Don’t ask me why I finished Made in Abyss and not my English readings, but…well, since I finished it, I might as well talk about it. I started this blog with “10 Best Things” posts, which isn’t really a problem because I only really finish anime that I enjoy. Sometimes I feel like it limits the content too much though, because I’m only allowing myself to talk about the positives. I like the idea of it still, but for this post, I’ll try out “10 Opinions” instead. I would like to try to do a “10-something” for every anime/manga I finish from now on (because I like to organize things as lists), so we’ll see how it goes.
This review (?) will contain some spoilers, and all opinions are my own.
1. The concept of a downward dive makes for a spectacular adventure/fantasy story.
I love the name “abyss.” There’s something sublime about it. The people’s lives revolve around it: from the architecture and village layout to people’s ranks, superstitions, and ideologies. With all this elaborate set-up that the anime steadily introduces you to over the initial episodes, I was blown away when Riko suddenly receives the letter (from her mom, supposedly) with the bold words “I’ll wait for you at the bottom of the netherworld.” Thanks to the well-established worldview, Riko’s journey downwards feels absurd yet alluring right from the get-go.
Kind of reminds me of those mobile fishing games, you know, where you press and hold for a long time so that the lower your hook sinks, the more suspicious fish you get. What makes this set-up work so well is that although Riko and Reg are journeying into uncharted territory, there is a clear sense of destination that the viewers can observe. We get that map showing us how far Riko and Reg have gotten by the end of every episode. We know that the abyss isn’t a bottomless hole – there is a bottom to be reached. I think having a concrete location as well as a goal (meeting Riko’s mom) is what guarantees a strong and focused narrative. Unless it’s a serialized shounen manga series that’s forced to drag on forever, which it thankfully isn’t.
2. Having child characters comes with pros and cons.
The pros: um, they’re really cute! There’s the juxtaposition created by putting naive, driven, and weak protagonists in a dark and cruel world. Jaded characters like Ouzen and most of the village’s adults lack the willpower to explore the abyss like the idealistic Riko. There’s Lyza, but I don’t think I’ve seen enough of Lyza to comment on this. The fact that Riko and Reg are so helpless and clueless makes me feel a natural concern for them, and causes me to develop fear and respect for the environments they find themselves in.
The cons: there were some really weird scenes. Hablog peeking into Reg’s pants, Ouzen harassing Maruruk (and presumably forcing him to cross-dress?), moments like that. The creator seems to think that such things are okay because the characters are cute and innocent children. Riko and Reg are an incredibly pure pair, and I do appreciate that. I think the point can be made without so many of the awkward moments that joke around about sexuality. Also, is Riko’s dad a kid (jk, I know he’s not)??? The anime’s art style makes too many of the characters look childish, in my opinion. So many of them would look cooler if only their faces and eyes aren’t so moe.
3. The recaps really sucked.
This isn’t Attack on Titan…I don’t want lengthy recaps (not like I liked the AoT recaps either). The recaps seem to get longer and longer each episode. They take up so many minutes. Considering that the anime used a 48 minute episode to wrap-up, I really don’t think all those recaps were necessary. If you take them out, that would have made room for another episode. I know – realistically that can’t happen, because episodes are planned out based on content. I just wanted to complain.
4. The anime knows how to create successful atmospheres.
One of the biggest thing that the anime did well in this respect is the sense of tension. The bird’s eye view shots give the viewer a good sense of the abyss’ depth and shows how Reg and Riko are just two tiny beings dangling from the sides of it. Every move the two make is a risk – even regular scenes of them walking or talking can be intense to watch when the characters are suspended or treading casually on unstable paths. Because of this constant tension, at no point while watching this anime did I feel bored.
The anime also does a good job evoking a sense of despair. I’m thinking of the really graphic scene with Reg trying to save Riko and the scene where Nanachi and Mitty get sent down into the sixth layer. The latter scene reminds me of the time I went on a free-fall ride and swore never to go on amusement park rides again, except that one’s…significantly worse.
5. Ouzen has an interesting voice.
Dark and drawn-out, but at the same time warm and smooth. It’s kind of hard to describe, just like her character. Her seiyuu, Sayaka Ohara, voiced a good amount of mom characters, to my amusement. I think her voice as Ouzen fits into that category. Also, I can really hear Irisviel in her voice, and can kind of hear echos of Yuuko from Tsubasa Chronicles/xxxHolic as well (Ohara voiced both Irisviel and Yuuko).
