First Look: Made In Abyss

Manga Adaptation by Kinema Citrus
Streaming on Anime Strike

Premise

Riko is an orphaned young girl who makes her keep mining the mysterious Abyss at the heart of her hometown. One day she’s rescued by a mysterious robotic boy and takes him home to find out exactly what he is.

Zigg’s verdict: The Hole Package

This is a startlingly strong debut episode, and one of the most assured and complete premieres I’ve seen in quite some time. I can’t say I’m an unabashed fan of the extremely chibi character designs, but they definitely stand out and are beautifully animated, adding a huge amount of development to characters through physical quirks and body language. The visual storytelling is also exceptionally strong in backgrounds and world design, giving an air of grandeur and mystery that few cartoons manage to achieve. There’s a good balance of character building and exposition in this first installment, and it walks the ever so fine line between extreme exposition dumping and fleshing out a little bit about our premise while still leaving plenty of things to discover as the story continues. There’s even a nice undercurrent of humour, both goofy and black in various measures, and some lovely design flourishes like the ‘vertical classroom’ which add a bunch to the atmosphere and alien feeling. Needless to say, I was absolutely smitten by this opener and I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Iro’s verdict: Gaze into the Abyss

First of all, this show looks incredible. The painted backgrounds are lovely, the visuals do their fair share of worldbuilding, and there are some really enjoyable touches to the animation. A good show that does not make however, and Made in Abyss also doles out enough plot and character beats to hook the viewer without giving away too much of its hand or becoming tedious. I’m genuinely curious to learn more about the world and its inhabitants, and that’s a rarity among anime these days. I’ll definitely keep watching this.

Gee’s verdict: Anxious, but Eager

For better or worse, I’m partially burdened by the knowledge of what Made in Abyss eventually becomes after it reveals its hand. But having not read the manga beyond out of context pages and a few scattered chapters, I’m not confident in my ability to discuss the plot as a whole, so I’ll be approaching the anime as its own entity. Made in Abyss makes an extremely strong first impression with its gorgeous art direction and unique style. The setting itself is oddly gamified, what with the conceit of explorers going down further levels in a seemingly endless dungeon to find treasure. It almost feels like an anime version of Etrian Odyssey or Spelunky, but without the blatant in-universe systems that so many other anime are happy to fall into. Overall I’m fine with it though, there’s something to be said for a classic treasure hunting escapade.

There’s something fascinating about how sugary the presentation is juxtaposed with some of the underlying darkness you can see around the edges. Their world looks absolutely lovely, but it’s also a setting where the orphaned children of dead adventurers are raised to follow in their parents’ footsteps as treasure hunters. Even the easiest “level” of the titular abyss has monsters that could easily kill our characters. There’s a low-key post apocalyptic harshness to it that adds enough of a grit to the story to make it compelling. It’s those multifaceted layers that make Made in Abyss definitely one to stick with this season.

Artemis’ verdict: Impressed and Intrigued

This, right here, is exactly the kind of title that the anime industry needs to see way more of – but as it stands, it’s quite unlike any other series airing this summer, or indeed probably any series that’s aired within the past several seasons. Its particular brand of storytelling and world-building puts me in mind of Nahoko Uehashi’s novel-based anime Kemono no Souja Erin, and the post-apocalyptic setting a tad reminiscent of some of Miyazaki Hayao’s earlier films. However, the plot, the characters, and the universe they inhabit are all unique enough that I truly can’t think of any really solid comparisons, and that’s a fantastic thing.

Even the fact that the character designs look like they’re nearly all permanently stuck in chibi mode couldn’t put me off the writing, which is serious enough thanks to the setting but not lacking in small, charming moments of humour which, refreshingly, aren’t based on normal anime clichés and aren’t over-exaggerated or dragged out for too long. The story is neatly told without the use of much exposition (save for the small chunk of narration at the end, which I felt wasn’t even really necessary), and the cast so far is lively and interesting. Again, the character designs do make me question how old these guys are meant to be – the main kids look certainly no older than 10, if even that, and Leader about 15. That said, if they are meant to be around that age then it works as a pretty great yet subtle reinforcement of exactly the kind of world these people are living in, if young child orphans have to be “Cave Raiders” and basically act like capable and resourceful adults in order for them/their society to live and thrive.

I have no idea where this story is headed, but sign me up, I’m excited to see more.

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7 thoughts on “First Look: Made In Abyss

  1. “The Hole Package” Nice one Zigg. Agreed this was a really strong opening. Art and design is veeeery nice. Those panoramic views of the hole were really beautiful. The chibi character design is a bit annoying but if the story stays strong that can be overlooked and even become a strength.

  2. Don’t know whether to ship riko x regu or riko x nat. Hopefully this will be forth more boy x girl kid couples again in anime. Getting tired of the “only girl” companion thing that studios have been doing for the last decade especially in regards to moe.

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