MADE IN ABYSS
So far this season, no anime has been quite as magical as Made In Abyss from Kinema Citrus studios. Here I’ll go week by week and discuss each episode in a short write up. We’re a bit late, however, last week’s episode is a great jumping off point (quite literally). First, let’s get some recap. Riko is a twelve-year old cave raider, trained from a young age in an orphanage/school to search for artifacts in the abyss. