It’s time for another week of Why You Should be Watching, where I recommend, or try to steer you away from, currently airing anime. This week I’ve got a really good one for you: Made in Abyss. If you’ve ever wanted to see what putting small children in astoundingly dangerous situations with the possibility of madness being worse than death is like, this might tickle your fancy!
Check out my thoughts below the break!
What I’ve Seen: Episodes 1-3
If there were one word I could use to describe this anime, that word would be foreboding. From the constant rush of the wind to the very real monsters that have been known to eat children, and even the almost unspoken thought of what going down into the Abyss means, Made in Abyss is not a happy show, despite what the saccharine exterior would imply.
In the first episode, the main character we follow, Riko, almost gets eaten alive, and her friend Nat gets knocked out and also almost eaten alive. Basically, there’s lots of almost being eaten alive, and if that’s any indication of the rest of the series, it’s going to be wildly creepy ride all the way down to the bottom of the Abyss.
From the glimpses we’ve been given about what exactly lies within the Abyss itself, a lot of given normalities of our world give way to an almost Lovecraftian universe of horror, a parade of endless madness with the only cure returning back to the surface.
Unfortunately, getting back to the surface comes with some pretty terrible side effects, which include such lovely concepts as bleeding from the eyes and mouth, exhaustion, losing your humanity and becoming “hollow” (whatever that means), headaches, and ultimately, of course, an untimely death.
Not only do these side effects exist, but it is said that if someone ever reaches past a certain point, there is no hope for rejoining the surface world, as that last bit of death is a guarantee instead of just a possibility. And all of that’s not even mentioning the horrible, terrible, downright frightening monsters that abound in both quantity and quality. So it’s no wonder that the sense of foreboding is so keenly felt when watching Riko, a literal child in body if not entirely in mind, descend into the Abyss with only her trusty robot companion at her side.
Of course, it’s not all bad, as that potentially Iron Giant-esque-in-purpose robot Regu has a lot of power packed into his tiny frame. Not only can he shoot his arms like a grappling hook a fair distance away, but his body is incredibly tough to destroy, to the point where eating burning coals and being heavily shocked doesn’t even phase him. He can also shoot laser beams out of his hands, but unfortunately that bit hasn’t been unlocked until he either regains some memories or gets enough experience slaying monsters down in the Abyss, or at least I so assume.
So as you can plainly see, the story is in safely intriguing territory aside from the loli and shota protagonists that might turn some people off from the show, a concept that I’ve covered in one of my videos on why good shows aren’t ruined by the nature of the characters’ gender and age. And on that line of thought, a possible reason one might more easily shake off those factors is that Riko and Regu are both much more mature than their stature would imply. Growing up in a world where children are sent on missions that literally risk their lives even at the safest level is bound to do that to a kid, after all.
Speaking of the dangers inherent in descending into this giant hole in the ground, the monsters shown so far are also relatively creative and interesting to look at, though there is some visible issues with animating the creature in episode one as it flies off after being shot with the aforementioned laser beam. Also, the ED showcases a companion to Regu and Riko in the form of a bunny humanoid, someone who I assume is one of those people who became “hollow” from delving too far into the Abyss. So if the creativity in this continues forward, along with the incredibly impressive artistic direction of the show so far has shown, with even the same level of care, we will be in good hands as the creators serve up a smorgasbord of scrumptious visuals.
On the topic of artistic direction, I do want to especially mention the orgasmic sound design the show has stitched into every scene of the show. I mentioned the constant roaring wind earlier, which eerily sets the tension that much higher in the quieter moments of the series, but the sound isn’t limited to just the creep factor.
Boots clunk realistically across the floor in a way that sounds much more natural than most anime seem to imbue in their scenes, almost like a filter or unnatural stage is set up in their recording of the audio versus what I can only imagine is an actual person walking across an actual creaking floor in a room similarly sized to the shop Riko walks across in the second episode for Made in Abyss. In the same scene, a clock ticks in a nostalgic fashion that reminds me of my time in my grandfather’s home with his giant clock.
Basically what I’m trying to say here is that the sound design goes out of its way to be realistic and alive, an absolutely genuine feeling that ups the ante of the show’s atmosphere that much more. Combined with the visuals I mentioned earlier that could stand as works of art in a museum on their own, this show is one of the highest quality anime I’ve seen in a whole package in quite a long time.
That’s not to say everything’s great, as there are certainly a few points where the show reaches uncomfortable moments in a bad way, such as the point where the show literally strings Riko up naked for the audience to see. Not only would this be sickening for most people, but it’s rather unnecessary given Riko already mentioned it was a punishment before without showing it, a concept they could have repeated with no information lost to the viewer.
However, while I am of the opinion it could have been taken out, I do want to point out that the concept of the punishment offers an intriguing look as to how sexuality is treated in this universe of scientific discovery as the forefront of thought, rather than puritanical scorn of the naked body that our world espouses for the most part.
It’s an interesting thought that sexuality isn’t taken as a bad thing, since not only as Riko demonstrated she understands the clinical nature of the human body in her examinations of Regu’s naked body and words describing it, but the punishment is even allowed considering the objects of punishment are children.
Despite that, though, the show is shaping up to be the best anime of the season, at least for me, and while this trend upward can always have a downturn if the quality suffers or a story beat doesn’t hit quite right, I’m confident saying that these first three episodes have been absolutely stellar to experience, and any anime fan should at least give them a try and admire them for the sheer brilliance the art and sound design foster in every image the show has to offer.
If you enjoyed this look into Why You Should Be Watching this anime, take a look at my last one on Fate/Apocrypha! And if want something a little more verbal, you can take a look at my YouTube channel where I discuss issues, ideas, and more through the lens of anime while giving insight into why I enjoyed the show.
If you want to talk to me, you can always leave a comment down below or catch me @Croswynd on Twitter anytime.
And, as I always say, remember to enjoy the way you watch anime, because as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that really matters.
See you next time!