When I first heard the premise for Made in Abyss, I didn’t really think I would be interested in this show and elected to pass on it. That all changed when the anime community and a couple of friends of mine started praising this show about three weeks into it. Wanting to see what the hype was about, I grabbed the first three episodes and I quickly realized just how wrong my misconceptions of this show were. A lot of people are calling this anime of the season and an anime of the year contender. Are their opinions valid?
Made in Abyss starts out focusing on a group of young children living in an orphanage. The orphanage resides in a town that was constructed around the rim of an extremely deep hole known as the abyss. There are people who live in the town known as cave raiders who plunge into the abyss in order to dig up artifacts that can fetch a high price up on the surface. This is how the town sustains itself and builds its economy. Some of these orphans are sent down as diggers in order to help with the dig efforts.
The cave raiders have different ranks with the most inexperienced being a red whistle (as denoted by the color whistle they wear around their necks) all the way up to the elite of the elite… the white whistles. One of the girls at the orphanage, Riko, aspires to become a white whistle just like her mother, who disappeared in the abyss. While on a dig, Riko is attacked by one of the creatures that live there and is saved when a mysterious android blasts it away with a powerful laser beam. The boy faints and Riko takes it back up to the surface where she names him Reg.
One day, her mother sends a message up to the surface along with her whistle. A note inside the package beckons Riko to come find her. While everyone says that her mother should be dead as that’s the only reason a whistle would be sent to the surface, Riko doesn’t want to believe it and is determined to head to the depths of the abyss to find her. The only problem is that the abyss carries with it a curse. Descending through the abyss will not do anything to you, but if you climb up; even as little as 10 meters, the curse will take effect. The curse gets worse and worse the deeper you go. For instance, you’ll feel a little nauseous and might throw up after ascending from the first layer. Down deeper, you will bleed out of every orifice in your body. Make it to layer six and they say return is impossible. If your body doesn’t die after ascending, your body will be transformed in such a way that you will lose all of your humanity.
After leaving the surface, the show primarily focuses on Riko’s journey to the bottom of the abyss with Reg as her protector. While the story is very simple and straightforward, it’s the journey and the individual encounters that Riko and Reg experience that make the show so compelling. The fact that the show focuses on little children is a huge misdirection to some of the things that happen to them. If you’re looking for a cutesy anime filled with good-natured fun, then you will get that with Made in Abyss… at first. Once the show hits the half way mark, it shows why the anime community has nicknamed this show “Suffering in Abyss.” Some of the scenes are pretty graphic as there is very little to no censorship used here. All I can say is be prepared for what lies ahead should you decide to watch the show for yourself.
The ending to any story is an extremely important factor and Made in Abyss delivered in a BIG way. The final episode was a one hour special and while I will not state what the episode was about in detail to avoid spoilers, I will say the backstory for two of the characters was absolutely heart-wrenching. If the backstory didn’t get to you then Reg’s actions afterwards will seal the deal. Many have said that the finale was a roller coaster of emotions with medium peaks and deep valleys. I would tend to say that description fits the ending perfectly. It also leaves the door wide open for a second season and by given how well this anime has been received thus far, the chances of it receiving a second season are pretty high!
While there were an abundance of characters in Made in Abyss the majority of them didn’t get much screen time as the major focus was on Riko and Reg… and later Nanachi.
The daughter of Lyza, a white whistle cave raider, who lives in the orphanage. After receiving a package with her mother’s whistle, she feels compelled to reach the bottom of the abyss. Riko is an adventurous girl who doesn’t exactly take in her surroundings all that well. Her determination to reach the bottom pushes her forward which is pretty dangerous in and of itself. It was like Riko had tunnel vision throughout the entire journey and while she was aware of the dangers each layer of the abyss possessed, she didn’t really think much of it. It conveys the naivety and innocence of a child, which is what Riko is, but it also shows that without Reg, she probably wouldn’t have made it all that far. Despite her innocent attitude, Riko shows that she is smart enough in most situations to the point where it gives you the impression she might have made it further than you would believe.
Even after the show ended, there still much mystery surrounding Reg. We know that he’s an android and that he has a connection with Lyza. Being that his body is special, he is immune to the effects of the curse in the abyss. He has the ability to extend his arms to great lengths as well as use a powerful laser built into them. The downside is that whenever he uses his laser, he passes out shortly after for about two hours, which would leave Riko prone to attack. Despite his android-like appearance, Reg still functions as a normal human. We know that based on the countless times the show refers to his penis.
Yeah… you read that correctly. Sorry… I get the joke and all, but that kind of stuff wasn’t really needed at all. Nevertheless, Reg is a likable character and while some hints were dropped as to what he is and where he came from, no concrete information was ever given, leaving most his backstory shrouded in mystery. Hopefully there is a season two and we get to know Reg a bit more.
After Made in Abyss turns into “Suffering in Abyss,” Riko is gravely injured and Nanachi, who had been following Riko and Reg for quite some time, intervenes in an attempt to save Riko’s life. I won’t say much on Nanachi because it will spoil the ending to the anime, but I will say that Nanach is a rare case of the sixth layer of the abyss. How she became that rare case, I’ll leave it up to you to discover, but her backstory produces one of the most heart-wrenching moments I’ve witnessed in a while. Nanachi grows on you as a character and becomes a fantastic personality towards the end.
She is a white whistle cave raider and the former mentor of Lyza, Riko’s mother. She resides in the Observation Base in the second layer. She takes Reg and Riku in on their journey and puts them through torturous situations. She comes off as very cold and uncaring, but in reality, she was merely testing them to see if they would be able to handle what lies ahead. Ouzen turned out to be a pretty decent character, but the moment you see her and hear the way she speaks, you can tell that she has a rather eccentric attitude about her.
I’m lumping them together because as soon as Riko heads into the abyss, that’s the last you see of them on a regular basis. Even when we take a literal few seconds to catch up with them, they really don’t add anything to the show. All I can say about them is that they are orphans and Riko’s friends. There is one moment where Kiwi does get sick and then mysteriously gets better… like almost instantly. The show never really explains why or how, but I guess that’s more of a reason to make a second season.
Art, Animation, and Sound
Kinema Citrus was behind the art in Made in Abyss. I praised them before for their work on Black Bullet and they’ve also done shows such as Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and Norn9. Despite their resume, I think Made in Abyss is their crowning achievement. While the characters were rather simplistically detailed, the backgrounds, the environment, the animation… all of it rivaled some anime film budgets. Everything was absolutely gorgeous to look at it really drew you into the world. In fact, my breath was taken away upon watching the opening moments or the first episode and my impressions only got better from there.
The sound was equally as impressive. Kevin Penkin, who leant his talents to Kinema Citrus before with Norn9, did the soundtrack for Made in Abyss and it is absolutely stunning. Every song draws you into the show, but one track stood out because it was used to much. It’s the second track on Disc 2 of the OST and it’s called “The First Layer.” It’s a very calming theme, but at the same time, it invites you in and makes you feel a part of another world. It’s my favorite track off the OST and the one song that sealed the deal in wanting me to pick it up.
Sadly, I can’t say the same about the opening theme “Deep in Abyss” by Miyu Tomita and Mariya Ise, who were the voice actors for Riku and Reg respectively. When the opening notes of the song hit, it draws you in and fills you with a feeling of awe. Then the vocals hit and you’re immediately taken out of that feeling. Japan has this uncanny ability to make the opening seconds of a song feel powerful and impactful and then they just throw all of that into the garbage when they turn the song into your standard fare of pop music or alternative j-rock. I just don’t like how the vocals sound or how the song is even sung. The ending isn’t much better, either. In fact, it’s even worse as those vocals are really annoying. I’d say skip these themes entirely and just focus on the stellar OST.
I asked if the opinions of this show being anime of the season are valid and if it should be an anime of the year contender. The answer that is a resounding yes. There is something really special about Made in Abyss and I think every anime fan should owe it to themselves to watch this show. From the beautiful art, to the compelling story to some of the more darker tones, there is a little something for every kind of anime fan in this show.
You get to feel a deep connection with the characters, you get a sense of wonder about the world deep into the abyss and you get to sit there and ask questions that just don’t have any answers at this time. Questions such as “how did the curse come to be?” “What are the effects of the curse beyond the sixth layer?” “What is Reg, truly?’ “Will Riko reach the bottom and discover what became of Lyza?” “Will the orphans get actual screen time?” and so many others.
I can’t the praises of Made in Abyss enough. Just go watch it!
Until next time,
Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss takes everything you could ever want out of an anime and gives it you. Fantastic art, characters you feel a connection to, a fascinating story, and emotions both high and low. Easily the hit of the season and an AOTY candidate.