For only a little while it lingered around as an underdog, now it claims the throne for my MVP of Summer 2017 anime season! I’m sure people won’t stop telling you how great this show is. And funnily this sort of hype usually happens to currently running shows that go beyond the boundary in craziness (looking at you, Kakegurui) or just any battle shounen (duh).
It has happened before, but now the hype is once again on for a show that’s unarguably deep and most importantly having lolis as your guides!
Just be prepared for this; I’m not even remotely joking when I say that it’s voluminous.
Type: TV Series
Genre(s): Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Adventure!
Source of adaptation: Web Manga
The time it was aired: Summer 2017, July 7 to September 29
Studio responsible: Kinema Citrus
The Abyss—a gaping chasm stretching down into the depths of the earth, filled with mysterious creatures and relics from a time long past. How did it come to be? What lies at the bottom? Countless brave individuals, known as Divers, have sought to solve these mysteries of the Abyss, fearlessly descending into its darkest realms. The best and bravest of the Divers, the White Whistles, are hailed as legends by those who remain on the surface.
Riko, daughter of the missing White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator, aspires to become like her mother and explore the furthest reaches of the Abyss. However, just a novice Red Whistle herself, she is only permitted to roam its most upper layer. Even so, Riko has a chance encounter with a mysterious robot with the appearance of an ordinary young boy. She comes to name him Reg, and he has no recollection of the events preceding his discovery. Certain that the technology to create Reg must come from deep within the Abyss, the two decide to venture forth into the chasm to recover his memories and see the bottom of the great pit with their own eyes. However, they know not of the harsh reality that is the true existence of the Abyss.
Story and Plot
Twelve years old kids descending into a pit where its bottom is unknown, what could go wrong?
Made In Abyss takes huge advantage of some of humankind’s grand achievements, adds our current curiosity into it and comes out with what I consider to be an astronomical wonder. Just think about how we as the human race are still surprising ourselves with each and every instances of cosmic discovery; this is without a doubt the main essence to the story.
“That (the abyss) is quite a ‘curse’, and yet the adventurers all willingly devote themselves to its pursuit. For them, a life without longing is more terrifying than death itself.”
Riko is dead set on braving the abyss to meet her mother Lyza, whom is better known as The (legendary) ‘White Whistle’ Annihilator. Reg presents himself as the sole opportunity any diehard cave raider would sacrifice their life for; it just happens that Riko is the one who discovers him. And with that, Riko puts her life in Reg’s care–sacrifices her life for the one-time opportunity as they descent into the abyss.
The show’s setting and its ongoing story are by all means fantasy, yet they all feel real. Nothing about the two aspects is made difficult to accept, not even an entity that is Reg, whom we eventually come to know that he should not be able to exist no matter the logic.
Partly surrounding the abyss is a township of curious minds, a place where people are generally more resistant to the fear of heights; as opposed to reaching out to the sky and further beyond, descending into the bottomless pit is progress for humanity. Orth’s established culture comes off as most surprising to me.
Say, under what influence does it make cave raiding and relic hunting the very backbones of social hierarchy?
Residents of Orth’s Belchero Orphanage have their positions in the ladder labelled by shapes and colors of their ‘whistles’, a tiny bell being at the bottom whereas white whistle being the legends at the top.
Throughout the duo’s journey they come to learn of the White Whistles and their true nature. Each of the white whistle holders happen to withhold ablities unique to them, allowing unexpected level of performance when it comes to grueling tasks barely achievable by any other cave raiders. The titles in their names are simply personifications to be known by worshipers of the cave raiding society.
Now that sounds very much like battle shounen stereotype which Made In Abyss clearly takes advantage of, immersing it into the already convincing fantasy of a story.
There are unpredictable dangers ahead of every journey involving first-hand discoveries. The show does not hold back in the slightest when it comes to hardships of being adventurers. For anyone who has set off to a real journey beforehand, ‘comfort’ is the one word hardly anybody would return to you with. Inconveniences right from exhaustion and starvation to injuries–Riko and Reg cling onto hope in every second of their lives as adventurers. It’s a much desired gamble one would always love to take shall they seek thrills in life (I’m not making fun of Kakegurui, though you don’t have to trust me).
