Header Ads

Made in Abyss (2017)

The Abyss.

For some, it is little more than what it is, a giant hole in the ground that serves as the home to a wide variety of strange creatures and ancient artifacts. But only those who dare to venture into its depths begin to get a picture of the secrets and mysteries that lie in the depths of this strange realm. For young Riko who has longed to become a famed White Whistle, the most daring of the Abyss Cave Raiders, these mysteries are not the only thing drawing her down into the forbidden realm. When her mother, a White Whistle writes Riko a letter asking her to meet her in the depths of the Abyss, the brave little girl does not hesitate. Together with a mysterious humanoid relic named Reg. The two begin their journey down to the fabled bottom of the Abyss. Where they will face: monsters, other Cave Raiders, and the Abyss' deadly curse. Will the two friends be able to survive the journey? Or will they be left alone to die in an uncaring alien wilderness?

Made in Abyss is a 13 episode anime adaptation of the manga of the same name by Akihito Tsukushi. The anime was directed by Masayuki Kojima (director of 2014's Black Bullet and 2004 adaptation of Monster) and the animation was handled by Kinema Citrus Co. Other notable figures in the show's production include: character designer Kazuchika Kise (key animator for Ghost in the Shell), Art Director Osamu Masuyama (Background Artist for Spirited Away and Your Name), monster designer Kou Yoshinari (Key animator in Steamboy and Little Witch Academia) and scriptwriter Hideyuki Kurata (Scriptwriter for GunXSword and Excel Saga). The show's music was provided by Kevin Penkin. The show originally aired in Japan from July through September with the final episode airing as an hour special. The series has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and HIDIVE.

Though I am ashamed to admit that I missed the 2017 Crunchyroll anime awards, the award winners did not escape my attention. Even outside of the award itself, I would hear many an anime fan express their admiration for Made in Abyss and how it had subverted viewer expectations. Providing a viewing experience that felt like a breath fresh air for an industry that has become oversaturated with pandering and fan service. Curious, I took time to track the series down and give the 13 episodes a watch. While I can't say Made in Abyss hits all the right notes for me, from a technical standpoint I can definitely see why this show gets as much praise as it does.

On the surface, Made in Abyss seems like a lighthearted adventure romp with a human girl and her robot companion as they travel into the unknown. But much like the Abyss itself, there is an underlying terror to this scenario. That with the further they go down, the likelihood of our main duo coming out alive or unscathed from this experience seems less and less likely.

But the reason we fear for them at all is due to how well both Riko and Reg work off each other. Riko is a Cave Raider in training and as such, is the font of knowledge when it comes to the ecosystems of the Abyss. Though she is optimistic in her journey to find her mother, she understands the dangers she is walking into and how quickly her journey could end if she is not careful. Conversely, Reg, a robot boy from the Abyss, has no memory of who he is or how he arrived in Riko's town. So much of his identity is defined by his interactions with Riko. Due to his metal body, he is relatively indestructible, but when Riko's life is on the line he is plagued with indecision, The thought of being left alone giving him crippling anxiety. It is these characters and their dependence on each other through each challenge they face helps the audience become enamored with these characters and if they will be able to survive their journey.

Made all the more terrifying by the predators and dangers that stalk the Abyss's depths. If I had to highlight my favorite aspect of this show (other than the character interactions listed above), it would be the design and animation of the strange creatures of the Abyss. Big mouthed flying serpents, birds that reanimate dead bodies to lure prey, man-eating plants, the Abyss is home to a horde of dangers that Riko and Reg will need to stay one step ahead of. A daunting task made even more difficult by the Abyss's curse. A side effect that only affects humans that attempt to climb back up the Abyss. Resulting in symptoms such as nausea (the mildest case) to internal bleeding, a loss of humanity, or death. There are several instances we see these side effects on full display and it can be very difficult to watch. The latter episodes, in particular, were gut twistingly hard to sit through.

Though even at the end of these  13 episodes it is shown they still have a long way to go. Leading to one of my biggest problems with this show.

While the world building (primarily done through the gorgeously detailed backgrounds) and characters are spectacular, I found this a difficult anime to marathon due to it's pacing issues. We get a solid taste of what is to come at the end of those 13 episodes, however, I can't help but feel like the story is only just getting started. Forcing us to say goodbye to Riko and Reg when we were just getting to know them. Though I wouldn't say that makes this show unwatchable, it may really bother anime fans who prefer to watch anime seasons that tell a complete story. Despite knowing that, I felt that I got enough out of it and the story left off at a point where it can be easily picked back up again.

[UPDATE}: Several anime news sources have sited as of Nov 2017, Made in Abyss will be getting a sequel anime series. The details of the production have not been revealed as of yet but it is confirmed that fans will be able to see the continuation of Riko and Reg's journey through the Abyss.

If you're looking for an anime series to give you a good balance of creative ideas, charming, and a top tier world building, I invite you to give Made in Abyss a watch. I was surprised by what I was able to take out of this show and it reminds me why I keep coming back to find new shows to watch each and every year.

FORMATSStreaming on Amazon Prime & HIDIVE
FROM Sentai Filmworks
13 Episodes

IN A NUTSHELL: Two friends fight against the odds to stay together and achieve their dream.

For the Fans: