“Resurrection Festival” and “Departure”
Neither of these two episodes quite matches Made In Abyss‘s stunning opener, but that’s probably for the best as instead they’re concentrating on building the fiction surrounding our heroes and their place in the world. I think it’s possible two see this pair of installments as two sides of the same coin – #2 is dedicated to fleshing out the world and mechanic of the Abyss, while #3 offers some valuable insight into Riko and the people surrounding her.
Since the show began, myself and my compatriots have repeatedly expressed surprise that it isn’t based on a game, since it’s got a very game-like structure. There’s a lot of scavenging and loot hunting obviously, and as these episodes reveal there’s also a strict heirarchy to the levels of the Abyss, and who’s allowed to go where. The second episode is a little heavy on the exposition, but it provides a lot of valuable details on the way the society of the Abyss functions, and for that it can be forgiven, especially since most of the information is pertinent to the immediate plot.
To counteract the infodump, it’s contrasted against the story of Riko’s mother bearing and rescuing her from the depths of the abyss, melding important worldbuilding information, emotional rawness and important character backstory into a single sequence. not bad going. I’m a little surprised that they bothered the have Reg taken into the orphanage though, considering how quickly he’s out again and how little his presence there affects the overall story. If I had to guess this is probably a side-effect of the compression into a single season of anime, and overall I feel we could have done with a little more time both seeing Reg in new surroundings and learning more about the other kids around our core pairing.
Having said that, episode 3 is almost entirely devoted to such interactions, and as well written and nuanced as it is it feels a little churlish to complain about a lack of buildup. The core issue here is that while Nat is being a pretty big jerk about it, he’s not actually wrong – Riko’s mother may well be dead, and the journey is insanely dangerous to take on a half-chance. This plays into something that I always say is a core tenet of good character writing – sometimes you have to let your characters be wrong. Nat and Riko’s disagreement is a real one over a real issue with no immediately obvious ‘right’ side, and their falling out and subsequent making up is a great arc to anchor what’s already a very emotional episode. I do hope we see more of the kids at the orphanage, as in their brief screentime they’ve proven to be solid and intriguing personalities.
Elsewhere there’s a bunch of lovely subtle touches that inform us more about this world and the people in it. Moments like Leader catching Reg but then letting him go (despite obviously knowing what’s going on) or Reg realising that his false backstory comes from Nat’s own history are terrific bits of ‘silent’ storytelling that add depth and history to these characters while economising dialogue and screentime. It’s very smart writing in other words, something which Abyss is consistently demonsrtating, alongside a willingness to wear its heart on its sleeve in a bruising, realistic way. It’s emotion in a story without melodrama, and combined with the fascinating fantasy universe that’s being built, that’s a potent mix.
- The show specifically runs the credits early in episode 3 to avoid them intruding into Nat and Riko’s big emotional makeup. That’s the kind of small production detail I can admire.
- Once Reg goes out on his first mission, his bell is replaced by a red whistle like all the other hunters.
- The ‘curse’ which Nat mentions will no doubt have some impact on future episodes. Reg mentioning to Kiyui to not look in the mirror is another nice little character touch.
- Reg came from the depths of the Abyss. Riko was born there. Thus they are both ‘Made in Abyss’. Symbolism!