Kristina Elyse Butke
Wishes and Weirdness: A Review of "Made in Abyss Season Two: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun"
I have been watching Made in Abyss across multiple platforms and luckily discovered that Season Two has been airing as a part of Adult Swim/Toonami and that's how I've been able to view this season! It premiered July 6th and ran into September on HIDIVE, so I'm a little late to discovering it, but I only recently watched Season One and the follow-up film, so finding Season Two now feels like great timing as not much time has passed since my viewings.
Oh, what a season this was!
There is no going back for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, and the only way forward is to the bottom of the Abyss. However, the three friends weren’t the first to enter the unknown. Whatever happened to all the other explorers who braved the Abyss?
Story: After the events of Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul, Riko, Reg, and Nanachi enter the weird bubble ship and descend through a deep ocean into a sunny land--the titular "land of the scorching sun." Nevermind the weirdness of a burning bright sun that fills a world under an entire sea...the land is filled with ruins and even more dangerous creatures than before.
But the story itself starts with the point of view of a team of explorers called the Ganja who made their way across the sea to the island that holds the Abyss. Throughout the story, flashbacks of their doomed adventure appear, leading up to their lives in the Hollow village of Ilblu, where Riko, Reg, and Nanachi encounter them and are given safe haven from the dangerous world of the sixth layer of the Abyss.
The stories of the Ganja and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi come together this season to make for an interesting, if not sometimes confusing, story that is hard to stop watching. I've mentioned before that this series is thoroughly compelling, and it holds up even when there were moments that I didn't fully understand. I'm quite invested in this series and can't wait for the next installment.
Characters: There are soooo many characters this season, largely because we've got the main story and then the parallel story with the Ganja explorers. I'd rather just focus on the major players, even though there are quite a few characters in the Ganja group/Hollows Village that have airtime. Forgive me!
Riko (Brittany Lauda) is just as plucky as ever as she journeys further into the Abyss. She is still an endearing character, ready to sacrifice herself for her friends at the slightest sign of trouble...which she has to be careful about, because in some instances, there's no turning back!
Reg (Luci Christian) continues to provide support to Riko and Nanachi and proves himself a loyal friend. What complicates things, though, is Reg's sense of loyalty--before he lost his memories, he was friends with Faputa, and her desire to destroy the Hollow's village conflicts with Riko's desire to save it. Who should he be loyal to? What obligations should he honor? It makes for great watching. NANACHI
Nanachi (Brittney Karbowski) is also tested this season when Mitty, the close friend they thought they lost, reappears in the Hollow Village. Poor Nanachi! Feelings of guilt and loss flood back, and Nanachi jeopardizes Riko's mission to get to the bottom of the Abyss by trading themselves for Mitty. Nanachi goes through a slew of emotions this season and I rooted for them. VUEKO
Vueko (Kristen McGuire) is one of the members of the Ganja party and is considered one of the Three Sages of the group. She narrates the experiences of the Ganja through flashbacks and also, once she is in the timeline with Riko and the others, fills Riko in on the history of the village and how it came to be. And wow, what a disturbing history! And poor Vueko doesn't make it out of the story alive, being turned into a Hollow when the Curse of the Abyss infiltrates the Hollow Village. Vueko is an endearing character and narrator and I really felt for her throughout the season.
Irumyuui (Savana Menzel) has a tragic story that is also horrific. She was expelled by her village to the Abyss because she was infertile, and joined up with the Ganja party as a daughter/sister figure to Vueko. She made a wish on a Cradle of Desire and lost her body and humanity in order to end up being the structure that housed the Hollow Village, all the while daily giving birth to creatures of the Abyss and losing them in the same day due to them being born without organs. Her wishes came out so twisted, I couldn't understand the purpose of making those wishes to begin with, as I'll discuss later. Anyway, all I felt was pity for this character,
Faputa (Cat Thomas) is Irumyuui's daughter, the only one who survived and possessed intelligence and speech. She looks like Irumyuui even thought she is technically a Hollow. She is considered a princess and the embodiment of value in the village. Faputa is tough and filled with the desire to take vengeance on the creatures of the Hollow Village (the former Ganja party) for how they used her mother--they dined on Irumyuui's babies in order to survive, then used her to transform themselves into Hollows and house the village inside Irumyuui's body. Faputa has a long history with Reg and makes for a compelling character because you want to root for her but at the same time, hope she doesn't win, because what she wants is destruction.
