Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun Episode 4 Review
I have a confession to make, dear readers, I myself came into this second season of Made in Abyss fully expecting to enjoy it less than the first. The events of “Friend” cover pretty much the last material that I read of the manga before I set it aside in favor of waiting for the movie and sequel seasons to come out, and I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out even back then that Akihito Tsukushi was taking all of the most brutal and downright disturbing elements that we’d already seen in Made in Abyss and cranking them up to eleven. This isn’t even me making any kind of judgment on the overall quality of the story, necessarily, since the story is so obviously trying to unsettle and disgust its audience. Hell, a big part of what makes that first season such a masterpiece is how boldly it interrogates the contrast between the kids’ innocence and the overwhelmingly cruel nature of their journey. The ending of that season, which I consider to be basically perfect, is only possible because we have seen the tribulations that Riko and Co. have endured, and we know that their journey will only become more harrowing as things progress.
Made in Abyss has always been more than the sum of its parts, and I’d argue that the first season works much better in whole than it did as an episodic piece because only at the end could you see what everything was building towards. I’m giving this season the same benefit of the doubt, to be sure, but the one thing that differentiates Golden City of the Scorching Sun from its predecessors is the fact that it doesn’t have any breathing room to accentuate its grossest detours. We had a few episodes to acclimate ourselves to what was coming, and even when things got really dark in the final few chapters, there was always enough light at the end of the tunnel to make it worth bearing through. That doesn’t seem to be the case, this time around. For folks who don’t share the same levels of morbid, er, “fascination” with how much kinky torture these characters can endure, it makes it a lot harder to appreciate the story that is being told while all of those boldly fluids and violated orifices are constantly being flung at the screen.
In addition to all of the nonsense these kids (and the audience) have already suffered through since arriving at the Sixth Layer, “Friend” keeps the misery train rolling right along this week. Poor Reg experiences even more bellybutton and arm-stump mutilation (not to mention some non-consensual dick sniffing) when he is introduced to/reunited with Faputa; meanwhile, Riko has to endure the World’s Most Arrestable Toilet right before getting accosted by a literal back-alley gang of tentacle-rape Hollows. Even Riko’s respite from her would-be attackers is impossible to completely enjoy without any caveats, since the show goes out of its way to let us know that the Hollow Village’s restaurant carries the distinct whiff of feces and that Riko’s dish, which looks like a giant fried nutsack, is filled with a heaping pile of actual testicles. Knowing how this place works, I can only imagine that this meal of ball-abaisse was offered up by some freak in the village whose most innate desire was to get his gonads chopped off every day and served on a platter for the rest of his immortal life.
I don’t want to make it seem like this episode is nothing but a parade of self-indulgent gross-out sequences. Throughout “Friend”, we learn that Reg has some kind of past connection with Faputa and the Hollow Village, to the degree where Faputa somehow knows the name he only got after being discovered by Riko. We discover the Hollowed forms of Wazukyan and Belaf, and we see Nanachi brought to a somehow still living Mitty. Vueko is also still alive, and looking mostly human on top of it, though she is clearly somehow involved with the strange magic at the core of Village’s “economy”, which raises a whole host of interesting possibilities for where the story is going to go.
Hell, the show even brings in Maa, that grampa-assed, penis-armed weirdo that turned Meinya into a squeeze-doll, and it somehow makes the character kind of endearing. “Friend” may be the sort of episode that is mostly dedicated to asking a ton of bonkers questions that the season will (hopefully) answer before it ends, but I’ll be damned if I’m not fascinated by those questions. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the character’s animation and music are in top form this week. As much as I hated watching it, Riko’s close encounter with the Hollows was suitably creepy and menacing, and I love the way that Faputa’s bouncy form has translated into animation.
My current worry is that the story has lost that ideal balance it once had between the profane and the profound. I get that, depending on your own personal preferences, this leg of the journey isn’t supposed to be fun to watch. I can even appreciate, to a certain degree, the compelling drama that comes simply from forcing these little paragons of innocence to come face-to-face with the kind of kinky depravity that you would normally only find by digging up Cthulu’s browser history. We’re getting to the point, however, where all of that stuff is becoming so prevalent that it’s becoming harder to focus on the lovely production values and legitimately interesting developments in the story. I’m not to the point where I want to drop the show, by any means, and I don’t even think these recent episodes have been poor or disappointing. I am seriously wondering for the first time, though, if there will come a point where Riko and her friends are going to journey so far down into the Abyss that even a diehard fan like me will no longer be able to follow them.
Rating: 4/5 Stars.
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun Episode 4 is currently streaming on HIDIVE