Directly following on from the events of Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul, Riko, Reg, and Nanachi have overcome the monstrous Bondrewd and look to continue their journey deeper into The Abyss. Ahead of them lies the Sixth Layer, from which no human has ever returned, and the legend of a mysterious Golden City
Zigg’s verdict: The Abyss Gazes Also
For better or for worse, this premiere is Made in Abyss in a nutshell. Which is to say there’s some incredible storytelling on display here, a sense of ethereal mystery and dread that very few pieces of fiction can muster, allied to excellent visuals by Kinema Citrus and a remarkable musical soundscape by Kevin Penkin. There’s also rape, vomiting, extreme violence, branding with a hot iron, and onscreen defecation, most of which are inflicted upon the series’s hallmark cutesy child characters.
How acceptable it is to include such extreme content in a story will ultimately be a matter of personal taste from individual to individual. Personally, I was willing to cut the show quite a lot of slack in its first season, due to the incredible emotional weight and impact of the story which it ended up telling. Five years on, five years which have mostly made clear how much of a creep manga author Akihito Tsukushi is, I’m a little less certain. The Dawn of the Deep Soul movie (which is essential viewing by the way – not even a cursory recap is offered here) already pushed the narrative technique of drawing sympathy by inflicting unimaginable cruelty on the young cast to its very limit, and any escalation from that would likely render the show basically unwatchable.
There’s reason to be hopeful however. Opening a new season on a lengthy flashback is an audacious and extremely effective piece of storytelling that instantly hooks you and reminds you of the forbidden allure of the Abyss. It displays a confidence and poise to the presentation that bodes well for what’s to come. Despite everything they’ve been through, I still have great affection for Reg, Riko and Nanachi, and I’m hopeful the move back to a ‘travelling’ format will lead to more character development, and perhaps marginally less horrifying suffering. Regardless, I’ve no doubt that keeping up with this show is going to be equal parts harrowing and rewarding, so fairly warned be ye.
Iro’s verdict: Know What You’re Getting Into
If you feel like you’re up for more Made in Abyss, this sure is going to be that, horrible trauma and all. I’ve made my thoughts clear on the franchise on the podcast and elsewhere, but as a manga reader, I am apprehensive about this arc. While the series’ worldbuilding, mood, and aesthetic are still impeccable and compelling – despite everything, you still understand why people might venture down into the Abyss – mangaka Akihito Tsukushi’s proclivities are on full display. Child rape happens less than a minute into the episode, Riko takes a dump onscreen (complete with stock poop sounds), and things are only going to get worse from here on. If you’ve come this far, you can probably deal, but know the show gets gross and upsetting at times. Still, the anime production is top notch, with some very smart adaptation choices happening in this premiere alone and Kevin Penkin’s soundtrack buoying the ethereal mystery of the Abyss. Whether the pros can outweigh the cons is something you’ll have to decide on your own.
Gee’s verdict: Even More Polarizing
Longtime manga fans know that for better or worse, Made in Abyss – The Golden City of the Scorching Sun covers the part of the story where Akihito Tsukushi’s manga embraces its most strange, evocative, and upsetting. In that regard, its first episode does a remarkably good job of rearranging manga moments to reintroduce its viewers to the world of the Abyss. After all for some, it’s been quite a few years since we’ve followed these characters. Opening with what is eventually revealed to be a distant flashback to mankind’s early traversal in the Abyss is a smart choice. It is unfortunate then, that said flashback literally opens with some pretty graphic rape and torture of a child. One could argue that shocking imagery is sometimes necessary to instill a specific theme or emotion in its viewers but Tsukushi’s proclivities often feel like it’s being pushed past mere shock value into something darkly perverse.
And yet, within a minute of a child being shown taking a shit, we’re introduced to some of the most artistically beautiful set dressing the anime has ever managed. At its core, Made in Abyss understands that there is something primordial in the heart of man, that desires to explore the unknown even to its self destruction. Everyone who delves the Abyss knows it’s a one way trip to an uncertain end. Vueko, Wazukyan, and the rest of the Ganja tribe understood this more than a millennia ago, just as Riko, Reg, and Nanashi do now. It’s not a rational thing, it’s an emotion you feel in your bones. Made in Abyss utilizes its gorgeous art direction and Kevin Penkin’s evocative soundtrack to make you understand this drive. Will it be enough to make you overlook the truly upsetting things that are going to happen to these characters however, is a decision every person is going to have to make on their own.