Speaking of hardship, it comes off as obvious that in absolutely no way would any of the difficult challenges they face leave them clean. Violence and gore become the two equally large contributions to the impact of the story as harsh and cruel truths regarding humanity unfolds like raining cats and dogs. ‘Irredeemable’ would still have been an understatement, as Reg believes. Plots for the first five episodes of the show advance rapidly but they all feel very appropriate; it’s the initial excitement of exploration–the first few hours of your trek/hike will almost always be fueled by adrenaline. I definitely have noticed special efforts into the storyboard side of production. There is always a hint as to when each plot would end, readying me for another or in some disappointing cases leaving me hungry for the week after’s episode. That said, now that the show has finished airing, there should not be such issue in which we bandwagoners braved through.
The middle third of the story heavily slows down on the plot to confirm the duo’s readiness for dark and gruesome part of the descend which happens starting from the tenth episode.
The last few episodes take turn for the so-called roller coaster ride of emotions. Laughter will be heard, something will break in spite of anger and tears will be shed.
Initially I was ready to pin this section as the only part of the show that’s weighting down the rest. After a few times of rewatching the show, I’ve come to realize that there are indeed some true intentions as to why the protagonists happen to be twelve year-olds.
You have the original source material creator to thank. And head over to his Pixiv, too!
It is then that I remember having been a twelve year-old for 365 days. It was during that time I happened to become the most curious little shithead anyone around me would have ever imagined possible for a mere child. I longed for answers to everything. People wouldn’t tell me anything because I was too young.
Yes, this really does include what some people found to be the culprit of steering the show from perfection–those dick jokes.
I can let you in on my dirty past if you ask appropriately, but let me just keep on telling you how Made In Abyss manages to again, fantasize a grown child’s wonders–my wonders.
Insert a joke to do with my blog’s name here if you will.
Riko doesn’t actually know any better than other kids around her age, you also can’t forget that Shiki is some nerd who knows a concerning amount more than her. Reg on the other hand could have easily been the Gary Stu of the show since he clearly is almost on par with the white whistles in terms of abilities and he’s only getting stronger throughout the journey. A considerable amount of balancing has been done to make the story just a little more convincing. What is this then, a role playing game?
He has (irredeemable) downside to his abilities, he also easily gets flustered compared to Riko, whom we should know by the first episode to be a little shithead, just like when I was twelve. So what really happens when you let your kids out in the dark, free reign on top of that?
There is only one way to find out…
The supporting cast are surprisingly… supportive. They all play the right parts in helping Reg take care of Riko as she always gets into displeasing troubles after many short periods of her being okay. Everyone has their meaningful stories to tell and luckily for Made In Abyss, only the people of Orth are left behind (as of the first season) while everyone else add feels to the journey. Now I’m not even sure anymore if they are aware of descending into an ocean of tears created by the viewers, myself included.
Art and Animation
The stream of talents does not end quickly for Made In Abyss. Overall design screams fantasy which happens to be one of the biggest themes boasted by the show. Character design is unique and I won’t go as far as calling it hardcore loli because when looking carefully, Riko and Reg happens to be at the right height for twelve year-olds.
Place them alongside young adults like Jiruo, then place Jiruo beside Ouzen whom we know is of at least two meters tall. See it for yourself.
I still won’t deny that it definitely has some loli essence because take a look at Lyza, need I say anything more about her?
Then there’s Mitty; she has some serious rack for a young girl.
Moving onto the more interesting part of the art: the scenes within the abyss!
Because Made In Abyss is of mainly a fantasy show, there technically shouldn’t be any real limitations as to how one can make use of something anime is best known for.
