(Warning: Mild Spoilers)
I just finished Made in Abyss, an anime based off the manga with the same name. It came out last year. The first season is 13 episodes long, and it has already been announced the series will be continued, which I am thankful for. This season ended on a cliff-hanger, with the reveal of a main villain who could give Shou Tucker a run for his money.
The show itself is beautifully animated, well paced with a unique setting and has interesting cast of characters. So it’s incredibly deserving of being a contender for Crunchyroll’s 2017 “Anime of the Year.” One of the characters, Nanachi, has also be nominated for “Hero of the Year” and the villain Bondrewd has been nominated for “Villain of the Year.”
The anime takes place on an unnamed island, in the city of Orth. The main feature of this island is the titular Abyss, a deep hole that extends deep into the center of the Earth. The Abyss is made up of seven known layers, each more dangerous than the last. People known as Cave Raiders look for Relics from a long dead civilization to sell. They are well respected in Orth, due to putting their lives on the line each time they go into the Abyss. The further down one goes, the lesser the chance they’ll be able to make it back up.
The story follows Cave Raider-in-training, Riko, the daughter of one of the most famous Cave Raiders to ever exist, Lyza the Annihilator. Riko longs to live up to her mother’s status as a “White Whistle,” the highest level of Raider.
One day, she discovers an amnesiac robot boy she decides to call “Reg.” Not long after, some of Lyza’s belongings are returned to the surface. Among the items is a note seemingly addressed to Riko that hints Lyza is alive and waiting at the bottom of the Abyss.
Riko and Reg then set on a journey to find her, with Riko well aware that she will never be able to return the surface due to the Curse of the Abyss.
Along their journey they meet other a myriad of characters including White Whistle “Ozen the Immovable,” her apprentice Maruruk and a “hollow” named Nanachi.
And I love them all. They’re all such interesting and well-developed characters with distinct personalities. Besides her desire to be the very best explorer, Riko is headstrong, knowledgeable, a good cook and unwilling to accept her limits. It would have been so easy just to make her the typical shounen, “I’m gonna be (insert profession of the world here), no matter what” protagonist. She’s more than that.
I also love how this show depicts raiding as a gender-neutral thing. There’s no shock at the best raider being a woman, or girls having trouble becoming raiders. Sure, Reg is asked to protect Riko, but that’s because he’s a nigh-indestructible robot and she’s a twelve-year-old child going on a journey that 99% of adults can’t survive.
The show is incredibly well-paced. Each episode seemed to contain two or three episodes worth of information but it never dragged out or slogged. There was a good balance of action, characterization, world-building and narration, which is hard to do
As for the art, while the younger characters suffer from “Same Face Syndrome,” their clothes and movements almost negates this. Each adult character has a unique and different design.
It’s the landscapes that really shine here. It’s obvious that a lot of time was spent on creating each layer of the Abyss, and making each one different from the others, but still making a coherent landscape.
The design of the city around the Abyss is also amazing. It feels…lived in, like there’s a deeper sense of history and culture than just what we’re introduced to and that there are people living, relatively normal, lives outside the main characters’ plot. That’s not always easy to do.
While the animation style is very cutesy, the series is not. The first few episodes might be mistaken for a series intended for young children but becomes very clear once Riko and Reg officially enter the Abyss. There is a lot of “body horror” in this show; the Abyss can have frightening effects on the human body. At one point, Riko starts bleeding from nearly every orifice because of the curse. Limbs get ripped off. Corpses are shown.
It gets very intense.
If that’s not your thing or you’re squeamish than this may not be the show the for you. The animation style makes this harder to stomach, which I assume was the intent. And I think part of the reason for the style might be that the characters are children and don’t necessarily how dangerous it is. To them, this is a big, grand adventure. They don’t fully grasp that they could die.
I do wish we got know Riko’s friends at the orphanage a little more. It seemed as though these characters would have been interesting to be around, but we don’t get to see much of them after Episode 4.
We also don’t get to see much of the orphanage, which also seems like an interesting place. One would expect it to be an unpleasant place, but it…isn’t. Some of the discipline methods are harsh, but they’re all within the city’s norm; there’s always food. Children get an education and job training. Most of the kids are there because their parents died in the Abyss, and they want to follow in their footsteps.
I hope this gets explored a bit more in the series. It would be really interesting to see how the orphanage plays into the culture of cave raiding.
There’s a lot more I want to talk about but can’t without spoiling some…pretty major plot points and I’m trying to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible. In the future, I probably will post more spoiler-y content but I’m still working on that ratings system right now.
But watch this show when you get the chance. Please. It’s amazing.
And that’s the scoop.