S playing mind games on HIMself. Meanwhile, Minagawa, who delights in mind games on other people, has more fun at Jun’s expense, and now I begin to see why he’s hesitating. It’s next to impossible to know when she’s serious. So, basically, no progress is made anywhere, not even Kanda/Takase, and that couple have been the best so far at overcoming their mind games and going for the lips, well, up to now.

You know what this means …

Made in Abyss 9 has all the frights and excitement I thought we would get in the survival training. More or less the first thing that happens, apart from using cute furry things to lure away a madokajack, is encounter the lair of another one. Reg has no choice but to blast it, and you know what that means. Now it’s up to Riko to drag Reg’s body around while she tries to survive without his help. They’re chased by another monster, then fall into the trap of a amakagame and wind up in its stomach! Then they’re chased by cute furry critters because they smell like fruit, because of the amakagame, you see, then, perhaps the worst of all, Riko has to ascend for a while, vomit, hallucinations, and ANOTHER monster at the end! But Reg finally wakes up.

After all that fun the point is made that Riko could not have made it this far without Reg, which we already knew, and Riko already knew. Ironic, then, that this episode is all about Riko doing exactly that, and dragging an unconscious and thus useless Reg with her to boot. For me, it was also satisfying. I had sometimes thought that Reg was doing all the heavy lifting in this journey. I’m very happy to see Riko act brave and resourceful, and survive, on her own.

Well, there’s two episodes left …

Re:Creators 20 had one good thing going for it: we finally got to see Altair taken aback, a couple of times actually. And there’s the long-awaited reappearance of you-know-who (not Mamika), thanks to Souta, and Magane’s illogic. Did you really think she wouldn’t show up somehow? On the other hand, the other parts of the episode were mostly downers. Sure, it looked like creating another version of Altair was going to work, but it was too early in the episode, so you know Altair would come back and make some more boring speeches about her fan-based power and the end of the world as she killed more people off. What’s her bullshit point about heroes all dying, anyway? It doesn’t work like that. … I’m curious as to what Blitz will do at this point. Surely they’ve kept him around because he was a sort-of father figure to Altair. What is he going to add at this point? Also, with two episodes to go, how are they going to pace it? I suspect that we’re in for a lot of long, emotional speeches next week.

Princess Principal 9 gives us a letter from Chise to her big sister back in Japan, and tells her that she’s a spy. Considering her connections and proximity to secret stuff, I’m not sure she should be writing that. Maybe the letter will be sent by private courier. Anyway, we have an amusing series of clash of cultures scenes to begin with, then a confrontation with some asshole, which leads to a duel. Not sure what the point of it all is. We didn’t really learn anything new about Chise. However, I enjoyed the ignorance that both sides have about each other and the scenes where one side refuses to learn anything, as opposed to the scenes where one side tries awkwardly to learn, summed up by that ridiculous dance the other girls do for Chise at the end. Also, that this is a Japanese show, but its one Japanese character is more of a western stereotype.

Eights: Abyss, Shokudou, Tsurezure

Back from survival training.

I had expected Made in Abyss 8 to be a long, dangerous and scary half hour where Riko and Reg are close to torn apart every second, with lots of fleeing through dark forests until something new comes up to make their survival training even worse, and it indeed starts like that–you knew there was something in that glowing pond that would pop up. But after that, the show decides it can mix in some other things as well, namely having Ozen and that geezer talk about the kids’ progress, praising their spunk, etc, and a flashback to Lyza and Ozen. The only other survival activity they show, apart from the insects, is the “rhino-thing” that nearly kills Reg and that they somehow manage to capture and eat. And then the ten days are up and the pair are dragging themselves back to the settlement. While I didn’t really want a full half hour of terror, I feel a little cheated. Or maybe it’s to drive home the idea that time moves more quickly the farther down the Abyss you go. Even Reg says that the ten days went by in a flash.

Not sure why the show put it in this episode, but Lyza’s hair is amazing.

Once they’re back the show glosses over other things. Ozen tells them all sorts of secret truths that only White Whistles know, including the identities of other White Whistles, each with their own weird title, none of them as cool as Lyza or Ozen’s. But we only get a quick synopsis from Reg (interesting choice, that) and no details. And then Rika and Reg are ready to plunge down to the third layer, the Great Fault, and the guys at the camp (whom we have barely seen at all), including heartbroken Marulk (she finally gets to meet people her own age and now they’re leaving) say goodbye. The rest of the episode is another flashback with Lyza and Ozen, where we learn how important Rika is to Lyza. It also demonstrates how close Lyza and Ozen have become, and their mutual respect. The show has, sadly, rehabilitated Ozen, but I suppose it’s okay.

I don’t know if it’s because I watched Abyss just before, but Isekai Shokudou 8 looked bad, still figures with moving mouths. It also was a more-or-less uninspiring episode in terms of story. The first one was about a man who is rescued by a mermaid, and to thank her he treats her to hamburg steak. while it was sort of cute in the shy romance area, there wasn’t much more to it. Even the food descriptions were toned down. However, it does give us the mystery of how and when Arte the mermaid first visited the restaurant and tried the steak. I figure sea creatures aren’t familiar with beef, so maybe that’s it. The second half had Aletta becoming Sarah’s housekeeper, good for her, and Sarah’s worried sister Shia trying cookies for the first time. Apart from the bonding between social classes, there wasn’t much to this story either.