Animation: Just like with earlier iterations of the anime, the animation is gorgeous in its backgrounds and lush colors, while the characters are deceptively childish and innocent- looking, which make for a stark contrast with the violence and horror of the story. This show is dark and mature, and the bluntness of the animation--creatures being torn apart, characters being attacked, body horror with transformations--is nothing to be scoffed at.
Voice Acting: I was torn as to whether or not I should watch Japanese or English, as I've seen both casts, but Adult Swim aired the show in English only, so that's the cast I've settled on for this review. Once again the voice acting is excellent. I think the standout performer for this cast is Faputa (Cat Thomas), who sounds both animalistic and human at the same time, and is filled with emotions from joy to sadness to complete rage.
Other shout-outs go to Vueko (Kristen McGuire) and Majikaja (Jay Hickman) the former sounding completely lovely and the latter completely weird, but totally fitting with their characters. I think the casting for these two was perfect.
Low Points of the Season: Nothing was bad, but I just had a lot of questions with this one. I watched the series twice trying to understand it and I don't think I know all the answers. I'm not sure how the sixth layer should even exist when the ocean above it was dark with freezing snow and ice and a mound of skeletons from animal corpses. I'm not sure how Bondrewd made it to the sixth layer to talk to Belaf without turning into a Hollow (because he repeatedly goes to other upper layers, and the sixth layer is supposed to be the point of no return). I know the movie said Bondrewd transfers his consciousness to another body, but the movie made it seem like that body had to be nearby, so how was Bondrewd able to make a transfer coming up from the sixth layer to the fifth?
There are bigger questions I have. I do not understand the nature of wishes or the soul's desire in this show. How are we supposed to feel about them? Irumyuui's wish to be able to produce children was awarded cruelly--she gave birth daily to multiple creatures born without important organs only to die, and then she transformed into something monstrous and completely lost her human form. It seems wish-granting is dangerous and not something to trifle with, and you're not going to safely get what you want. So why bother making wishes at all if they're going to be terrible and destructive?
The Hollows of Ilblu all have bodies of varying usefulness and ugliness, and they've completely lost their physical humanity. The bodies the Hollows were given were supposed to be an expression of their soul's desire. But Majikaja didn't get a body, and he specifically wanted one, so he had one built for him. It sounds like his soul's desire didn't get awarded to him. And for the creatures that are monstrous and hideous--does that mean their desires are terrible and they're given their just rewards? It just feels like the manifestation of the Hollow bodies is terrible overall...how did those bodies fulfill every soul's desire? Why are the Hollows so different from the Hollows that appear from the Curse of the Abyss? Is it because they gave their bodies up willingly? Is it because Irumyuui was somehow able to change them (which I didn't understand, either)?
Anyway, there were a lot of things I just didn't get this time around even with multiple viewings, and I felt kind of dumb trying to wrap my head around them. In order to even write this review, I had to consult the Made in Abyss Wiki several times just to make sense of things. I have mixed feelings about doing that--on the one hand, I don't think I should have to consult an outside source to understand what I'm watching, but on the other hand, I enjoy going down the rabbit hole of wikis.
If you had a better understanding than I did about the show, feel free to give me your perspective in the comments.
I want to make it clear that I really love this show despite having some difficulties with it!
High Points of the Season: I really enjoyed the flashbacks between Faputa and Reg. It was nice to have some of the blanks about Reg's past get filled in, and the two are kinda cute together when they aren't fighting.
Final Thoughts: This was an incredibly weird, but unmissable season. The Hollows themselves are bizarre characters, mixed with a disturbing, traumatic backstory. I had a lot of questions while I was watching this season, and yet I couldn't look away from any of it, no matter how disturbing or confusing to me it got. I enjoyed Season Two wholeheartedly and will continued to be obsessed with this series. I hear a movie will be coming out after this season airs, though I don't know when. I hope I'll be able to view it soon to come back at you with another review, but more importantly, to complete this compelling story!