Episode 5 – Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

“Longing sometimes get the better of instinct.”

That’s a word that has been hoovering over our heroes ever since their journey began, isn’t it? “Longing.” Riko’s initial descent was seemingly driven by her longing to reunite with her mother, or at the very least, to discover the mysteries that lay at the bottom. Reg’s role was framed by his longing to discover the truth buried in his forgotten memories (not to mention wanting to protect his friend). When they met Nanachi, their only desire was to find a peaceful death for their suffering friend, and now that they have achieved that goal, their priority has shifted toward helping their new companions…though Kaja can tell that there is something lingering in Nanachi’s heart , some remnant of longing that nestled itself into Nanachi’s soul, like a sliver. The Village can always tell what the heart longs for most, he said, no matter what its bearer may say to the contrary.

And the promise that the Village has made to all of its children is that whatever you long for can be bought and sold. For its fair price, of course. Always for its fair price.

“Concealment” is one of those episodes that is proof positive of the otherworldly magic that Made in Abyss can work when it is firing on all cylinders. We’ve spent enough time wallowing in the ominous and vague excesses of the Sixth Layers to build up a sufficient amount of mystery and dread, but this is where all of it is finally beginning to pay off in real, material ways that have consequences for our heroes that go beyond simply drenching them in all manner of unspeakable viscera. That still happens too—don’t forget to ask poor Reg about his run in with the turbind-dragon and its pukey boulder missiles—but now we’ve been given the two missing ingredients that the story of the Village of the Hollows has sorely needed: Stakes and context.

This being Made in Abyssthe imminent threat of plain old maiming and dismemberment has actually become a rather pedestrian affair, and as much as I’m sure our growing desensitization would delight the likes of Ozen the Immovable to no end, it also means that there must be specific and emotionally resonant context to the characters’ suffering if the show really wants to make it hurt. Which, of course, it obviously does. So, here in the two prongs of this week’s story, Made in Abyss delivers enough fascinating world-building and lays enough groundwork for future conflicts to give us all of the awful, awful context we could possibly need to start truly fearing what comes next.

Funnily enough, this is one of the rare occurrences where Reg gets off relatively scot-free compared to his two companions, for perhaps the first time since Riko nearly lost her arm back in Season 1. Sure, he gets his arm nicked by the turbined- Dragon’s barbs, and he’s gotten lost as all hell since he wandered off from Faputa’s lair, but most of the time spent with his story is focused on planting seeds for future developments for the stories’ past and future developments.

Faputa’s robot companion spills some most interesting tea about Reg’s official designation as an Interference Unit, and how Reg is especially unique on account of his ability to traverse to different layers, which raises all sorts of neat questions about his true origin and purpose, not to Mention the identity of his creator. Even more relevant to what is happening now, though, is how Reg’s new brother-in-stretchy-arms laments his inability to “stop” Faputa, or to put any kind of halt to the Village’s dark designs. of Reg’s functions were teased during Dawn of the Deep SoulI’m loving how much The Golden City of the Scorching Sun is continuing to explore and expand Reg’s personal motivations, specifically the ones that reinforce those personal longings that go beyond just helping his friends.

Speaking of those friends, Riko’s side of the story is positively stuffed with excellent storytelling and plot developments, to the point where I could scarcely believe the episode was already finished by the time Belaf made his cruel ultimatum. I would have been satisfied just with Riko’s Adventure in Language Learning, because that’s the kind of thoughtful world-building that I could just eat up all day (especially since it’s the kind that is almost entirely devoid of the other kind of world-building we’ve been getting so much of lately). I could have written paragraphs on the cool amalgamation language of the Hollows, alone.

Except then, I might not have time to talk about Vueko, and folks, we need to talk about Vueko. Since we haven’t gotten the big flashback episode that I have to assume is coming to explain exactly how in the hell the Three Sages became, well, what they are now, we can only make educated guesses on how and why Vueko has been languishing in the pit called “Doguupu”, but as always, even this incomplete tapestry of context is enough to vastly raise the emotional stakes of everything we’ve seen (and everything we have yet to see). of humanity over the unto years she’s been chained down here, and to Riko’s questioning of those bindings—”Are you…a bad person or something?”—, Vueko can only explain that “In Hell, everything gets so dulled…and we ended up being creators of hell ourselves.” She did apparently oppose creation of the Village, which is seeming less like a cradle and more like an existential Venus flytrap, but she still pursued that state beyond humanity, that has damned so of the humans that have made their many way down this far into the Abyss.

In other words, she says, “Oh yeah, I’m a bad person,” though that doesn’t give Riko any pause to free the wretched creature from her bonds, since her desire to protect her friends has always taken far greater priority than her own self-preservation. Again, though, the show provides a new layer of understanding to challenge Riko’s long standing policy of running headfirst into whatever certain doom presents itself first. It comes in the form of a price, naturally. Or, perhaps it would be better to call it an offer.

There are just so many implications to the fact that Belaf was able to trade so much of his own Hollowed body to get the Village to create a soul-perfect copy of Mitty to feed on with his horrifying proboscis eyes, but Riko is predictably more concerned with how Belaf exploited Nanachi’s longing to get them to trade their whole selves simply to remain there and save Mitty from being exploited by yet another cruel master. She just wants to know what she can possibly trade to earn her friends freedom back, and we don’t even have time to appreciate Riko and Mitty’s own tender…I don’t know if you’d call it a “reunion” in this instance, but you know what I mean. Belaf is willing to make a deal, and he’s even willing to concede to Riko’s haggling, but only so much. If she wants Mitty and Nanchi to go free, Riko will have to sacrifice either her eyes, her legs, or half of her internal organs. That is the price, and Belaf will go no lower.

When we see Riko truly considering what Belaf is demanding, we see the façade of her naivety slip for the first time in a long time. She has been able to brush off the terrible sickness brought about by the rotten food, not to mention the violations of the Hollows in the Village, in much the same way that she bounded right into Bondrewd’s lair despite knowing the barrier present for anyone lacking a White Whistle, or how she refused to be stalled when the Abyss nearly killed her before Nanachi came along. All this time, even the most terrible obstacles have been little more then stumbling blocks to Riko, for better or for worse, as her unyielding longing to go deeper into the Abyss has always won’t out in the end.

This may be the first time we’ve ever seen Riko reckon with the lesson that Vueko had to learn long before any other human ever set foot in this forsaken place. Longing sometimes gets the better of instinct, but how long can that last? What happens when you’re a creature born of this pit, or reborn of it, as Riko was? When longing and instinct become one in the same, one has to wonder if there is anything to do but wait for the Abyss to claim what always belonged to it to begin with.

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Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.

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