Don’t let the art fool you. This is a dark series.
Made in Abyss is a 13-episode anime that aired in the Summer of 2017, based off an ongoing manga. It tells the story of a 12-year old girl named Riko, an orphan who dreams of exploring a chasm in the center of her island home that goes deep into the earth, known as the Abyss. During a dive on the 1st layer, Riko nearly ends up being eaten until she is saved by a young cyborg who can’t remember his name. Riko names him Reg they quickly become best friends.
Then a message reaches the surface from Riko’s mother, who was said to have made it to the bottom of the Abyss, telling Riko to come find her. And in her notes is a design that looks suspiciously like Reg. So both of them decide to dive into the Abyss with no intention of returning to the surface, thus beginning what’s considered a Last Dive.
Now, upon learning that this series was getting an anime adaption, I decided to go ahead and read a later manga chapter to see if it was for me. It was a lot darker than the art-style would lead you to believe, and earned my interest. So I was going in with high standards, and I’m happy to say that this delivered.
The premise of the story is that RIko and Reg are going to dive into the Abyss to find Riko’s mother, which means going on a Last Dive. They make it clear from the start that these kids are going down with no intention of going up, so its a one-way trip exploring the Abyss as they go from layer-to-layer, hoping to reach the bottom. So the premise is basically an adventure story, which the bright colors indicate will be a fun experience.
That’s a lie.
This series gets dark at times, showcasing not only how dangerous the Abyss is, but also the consequences of the journey. It dives into the sort of culture that the people living around the Abyss have developed that not only celebrates the death of White Whistles, but allow for children to risk their lives in it. Not to mention there’s a mystery going around on how children are dying as their birthdays near.
That being said, it does have some really good moments of peace and humor that stops it from being completely devastating to sit through. And, honestly, some things are a little gross, if realistic. One of these being Riko’s habit of peeing on herself when in intense pain or shock.
One warning though: while the show is rather mature, sometimes the characters are in a state of undress despite being looking young. It’s not sexualized in the anime, but it can be a little uncomfortable.
The setting is what makes Made in Abyss especially great. The world itself appears to be a low-fantasy, with just humans and few to no mystical elements, but the town in the first few episodes shows that the residents are conditioned to basically desire to spend their lives working towards the Abyss.
Because the town is essentially a mining town that sprung up around the Abyss, every sense of worth comes from it. Those that can dive into the Abyss and bring back relics or knowledge are valued, while those who can’t are either relegated to different statures or outright shunned and left in the poor slums. Children as young as ten are sent to dive for relics, a dangerous place where even adults die in spades.
The Abyss where the characters dive is filled with different landmasses and relics from different time periods. The animals that roam the Abyss, each crafted with loving details, add to the living and breathing ecosystem. It feels like a genuine world that you can get lost in, and that is the strongest selling point in this series.
And then there’s the nature of the Curse of the Abyss, which is an affliction that affects people who try to ascend in the Abyss and go back up after they’ve delved down. This mystery has eluded the Cave Delvers for ages, though they’ve noted the effects and recorded it for those who came afterwards.
Now onto the characters. There are a number of minor characters in the story, but due to the nature of the premise we’ll only be sticking to the main characters of Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.
Riko is the first protagonists, being a plucky, inquisitive girl who has spent all her life studying and preparing to dive into the Abyss. This is showcased by the expansive knowledge that she has of the environment and animals that inhabit it. She’s also a great cook.
However, she is impulsive and doesn’t have the experience that older delvers have, due to the fact that she hasn’t gone through the normal process that others do, which would have spelled her death ten times over if not for Reg, who she treats as though a close-friend.
Reg is a robot who is deceptively human. He’s durable and carries in his arm a weapon of mass-destruction that has a cool down time of two or so hours, during which he passes out. He’s also immune to the Curse of the Abyss, allowing him to go up and down with impunity.
He was found by Riko in the Abyss and has no idea who he is or where he came from, but when Riko’s mother sends up information that has his image on it, he decides to follow her down into the depths. He is entirely devoted to Riko as he has no memories of the past and she basically becomes his reason to live as he frustratingly tries to keep her safe and worries over her.
Nanachi is the last of the main characters who appear near the end of the series. She is a Narehate, someone who had taken on the Curse of the 6th layer of the Abyss and was transformed by it. She is a skilled medic capable of seeing through the true form of the Curse of the Abyss, being both knowledgeable and resourceful.
Nanachi’s existence alone showcases one of the darker premises of the show. Her backstory contains one of the most depressing thing shown, as she has not only lost the person she’s cared for the most, but it was done in a way that’s worse than death. Mercy killing, suicide, she brings all of these things to the front the moment she pops up.
Animation & Sound
The animation and sound track are where this anime is at. I mean it, the art and animation looks like something out of a Ghibli. The world is colorful yet the music is somber and apathetic at times, signifying just how little it cares for the characters.
Next to the setting, its easily the strongest point.
Overall, Made in Abyss is a wonderful anime. The setting is beautifully developed and the society consisting of those who dive into the Abyss are well-thought out. The art is magnificent and the music is so soothing, yet somber. There hasn’t been a second season announced, but I’m still hoping it will.
Edit: And it just came out that there’s a Season 2 in the works!