In Made in Abyss Episode 13, “The Challengers”, we witness the full horror of what Bondrewd did to Mitty and to Nanachi; it’s something they’ve had to live with to this day. Regu struggles mightily to answer Nanachi’s question from the last episode. His response nearly breaks his heart. When the moment comes, can Regu and Nanachi go through with their decision? Is it the right call? How will they ever know, especially after the finality of such an act?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What’s In This Post
3 Favorite Moments
- In the midst of his own uncertainty and fears, Regu is still worried what will happen to Nanachi if he decides to kill Mitty (25:29). He ‘s not satisfied with Nanachi’s attempt at an evasive answer. He demands Nanachi promise not to commit suicide even after Riko’s fully healed. It’s not hard to understand why Nanachi would see this as a cruel request: all those years spent trying to find a way to kill Mitty, the treasured friend, had to have constituted unfathomable pain. How could anyone not be tempted to put an end to that? Yet, Regu being Regu, he couldn’t stand aside and just let it happen.
- Regu finds Nanachi has fallen asleep after reading a story to Mitty (23:35). The furry one looks exhausted and worn out. Regu pulls the blanket up a little to cover Nanachi’s shoulders, and that little gesture showed how much he had come to care about his friend. As he sits beside Nanachi, he reflects on what he should do. I think that this moment showed how much he struggled with the decision, even as he knew what he had to help Nanachi — and Mitty.
- Having gotten Nanachi to agree to accompany her and Regu on their journey, Riko is so happy that she dances for joy (42:08). This young girl, her arm bearing a terrible scar, her hand still nearly useless, fresh from a coma in which she almost died, is still capable of feeling and expressing such an emotion. She’s a standout character in a show filled with amazing characters.
Back in December 2015, I posted five anime series that might convert new fans to the genre. Made in Abyss would never, ever make that list. Or any list like it. I would not even consider showing this series to someone new to anime. Hell, I hesitate to recommend it widely even to fans! So before I talk about why I thought this series in general and this episode in particular are so amazing, I want to get something off my chest.
There are moments when this show exposes an unhealthy fascination with children or their bodies. Whether it’s suspending naked children as a punishment, or dressing a child like a different gender on a whim*, or talking about Regu’s penis, or showing/talking about Riko’s urine, there were moments that threatened to pierce my suspension of disbelief and ruin an otherwise beautiful series. And don’t get me started on the objective evil of conducting experiments on children! I’m sure there are arguments in favor of these things,** but the arguments I know about failed to convince me. Not only that, but those moments mean this show can never reach as wide an audience as it otherwise deserves, and that’s sad.
With that out of the way…
I’ll leave it to others with a better musical vocabulary to talk about the wonder that was this show’s soundtrack. I’ll also defer to artists who are in a better position to talk about how the art was so astonishing. Instead, I’d like to focus on an emotional singularity that proved to me this show had transcended its genre to become something to be treasured.
I think of art as the combination of the artist’s expression and the viewer’s reaction. That reaction can involve a deeper understanding of some concept, a feeling of affinity with a character, or just a moment of pure emotion. That’s really hard to accomplish, and yet Made in Abyss achieved that twice: once in episode 10 when Regu fought to keep Riko alive, and in this episode, as Regu prepared to incinerate Mitty. It’s no accident both moments shared a common technique: an almost perfect setup in terms of world, character, and circumstance. It’s almost like episode 10 was a practice run with a more simple premise. Within the context of “really hard to accomplish,” provoking an emotional reaction with the death of a dear character and another beloved character’s reaction to that death, is relatively easy. But what the writers did in this episode borders on astonishing.
Let’s face it. Euthanasia is a tough topic. It’s fraught with controversy. Does the recipient have the capacity to assert consent? Are they of sound mind? Do they have a legitimate reason to want to die? Do those willing to carry out the act have pure motives? Is there any reasonable hope for a cure or are there any other options? If any one of those questions wasn’t answered, I would have found it almost impossible to respond to Nanachi’s agony as she screamed “Mitty” and raced to embrace her friend one last time (27:22). The moment would have been marred.
But Made in Abyss is a work of art. One by one, in dramatic and touching ways, it answered each question before it showed us the full force of Nanachi’s pain. Mitty demanded to die, not only at the horror of her transformation (15:22), but in the wailing Riko heard in her dream. Mitty was in constant agony, as we saw not only in Riko’s dream, but in Nanachi’s descriptions. We witnessed the purity of Nanachi’s motives many times, like when she read to Mitty in this episode (22:58). We heard Bondrewd say that each regeneration introduced new deformations (17:00) and listened as Nanachi described how one of Mitty’s eyes had been destroyed (18:55). Finally, it answered the final question: Nanachi could not live forever, and then Mitty would be utterly alone (24:37), unable to die, in constant agony, until the end of time.
So, it’s with all of this fresh in our minds and hearts that we watch Mitty wait on a warm bed roll in the midst of pretty flowers, surrounded by her stuffed animals, for Regu to fire Incinerator. In a way, he represents the audience in this scene. He had to be convinced that this was the only way, just as we had to be convinced. We watch Regu prepare to fire, only to be interrupted when Nanachi throws herself on Mitty one last time. All of my intellect’s questions had been answered, so it had to remain silent. My emotions were completely in sync with Nanachi, because I believed in her heart. In that moment, all I could feel was her pain. It enveloped me completely.
That’s what it is to experience art.
Yet, even as the moment faded, I was surprised by a lingering doubt: did they actually do the right thing? Was there any other option? Had they misread the situation — was Mitty’s humanity actually still active in that broken body? I found that without an answer, I wouldn’t have any chance of closure. I think that both Regu and Nanachi silently harbored that doubt, too.
Even here, Made in Abyss has us covered. As Riko recounted her dream, it was clear she was in communication with what was left of Mitty’s humanity. We saw how her physical form imprisoned Mitty’s mind, and how it drove her to almost forget her humanity entirely. Fortunately for us, Riko’s mind was still connected to Mitty’s when Regu fired, and Riko watched as Mitty, returned again to human form, moved on: “Then I smelled something like smoke, and the crying stopped… You know, that girl simply left without ever turning to look back… but I could see her profile. And she was just like all the cave raiders I’ve seen… That eye I saw was filled with longing” (34:38). Regu and Nanachi had done the right thing; Mitty was now at peace, or at least had a better chance at peace than before. Nanachi was so relieved that she had to she had to excuse herself (35:48).
Despite the concerns I voiced earlier, I’m glad I spent the time with Riko, Regu, Nanachi, Ouzen, and the rest. Otherwise, I would have missed something singular and amazing.
What was your favorite moment or moments in the series? Let me know in the comments!
* To be clear, if Marulk has wanted to dress like that, I’d have no objection at all. But the practice seemed to embarrass him, and that forced embarrassment is the source of my concern.
** Yes, I agree that Bondrewd’s actions were more those of a villain and less like an unhealthy focus on children or their anatomy, but I still wanted to get a jab in at that monster.
Other Posts of Interest
- Made in Abyss Episode 1: The City of the Great Pit
- Made in Abyss Episode 2: Resurrection Festival
- Made in Abyss Episode 3: Departure
- Made in Abyss Episode 4: The Edge of the Abyss
- Made in Abyss Episode 5: Incinerator
- Made in Abyss Episode 6: Seeker Camp
- Made in Abyss Episode 7: The Unmovable Sovereign
- Made in Abyss Episode 8: Survival Training
- Made in Abyss Episode 9: The Great Fault
- Made in Abyss Episode 10: Poison and Curse
- Made in Abyss Episode 11: Nanachi
- Made in Abyss Episode 12: The True Nature of the Curse