I usually like characters like Ouzen (enigmatic but secretly benevolent), but somehow, I don’t feel like Ouzen stood out to me as much. I feel like I predicted the plot twists with regards to her character, and there was not much other than that. Maybe if she pulls off an impressive/stylish skill or does something truly self-sacrificial, I would feel more strongly about her character. She is pleasant though.
6. That graphic scene is very daring.
You think Madoka Magica’s episode three was brutal? That was mild compared to this. I’m talking, of course, about Reg figuring out how to hack Riko’s grotesquely swelling hand off while she bleeds all over the place from her eyes, mouth, and nose. I can see how people can have issues with this – not everyone can take gore – but my response would be that whoever can’t handle it has the liberty to look away until it ends. I had a difficult time watching it too, but I thought it was effective in terms of illustrating the sense of hopelessness Reg experiences at the moment and the weight of the sacrifices that need to be made for the sake of the journey.
Due to the art style, that scene didn’t exactly feel realistic (I don’t think it was intended to be so), but the fact that a cutesy-looking character is spitting clumpy blood everywhere and passing out from the pain of having her bone broken is simply too shocking to forget.
7. The dynamics between Riko and Reg work.
Some think that Riko and Reg aren’t portrayed as equals, but I think they are. Yes, Riko passes out for the latter quarter of the show and is constantly in need of protection, and yes, Riko is the only one who’s able to cook. The anime is traditional in its depiction of gender roles. However, I never felt like Riko was really weaker than Reg. If anything, I feel like Riko is the stronger one, and tend to see her as the one leading the expedition. Reg is more hesitant and easily frightened, but his quick reflexes and perceptiveness are perfect for supporting Riko when she charges forth with with no sense of danger. They complement each other’s flaws nicely, I think.
8. Mitty’s final scene gave me so many feels.
As I expected, Reg and Nanachi made a ceremony out of Mitty’s…execution. I’m sorry I can’t think of a better word at the moment. Euthanasia? That seems more wrong, especially when Mitty probably experiences some pain before dying. It was sad enough watching Mitty make Mitty noises while blobbing around harmlessly among the stuffed animals Nanachi had sewn for her, but that moment when Nanachi stops Reg from firing the Incinerator and goes back to hug Mitty really did it for me.
It had to be done though. At least Mitty herself asked to be killed before she turned into a Hollow, or else the moral burden on Nanachi would have been much greater. I was glad to see how quickly Nanachi pulled herself out of the grief. The painful memories are sure to stay with her, but Mitty’s death definitely relieved her of many burdens. With Nanachi’s tearful breakdown after the firing of the Incinerator, Mitty’s death was certainly a powerful, cathartic scene.
9. Nanachi is the best character.
Admit it, Nanachi is simply adorable. The bunny ears, whiskers, and that tsundere voice… This is one of the few instances when a tsundere voice appeals to me, because Nanachi isn’t a full tsundere. Nanachi is just someone unaccustomed to warmth and touch. Judging from how quick Riko is to bond with her, Nanachi’s barrier around herself is surprisingly easy to break.
Nanachi is also the only one who gets a full back story. While it’s not really more original than what we can guess of Ouzen’s, it feels much more intimate with Nanachi actually narrating it (at least, we are to assume so). Mitty wasn’t really a character I ended up caring much about even after the story. Perhaps what made Nanachi’s character compelling for me was not really her back story, but how she carried the weight of it. She very literally carried the changed form of Mitty all the way to where she lives now. Nanachi’s determination to save Mitty as well as her moments of weakness are shown through the eyes of Reg, who notices all the vials of poisons and antidotes she collected over time from her attempts to kill Mitty, but also takes in the endearing moments of Nanachi babysitting a vegetable Mitty. I’m super glad she embarked on the journey with Reg and Riko, and believe that she would supply a lot of wisdom as well as fun to the team.
10. The ending montage was a treat to watch.
I love montages, okay? I love how hopeful it feels, the package making its way upwards through the help of people and chance. Its upwards float really mirrors Riko and Reg’s journey downwards. My only regret is not being able to see the package being opened. Don’t tell me I have to wait until the second season for such a small wish?
Overall, I’m more than happy with this anime. The world setting feels original, and the art and soundtracks were gorgeous. The characters behave according to reason and avert many stupid scenes, so I really do root for them. Nanachi included, there wasn’t anyone I absolutely fell in love with, but I do appreciate them all. I hope the second season matches up to this one in quality.