When I first heard that Made in Abyss was getting an anime adaptation, I remember watching the PV and thinking, “This looks cute and interesting.” The staff list seemed promising, and the gorgeous backgrounds in the trailer surely boded well for the quality of the work. Leading up to its airing, I read precious little about the plot, but my curiosity grew as I heard more rumours regarding the dark nature of the source material.
One episode is all it took for me to fall in love with the show, but I had no idea of what I was in for as the weeks wore on.
“Two kids venture into a dark, mysterious netherworld”
The premise of Made in Abyss reads like something out of a cautionary fairy tale. However, as you’d expect, Reg and Riko are no ordinary children. Reg is a robot with superhuman strength and abilities, and Riko is a trained cave raider who has read all about the Abyss and is fully aware of its dangers.
Yet despite all that, they are undeniably still just kids. Bright-eyed and full of curiosity, the pair venture ever deeper into the unforgiving netherworld. One wrong step could mean certain death, but like most children, they can’t help but let their excitement get the better of them. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and before you know it, they’ve taken you by the hand and dragged you along with them on their journey.
Meanwhile, the world around them is presented with beautiful, detailed backgrounds and top-notch design work that is more like what you’d expect from a film than a TV anime. The talented staff at Kinema Citrus paint the Abyss as vast and enticing, but also foreboding and mysterious. Kevin Penkin’s outstanding soundtrack also requires special mention, as it provides the perfect atmosphere for this alluring, yet dangerous netherworld. The lure of the Abyss is a concept that crops up throughout the series, but the production team manage to make it palpable even to the viewer. You begin to wish for Reg and Riko to succeed not only for their sake, but also because you want to see what lies at the bottom of the Abyss with your own eyes.
But just as the dreaded curse slowly envelops the brave adventurers who venture into its maw, the series also slowly becomes more and more unsettling. The pacing starts off slow as a lot of screen-time into world-building early on, but this all changes once the Reg and Riko finally enter the Abyss. The stakes continue to grow with each installment, and ten episodes in you get a glimpse of truly harrowing, soul-crushing despair.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know just how much this episode affected me. It was honestly one of the most disturbing episodes of anything I have ever watched. I had nightmares about it that night, and I could hardly focus at work the day after. Even thinking about it two days later made me nauseous.
Nevertheless, I came crawling back the week after to watch the next episode. The Abyss had got ahold of me, and I was a slave to the same longing that fills the hearts of the cave raiders.
But the Abyss was not done with me just yet, and it had saved its best for last.
After the hour-long finale episode, I was convinced this anime was truly something special. The final arc was the most disturbing and emotional, but it was also full of hope. The inspiring final sequence, coupled with Penkin’s final track, Tomorrow, summed up just how much of a triumph this production was. Every now and again I come across an anime that is so inspiring that I just need to write about it, and Made in Abyss is the first TV anime for a long time to reach this level for me.
I’ve already recommended this show to everyone I know, but I do so with a caveat – this anime is not for the fainthearted. While the juxtaposition of childish innocence against the twisted, unforgiving Abyss undoubtedly has some artistic merit, it does make for some extremely unsettling and confronting scenes when things don’t go quite according to plan. However, if you do decide to take a leap down the rabbit hole, you’ll be in for something special:
A truly incredible adventure.