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⛏️ REVIEW: Made in Abyss - A Beautiful Cave Adventure Anime

 

How far does the Rabbit hole go?


Made in Abyss is a Japanese anime series that's based upon the manga series written and illustrated by Akihito Tsukushi. The story revolves around an orphaned girl named Riko, who finds and befriends a mysterious humanoid robot named Reg, and descends with him into the titular "Abyss" that leads deep into the Earth, in hopes of finding her mother. The series was adapted by Kinema Citrus aired from July to September 2017 in Japan and 2021 in the United States.

 I have to admit, I really like caves in real-life and like to take tours, and I'm also a big cave mystery guy, because they're so dark and mysterious. And I like cave films such as The Cave, Decent, and Sanctum.  But I can't think of a single show that gets me anywhere near as excited about its world as Made in Abyss. This is a non-spoiler review.

The show has an interesting premise, the story follows an orphaned girl named Riko, who lives in the Belchero Orphanage in the town of Orth. The town surrounds a strange, giant hole descending deep into the earth, which is known as the Abyss. The Abyss harbors artifacts and remnants of ancient civilizations long gone, and is, therefore, a popular hunting spot for so-called "Cave Raiders", who undertake arduous and dangerous descents into the mist-filled pit to recover whatever relics they can find; with treasure and terrifying beasts awaiting any who wish to test their luck. The Abyss may look like a wonderful land of treasure, but it's not, it's an awful place where horrible things happen. Returning from the Abyss can be dangerous as "the Curse of the Abyss," a mysterious and potentially fatal malady, that manifests upon ascension. The deeper one goes, the more dreadful the effects of the curse; a few who have descended into the lower regions have returned to tell of their experiences. Some legendary Cave Raiders earn the title of White Whistles, one of them being Riko's mother, Lyza, who is now presumed dead after taking a "last descent" into the Abyss.

Riko's yearning in life is to follow her mother's footsteps and become a White Whistle. One day, she discovers a mysterious robot resembling a human boy in the first layer of the Abyss and names him Reg. Riko and her friends sneak Reg into Belchero and quickly welcome him into their close-knit group. Sometime later, a number of findings are made from the depths of the Abyss, including Lyza’s White Whistle and pages of discoveries and observations she's made, as well as a message presumably for Riko, stating she is waiting at the bottom of the Abyss. This makes Riko anxious and determined to find her mother, so she bids farewell to her friends and secretly departs into the Abyss with Reg as her companion.

    Did ya hear him? He said he never played Spelunky!

The story is very original as it incorporates adventure, dark fantasy, and science fiction. The story is solid, well-structured and consistent most of the time. The pacing is good and the details never rushed. The first couple of episodes may start slow at first, but it quickly introduces everyone and its fictional world without rushing it. Just like manga series, each episode of the series acts like a serialized chapter of a book.

While there's natural world-building, the story instead puts the focus on the duo rather than the world itself, preferring instead to carefully reveal the details of the world through their eyes and ears, evolving the viewer from mere spectator to an active participant. Characters-Story first, world building later. Kind-of like the Alien franchise.  

 

We should complete the side quests first to level-up before the main quest.

The two main characters, Riko and Reg, are compelling and become more interesting after each episode. Both of these characters do grow and change as the series progresses forward. Their friendship is deeply heart-warming, as they, much like real children, have no underlying motives, and genuinely enjoy their time together; making these characters unique and different comparing to adult duo characters you often see in other media. They depend and rely on each other, their abilities complimenting one another's, like the intellect and cooking skills in Riko's case, and combat and acrobatics in Reg's. There is no journey without the other— it's either two or it's zero.

Riko is a typical 12-year-old girl that sometimes acts like a silly kid may turn you off, but her kindness, intelligence, and optimism of cave raiding makes her an appealing character as she also learns the brutal hardships of going to the uncharted underworld of the Abyss.

The other main protagonist, Reg, unlike Riko, is extremely cautious when they enter the Abyss and always keeping Riko afoot; constantly worried of every angle for danger also makes him an appealing character as well, as he also learns from the hardships of survival.