My appreciation continues as Masuyama Osamu once again lay his cards on the canvas (or a tablet in this case), giving us some of the most epic background scenery (in-rooms & outside) and odd but unique looking dwellers of the abyss–the monsters we humans love to call them. Once you check out his profile you will probably no longer be surprised as to why the art in this show happens to be breathtakingly immersive. For Osamu himself, Made In Abyss is merely an exercise to his ability previously expended into popular Ghibli films and Kimi no Na Wa.
In the animation side of visual production, nearly every frames are carefully thought out and crafted, including this realistic smack-down between twelve year-olds.
Now I’m not exactly an animation junkie to know why every monsters’ art and animation except that of the Orbed-Piercer happen to be distorted series of clutters, but what I do know for sure is that they are also done on purpose. There’s a clear line of difference when Reg grabs onto the monsters; the artwork and animation of Reg get distorted alongside the monster’s.
Made In Abyss is one of a few rare cases where 3D GCI is heavily appreciated in my case. They are used appropriately to items and objects that can realistically move in quick, flowing motion in our real world.
The best part of the audio aspect in Made In Abyss for me has to be the sound effects. Sure, I can hear some replicas from other various shows but that’s basically tricks of the trade nowadays. For the sounds that they claim to be original, they deserve full credits. The best performing part would have to be everything Reg, from his arm extension sounds to agility enhancing movements. Let’s not forget his incinerator’s sound effect which could have easily been ripped off of Genos from One Punch Man, except that it is not.
Take the fifth episode for example, the charge-up phase sound effects of Reg’s incinerator rapidly alternates between left and right side up until the shoot-out.
I have heard many variations of simple sound effects such as opening and closing doors, filling up water bottles and even mechanical works. Most anime shows tend to cut corners which usually leave horrible oomph’s in my ears, Made In Abyss however fully steers clear from that trap as sound effects are carefully modified and equalized to fit many demanding situations.
The Opening Theme
I have already done a short analysis for the song here. But if you do not feel like clicking it, here is a copy and paste…
The animation sequence in the opening is so good it is able to distract me from focusing on the equally important part–the music.
So, without anything to see, I closed my eyes and examined this instrumental masterpiece. Let me get this out of the way before I carry on with my analysis; the vocals are extremely well done from both seiyuu. But in the end I’m more interested in what the Japanese have always been doing well when it comes to musical art, the instruments. Absolutely, artistically unmatched.
The first thing I obviously noted was that even this song contains distorted electric guitar but it’s so deep in the background I was more than halfway through the song before I’d even realized. As far as I know, this is the kind of instrumental that is extremely hard to replicate in live performances as electric guitars usually end up overpowering every other instruments.
There is something mysterious about this track, as given by the choice of instruments. I’ve already talked about how trumpets and trombones give energy to music. This track has none of those and true to my belief, it gives me absolutely no energy. However, Deep In Abyss uses violins in a way that creates a fearful feeling that is equivalent to endless sorrow, something I’ve experienced when listening to Re:Zero‘s first ending (Styx Helix) despite the latter having no violins present. Too bad for me I don’t even know that certain violin technique, but it’s a lot of short, quick loud bursts. If you’ve seen Your Lie In April then you’d know that even someone as crazy as Kaori-chan doesn’t use such a technique; she lets all of it flow.
The second MVP for this track has to be the piano. Absolutely, the piano! Without it, this song is practically losing the charm of mood changer. I’ve noticed that the notes are opposite of that in the violins, that is when the violins are bringing your emotions down, the piano does the opposite and that creates a surprisingly functioning combo. Woah! Who would have thought?
There’s a clear difference between giving you energy and making you find that energy, Deep In Abyss does the latter. While my musical emotion cowers in fear as I’ve found myself to be in a bottomless pit, the constant switches between minor and major notes are signs that I should still be looking for a way; a way to safety, a way to survive. With all of that said, it is clear that I tend to not listen to this song while I’m trying to sleep as it always keeps me on alert…
The Ending Theme
For those who have watched the show, take notice that Nanachi’s seiyuu joins the vocals for the song after her appearance.
The song takes me away from the tiresome experience brought onto myself after watching the show. It is bubbly and happy, as if readying me for next part of the unpredictable journey, no matter how gruesome.
