Made in Abyss メイドインアビス made it’s debut in the second half of 2017. Based on the ongoing 2012 manga series by Akihito Tsukushi, a sequel is already in production but I’m jumping the gun. The 13 episode anime series is produced by Kinema Citrus. If that doesn’t give you an indication of what to expect here then allow me to explain.
Orth Here We Come
The setting for the anime takes place in a somewhat similar world to our own with one gigantic hole shaped difference. A near bottomless chasm is discovered in the earth and from within strange creatures and powerful artifacts are found. The prospect of exploring is too much for many and ‘Divers’ setup a sprawling town built around the rim of the abyss. The society here is heavily influenced by the ‘Diver’ culture with children trained from an early age to explore shallow depths of the abyss.
More proficient explorers go further but only the best of the best can handle the mysterious and dangerous depths. The abyss isn’t just home to new species and relics, it also houses a terrifying curse. Explorers are struck with a painful illness, suffering more severe effects the further down they explorer. These range from mild nausea, to hallucinations, bleeding from every orifice to death.
Dive Dive Dive!
Why on earth would anyone risk their life to delve into the cavernous pit? For some it’s glory, others the riches and some just hope to recover something that will help their fellow man and seal their name in the history books. Then there is our protagonist, 12-year old oprhan RIko who wishes to follow in the footsteps of her mother and try unravel the mysteries of the Abyss.
The preteen gets her wish when she encounters a humanoid robot she dubs Reg. Reg possesses immense power, weaponised arm cannons to turn against the monsters in the abyss. He also possesses extendable arms, allowing him to cross great distances quickly. However the boyish bot is missing his memories and can’t recall where he came from or how he found himself out of the pit. He follows his new friend to protect her but to also help understand who he is and where he comes from.
Descent Into Madness
Based on the artwork, you might assume (as much as I did) that this is something of a fun filled cute adventure story. The chibi-esque characters at it’s front with adorable voices and some stunning art/animation styles. It’s hard not to draw assumptions. However much like the abyss the show draws it’s name from, it’s a terrifying struggle, forcing it’s duped audience to engage some real horror and hardship. I felt betrayed.
Like the over eager Riko I had an image of what this journey would be like; a hop, skip and jump to the bottom with some hearty laughs, unspoken romantic feelings all neatly wrapped up in the end with a final encounter with our missing maternal figure. The show, like the abyss, chews that idea up and spits it back at us pretty quickly. As Riko and Reg descend and come face to face with real dangers and harrowing decisions, the show reveals itself as a monster. A fantasy horror anime the likes of which I have never experienced before.
Made in Abyss drew me in and by the time I was halfway through there was no turning back. I had reach my point of no return much like Riko and Reg. I had to go on, to see this out, to bring the journey to the end. However much like the best laid plans, nothing ever turns out the way it should. Reg and Riko are forced to stop their travels after an attack from a terrifying abyssal creature leaves Riko fighting for her life.
Enter Nanachi, a hollow, who takes pity on Reg and helps him rescue and take care of Riko. Some of the true horrors of the Abyss are slowly revealed to this toward the end of the season. Nanachi slowly offers her personal story to us, how she became a Hollow and the circumstances of her transformation are ever bit as heart wrenching as they are terrifying.
I’ve Been Re Made in Abyss
The serious uses some stunning animation. The abyss is sprawling world with backdrops crammed with as much colourful detail as it is terrifying monsters. The animation plays a part in the lie and the alluring trap. Big bright eyes bursting with colour fill us with hope but quickly become a gut wrenching affair when the same character’s face is painted in agony and blood. A particular encounter with twisted death eating monster in the abyss gave me goosebumps and nightmares at the same time. Made in Abyss feels and looks like Hayao Miyazaki has had a terrifying nightmare and series creator Akihito Tsukushi stole them and used them to create this petrifying new world.
If you’re looking for something different. If you need something to break your heart or turn your stomach. Build you up and tear you down. Then you can stop searching and dive right into Made in Abyss. I have become just as invested in learning about the abyss as Riko. I am just as protective of her as Reg is and trying to toughen up as much as Nanachi. With some compelling story telling and wonderful animation this is a series no anime fan can miss.