All the other characters are unique and likable (even the shady ones), but for the main characters, they aren't just likable - they're lovable, and to see them suffer makes you feel bad for them in ways that are somewhat difficult to explain; the show makes you actually care about them.



The series may look like a "family-friendly adventure", but it does have some very dark and intense moments as each episode passes when our characters keeps going down to the Abyss. I highly recommend to use caution when watching this show because it contains graphic and violent scenes, occasionally even outright disturbing, but never is there a moment where it feels unnecessary. Made in Abyss is a story of adventure, survival, and finding life within death. That's it; nothing is sugar-coated. This show is geared towards older teens and adults, definitely not aimed for children.

Throughout the episodes, the show can invoke many different emotions out of you as it balances so many tones flawlessly. The characters carry the weight and drive the heart of the show and make us worried when they are put into dangerous situations. The constant danger is intensified by this beautiful fictional world that never shies away from showing off its true nature. The world never seems evil, it's wild and untamed, balancing on a scale between chaos and beauty. The concept of this fictional world itself is executed well and very fleshed out, constantly showing us the logical functions to this incredibly interesting (and mysterious) world that make sense. 

   It's dark in here.

One criticism I have is that the story could've been done without the awkward "sexual references", like the references to penises, or that one scene where Reg returns from trying to save someone's life, only to blush and freak out instantly after he sees Riko being undressed. (But then again, Riko is a typical boy.)

That does not automatically mean this scene existed to create sexual arousal in the audience, the show has more integrity than that, as she was being undressed solely for health reasons, but these moments kind-of feel unnecessary and really awkward for a Western viewer such as myself. But you need to be aware that this is a foreign show, and these awkward moments are common in Japanese TV shows.


    I wonder what's this thing's for?

The animation is beautifully made and crisp that's near cinematic quality like a Studio Ghibli film. Nothing is rushed, as this whole production was put into effort with heart and soul in mind. All the character's individual designs are all unique and each one stands out thanks to Akihito Tsukushi's original artwork and unique style from the manga. Background images are very detailed and blend in very well. The precise colors and design created an impressive effect for the spectator's eyes, and that quality remained throughout the series.

For the music, it's perfect, as it captures the beauty and horror of each and every moment our characters are put in. The music is composed by British-born Australian composer Kevin Penkin, this score has a very adventurous tone to it, especially when our two characters are journeying to the unknown. The soundtrack won Best Score at the 2nd Crunchyroll Anime Awards. The music runs in the best possible time as it creates excitement, drama, brings feelings to viewers and makes the plot and characters shine.

The sound effects are mostly memorable as well for the creatures and objects, nothing generic or clichΓ©.

 The English dubbing is great quality and the actor's performance on the characters were done very well as each voice uniquely fits each character perfectly. The female actresses did excellent on the younger boys like Reg, and they don't sound girly, but sound like real boys. But most importantly, the English translation is mostly accurate and faithful from the original Japanese.

 Overall, this show is criminally underrated and unique on its own right that throws all the adventure and cave diving clichΓ©s out of the window and gave us a breath of fresh air. I would call this an "anime", but really it should be called an "experience", no, rather a "masterpiece". Even though this first season is 13 episodes long and the story is incomplete, it's pure escapism and a highly recommended watch!  9/10


You can watch the first season on Adult Swim (reruns) or on-demand on Amazon Prime Video. It's also available on Blu-ray, but it's very expensive.

 

 The sequel film premiered in Japan in January 2020 and the second season aired from July to September 2022. I have not seen the sequel film nor the second season, and I have no idea when it will be available in English for streaming, on disc, or when it will premier on Adult Swim.

Edit: The second season will premier in the United States on Adult Swim on November 5th. And a reminder to WATCH THE CANON MOVIE "Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul" before watching Season 2! Stream it using Hidive or Hulu.

An action role-playing video game is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam.


Article Author: Γ†

Images: © Akihito Tsukushi

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