Now that the series has finished airing, all I have to say is that if it wasn’t for the ending song, I’d probably have a hard time resting after each episode.
If you decide to go into Made In Abyss and later start to wonder why the background music is generally slow paced, deep and enshrouded with mystery, it is likely because the people who created them happen to be producer Hiromitsu Iijima alongside an extraordinarily talented composer, Kevin Penkin.
Wait, not a Japanese person?!
Nope. He is an Australian who has been exhibiting his prowess for many years to the point that he gets taken on board by Final Fantasy series composer . This is where a fun fact about this anime will probably make you appreciate it much, much more.
Penkin himself has worked alongside few more foreigners for this project, from vocalists to composing assistants. Made In Abyss is far from your typical anime produced by mostly Japanese people. The time has truly come.
Unsurprisingly, the soundtracks are absolutely RPG material, that is I actually put these on while playing World of Warcraft. I mean, come on. It’s from a composer who worked for games BGM; the unmistakable influence is no mere coincidence. 99% of the tracks featured in the two soundtrack CD’s fit into the animation scene perfectly, however on their own I’ve only cherry-picked picked 22 of the 52 tracks and put them into my phone for listening when not watching the show.
Also composed by the talented Penkin, they can make up most of the audio captivity when really needed. Though I wouldn’t actually call them insert songs since they are officially part of the soundtracks–background music playlist. I’m only letting them off because only a few times have these songs been played throughout the show. Three songs in total as far as I’m concerned, two of which get their time right in the first episode alone and play a massive part in sucking me into the abyss. Penkin uses the power of music which can easily influence and control minds of the watchers; it’s one of those times I just knew that Made In Abyss would definitely come out great.
Oh and damn I’m glad that is the case. Try this and hear it for yourself.
One of our five senses is hearing, loli won’t be as they are without that vital part of human recognition! Without any doubt, the voice actors and especially lead actresses have done spectacular job in giving life to the kids. Their joyous screams make me smile out of happiness, their fearful shrieks get my skin crawling, their painful cries put me in a bind as I realize I am watching a freaking anime so going around screaming for help wouldn’t do me any realistic benefit. It is specifically when they scream in pain and sorrow, I constantly, unconsciously find myself in a mental challenge. Can I hold these feelings in?
Let’s not forget the supporting cast! They have all done splendid job, having me say any more would just add to the cliche of praises. However there are two characters which gets me going “holy crap”.
What do you think when the voice of probably one of the most iconic characters in anime ever, happens to be embedded into a little, cross dressing male?
Toyosaki Aki lends her vocal power to Marulk, the one character that had me cry like a little bitch. True to my belief, she remains one of the best choices for any character that just wants to be cute in sound regardless to how they look.
Her talents poured into Ouzen create a unique tone of badassery, a profile she already holds.
Visual storytelling is compelling!
I’m just going to add my commentary into the sea of praise cliches for this one.
The first episode’s ability to tug my wondering heart and pull me in is mostly thanks to the visual side. I can just take a picture of the abyss from high up (look at the feature photo) and tell you that Made In Abyss is beautiful as a whole.
No. The show does not sweat in the slightest while bringing captivating shots of the first layer and Orth, as seen within the first eight minutes of the first episode. Add the now-famous ‘montage/special opening‘ into the mix and you have yourself a near perfect visual storytelling done by anime.
Hint: It has to do with the society surrounding cave-raiders.
Made In Abyss does not waste time in the flashbacks bullcrap, instead it uses the so-called past events in perfect positions to advance the story. They act as mystery solvers in which many battle shounen shows would rather spend that precious time for the technobabble.
When it comes to full backstories; they are also perfectly well done I could barely recognize the transition between the past and the present in relation to the show as if I was dozing off.
No. A better way to describe this feeling is immersion.
World building is a serious business here
I once assumed that people could just get themselves to the center of the abyss’s opening and do a skydive. There are no dangerous effects to descending no matter the speed, so why didn’t they just carry on with it?
