Made in Abyss – Anime Review
Synopsis: Within the depths of the Abyss, a girl named Riko stumbles upon a robot who looks like a young boy. Riko and her new friend descend into uncharted territory to unlock its mysteries, but what lies in wait for them in the darkness? (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Made in Abyss introduces itself by following the ever plucky, go-getter Riku, as she ventures down into the highest levels of the Abyss. Her cutesy design, alongside all the other children, hides the show’s darker nature. Understandably Made in Abyss lulls its audience into a false sense of security, unless you’re really paying attention. Hidden within the visuals and narrative itself are teases warning you that this series will get violent, and abuse its main characters in the most gruesome ways possible the further they delve into the Abyss. All of this is realized with some incredible art, particularly some amazing background detail and design that truly sells the otherworldly nature of the Abyss itself.
Linny: When it comes to its protagonist, Riko, the optimistic young female lead, is much like the visual style of the show. She’s cheery and cute and a lot more positive and enthusiastic about their journey to the bottom of the Abyss considering how the show keeps mentioning the severe perils of such a trip. In fact, she is so gung-ho that she often does dangerous things seemingly without any serious thought and that might flabbergast and frustrate more cynical viewers (me being one of them).
Tom: Riku is one of our two primary leads, with a third added in much later on. Riku can be entirely frustrating as she makes poor decision after decision, more often caught up in the wonder of the Abyss than remaining wary of its all too real dangers. It’s a very YMMV element: Is her plucky, go-getter, jump first, look later nature endearing or moronic? Reg, our robo-boy, is the balancing force that’ll keep anyone frustrated with Riku going. He’s of a more firm nature and desires to do good. He’s perhaps a bit stereo-typically bland as anime leads go, but is saved by his mysterious origins, making him an interesting character since his existence is just as shadowed as the Abyss itself.
Linny: Reg is definitely the protagonist that will appeal the most to more somber viewers that do not particularly care for the cutesy nature of Riko or the peculiar personality of Nanachi, a late addition to the cast. He’s cautious and smart about their trek into the abyss while also being emotionally expressive enough to appeal to the audiences. Also, while the series introduces him with a big show of power, it does a good job of balancing his abilities, not making him feel like an overpowered component nor randomly and inexplicably weakening him solely for plot purposes. This helps to add a real sense of danger as he and Riko explore the Abyss.
Tom: Nanachi, the third main character, added quite near the show’s final episodes (although she features heavily in the ending credits so her appearance isn’t a huge surprise) is perhaps the most interesting and tragic of the three. Her character is more aloof, making her fun to watch as she interacts with our more standard and naive heroes. She also has a backstory that makes up perhaps the greatest twists and reveals for the series, sending everything out on a high, powerful, emotional note. Nanachi pulls Made in Abyss up from simply a great series, to an incredible one.
Linny: As Tom mentioned at the start of this review, the cutesy character designs and pastel/dream-like colour scheme of the show belies the fact that Made in Abyss is actually one dark tale, riddled with bloody encounters and cruel people. The earlier episodes are more lighthearted and use stick figure like illustrations to exemplify the morbid effects of the abyss on humans, which could lull some viewers into a false sense of security that this show is just an innocent and adorable children’s adventure. Consider yourselves warned especially if you’re someone who likes their shows to be on the mild side. This show has scenes involving children having to break their limbs to try to avoid certain death and it’s shown in excruciating detail. If you go into the story knowing this, hopefully they won’t feel as brutal when it happens. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as the show grows darker with each episode.
Tom: What could possibly happen to innocent children? Surely not the worst! But Made in Abyss warns viewers frequently. While many anime tease terrible outcomes for our heroes, rarely do they make true on those promises. How often have we seen heroes threatened with death or serious harm only for nothing to ever truly graze them. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that so many viewers were completely and utterly caught off guard by the sheer level of violence and torture our heroes eventually endear. I think it’s best to warn people, as there were even several individuals suggesting Made in Abyss is suitable for younger audiences. Bad things can and do happen in this horrible world and Made in Abyss really sells its bleak, oppressive, entirely dangerous atmosphere. It’s a harrowing adventure, one that makes good on its threat, and will have you on the edge of your seat, assuming you’re comfortable with the eventual inclusion of some extreme violence.
Linny: Now for anyone expecting lots of actions and for our heroes to make leaps of progress in their journey to the bottom of the Abyss, prepare to be disappointed. It’s best if you approach this show for now as a warm up tale because the manga itself is apparently not that far ahead of the content adapted by the anime. This means our cast is nowhere close to their intended destination. Even the season ends with the trio still only setting out from the fourth layer with no idea about how much deeper and longer their journey will take them. Also, this season sets up a lot of questions and mysteries that are clearly nowhere close to being solved so prepare to be patient because even continuing on to the manga after the anime won’t get you that far ahead either.
Tom: One last point I want to touch on is the more controversial content. Made in Abyss features a number of sequences centered upon the burgeoning sexuality of its heroes. It’s nothing perverted, nothing terribly sadistic, or even all that sexual in itself. Perhaps the worst of the content is a, non-sexual, visual reference to old medieval torture techniques practiced upon our heroine herself. Outside of that singular scene, Made in Abyss does periodically explore Riku and Reg’s gradual attraction to one another, which is understandable as both sit on the cusp of puberty. These scenes features either pre-teen naked or near naked, without any on-screen nudity. If such content bothers you, know that it’s there, but otherwise it hardly plays a factor.
Linny: If you enjoy dark adventure tales dealing with actually life threatening dangers, you might want to look into Made in Abyss. Don’t let its adorable imagery early on fool you. There’s grim and strange things like the creature pictured above waiting for you in the depths of the Abyss and the show. Also, as just mentioned by Tom, there’s some content in it that might make certain audiences uncomfortable. In the show’s defense, it mainly involves a brief flash of Riko being punished in an unorthodox manner and also some innocent scenes of the two young protagonists discovering things about nether regions, but nothing that most audiences would consider titillating or explicit. However, if you are hyper sensitive to such content, it’s best you give Made in Abyss a skip. Otherwise, prepare for a tale of adventure and exploration that will impress you with its visuals and unique setting and shock you with its growing grimness.
Tom: Overall I was blown away with Made in Abyss. It may be the one series that gripped me from start to finish this Summer and never once disappointed. It’s an incredible journey, bleak and depressing, but enthralling none the less. Riku and Reg’s journey is harrowing, but also intensely interesting as they explore a near alien landscape, delving deeper and deeper into the horrors of the Abyss. There’s no telling when/if a second season is on the way, but it’s one of a handful of anime this year that has me screaming for a follow up. Or wishing someone would localize the damn manga. (Seven Seas Entertainment has the license, we’re just now waiting on the first release scheduled for January 2018.)