The score remains 0-0.

On the other hand, Tsurezure Children 8, like most of the episodes, is a delight. I still don’t like the Ryouko/Akagi stories that much because the latter is too manipulative, and I’m getting tired of Katori’s act, but then we have Kamine/Gouda, a couple to love because even though they’re both reluctant for different reasons, they manage to express their needs, only to discover that the other person is completely fine with cuddling more, or (gasp) kissing! Then, in a rare mingling of stories, Chiaki and Kana both hear about the kiss, and so they awkwardly try their own, though they’re still insecure enough that they need a comic routine as a buffer; here it’s sports, and it allows Kana to deliver her most acid line yet.

Abyss 7, Re:Creators 18, PP 7

Made in Abyss 7, when not giving Riko horrific news, or pounding Reg to shit, is all about Ozen the Immovable, who is so delightfully twisted that when she later is shown to be not quite THAT bad (but bad enough) I was disappointed.

I don’t like the sound of that.

After we get a quick scene of Habo hoping that Ozen doesn’t tell Riko about the vessel, Ozen does exactly that, and we learn something about Riko’s past that made me say “Ohhh shit!” in a way that I haven’t much done since Madoka MagiKa. Instead the concept of being in the Abyss making you become less human and more … well, look at Ozen for example (with concepts of god and death thrown in), returns in a more personal way than before, and we have to wonder, considering the other experiments Ozen tried with the curse-repelling vessel (which is NOT what it does, heh), just how human Riko is.

Don’t like the sound of that, either.

Not to mention Reg, who’s next on Ozen’s torture list, though this time it’s physical rather than emotional. Ozen tells them both that she despises them and is going to kill them. Reg, naturally, fights back and doesn’t get very far, and at one point I thought he had actually died until I remembered he had fired his ray gun. Not that it matters to Ozen the Immovable, who beats him up some more. Throughout all this pain and suffering Ozen seems to be having a wonderful time. Again we have to wonder if Riko is going to wind up as strange as Ozen, though probably not as, er, dark.

As I said, I was a little disappointed by what happened next, Reg waking up and finding other people there with Ozen, the whole unpleasant experience being sort of a test to see if they could survive on lower levels (apart from the punishment Reg got, where Ozen admits she got a little carried away), though the dark lines she mutters throughout made more sense–Ozen was genuinely curious about them. She also admits she lied a little, and she actually gives Riko some good news. By now the mood has lifted a good deal. We watch flashbacks of Ozen and Lyza, then her apprentice, in bright sunlight, the latter not letting Ozen’s appearance or reputation deter her. It’ll get dark again soon, now that Riko and Reg are about to undergo Ozen’s survival training. Heh.

Speaking of “heh” …

I thought that Re:Creators 18 would be an episode where Altair gets the upper hand and everything gets dismal for a while. Instead, nearly the opposite happens. Magane spouts some nonsense at Souta, with an occasional decent line that often reflects whatever scene they cut to next, or maybe it’s coincidence, since much of it has to do with the ability to do anything–cut to Blitz meeting his daughter. Back to Magane/Souta, where the latter admits that he will do just about anything, good or evil, for the sake of … he just doesn’t know. Magane seems to like this answer, or its amorality, and goes off on another verbal bender about making value out of fool’s gold for the sake of fan-approval which Souta rejects, which apparently triggers something we don’t see yet. And Yuya gets his spectre-thing back as well, because it will be more fun. So basically this whole giant event is for the benefit of Magane, I think. And all of that is for the benefit of us, the viewers at home.

I don’t know what Magane is on about now, but it seems to be working.

Anyway, the rest is a series of gratifying scenes. Yuya, Blitz, and, er, Extreme Final Legend Martial Artist Hikayu (and by “gratifying” I didn’t mean her outfit) defeat Shou in comical fashion–Hikayu’s grand entrance was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Then it’s on to Rui, Selesia, and Aliceteria, with some help from Meteora, going up against Altair, remember her? Time to bring out Charon, from Selisia’s world, and now things are more even, but what can he bring? Can he throw Selesia into doubt? I don’t believe it. In fact, I wonder how they’re going to extend things further. Everyone has defected from Altair’s camp except for Charon. Well, as long as everyone in the audience has a good time. If it doesn’t, if they have more time, maybe the characters will resort to a little kayfabe action to entertain them. And we’ve seen that the fangirls would like some hot Yuya/Shou action, maybe with Hikayu watching.

Princess Principal 7 is a major letdown from the cruel ironies stacked atop ep6. In it, the team infiltrate a laundry to track down a lone killer who goes after Commonwealth sympathizers, because he would send his nerve-gas stained clothes to the laundry to clean, right? So the good guys think. I was rather pleased to discover that the killer actually did not do this, and that their discovering his jacket, thus his identity, was an incredible coincidence for the sake of the story. Why he actually wore his military jacket in the first place doesn’t enter into the minds of the killer nor the show’s creators.

But the plot is secondary to what the show wanted to give us–a look at poor women laborers in nineteenth-century London and the appalling conditions they worked in. Of course, the girls buying and reorganizing the laundry to increase efficiency and worker safety wasn’t realistic, but this is a 21st-century anime series, after all. Silly bits aside, they did an okay job with it, with the help of the show’s consistent vision of what London at the time actually looked like, with steampunk trappings. But once again I wonder when they will come up with a long-term story arc, if ever.