This is where the fantasy-esque of Made In Abyss gets further fortified. Though, in reality you really do not want to sky dive into a large hole full of potentially dangerous inhabitants. From outside, the abyss is just a large crater, but once Riko and Reg begin their true descent, they come to encounter what can easily be recognized as a completely different world.
If you have flew on a plane enough times, just look down onto the landscape and see how much of your vision gets altered by massive difference in altitude. This is basically the logic Made In Abyss could have used but it didn’t; the show has its own ‘logic’ regarding a force field that alters the vision from above. It sounds believable so I won’t discredit the show.
Building a world from the ground up alone is only half of the fun, the other half tends to be half-assed by many other fantasy shows with heavy involvement of world building.
I’m looking at you, all Isekai shows.
Made In Abyss is not doing this part half-hearted but they aren’t doing the very best either. The first thing you really have to take notice is the convention of names for all of the characters in the show; they hardly have anything to do with the Japanese culture. I’m still torn whether to write Jiruo or Gilo in this review, Kiyui or Kiwi, etc…
Down the line comes monsters with odd but obvious names and their extremely unique designs. If we’re going to see a different world, might as well see difference in everything, right?
Down to the tiniest details
The opening and ending credits may not be fully evolving but you know what are?
Made In Abyss uses images to denote the stage it is at. There are several places in which you can find the ever-changing details, as if you also are on a journey with them.
First place to find changing details is within the last few seconds of the opening sequence. Notice the lack of next episode previews. Some shows do take it to the internet, releasing episode previews on YouTube. Made In Abyss probably hasn’t done that to my knowledge. Each arc is represented by a BEAUTIFUL illustration, with the last one hinting a dream-coming-true future.
The second place to find changing details is right after the ending sequence, in exception of episode 3, 7 and the finale where they remain unchanged. Episode 3 does not have an ending sequence so the duo’s unchanged location on the map was done perfectly to immediately give us an impression that Orth was the last place Riko and Reg were seen.
Episode twelve makes a wise use of credits in the ending sequence. Mitty’s name is there but her voice actress’s name is not; her seiyuu’s name gets a reveal in the finale.
The Miscellaneous, from me!
I think I will include this section for most reviews from now on, mainly because it’s mostly personal!
Favorite Episode – 5
Not the finale?!
Nah. I came into Made In Abyss for adventure and the fifth episode is without a doubt the best representation of all things ‘pressurizing’. All is within my expectation for what happens when people trek around unfamiliar landscapes. One minute the duo is safe, another they get themselves in grave danger. Break time is not something any true adventurers plan ahead; it’s an opportunity. Finding safe places is also one.
Resting is for the weak.
Favorite Character – Nanachi
This one is a no brainer. Nanachi embodies experience of a typical cave raider’s dream and tragic. Basically she sits right in the middle of Riko’s dream progress from a red whistle to her mother Lyza, a white whistle.
She also displays a case of Kuudere. This is easily seen in pretty much most of her encounters with Reg as she initially is quick to shoot down the latter’s endless doubts about her neutrality, only to slowly open up about her humanoid past later.
Favorite Soundtrack – CD 2 Track 15 ‘Adventure Through the Light’
Favorite Moment At Any Given Time – Any of Nanachi roasting Reg
Made In Abyss revives a modern-classic, coming of age tale of highly fantasized adventure, something that has been buried deep in animation as a medium for many decades. Every time any show makes me say, “damn, these guys sure know where to spend the budget,” never has a show made my words carry more weight than this.
It’s a huge collaboration of talents from around the world, initiating and continuing the challenge to the already big names in animation industry as a whole, not just anime in Japan. I won’t be surprised if some of you mistake this for an Adult Swim original show when you watch it in English dub.
For just about any anime and cartoon watchers, from casual viewers and diehard fans; put Made In Abyss into your bucket list and swear an ‘Orth’ to complete the show before you kick the bucket.
Thank you for taking your time to read and if you really decide to pick up on watching Made In Abyss as a consequence of reading my review, I’m glad that I can help! 🙂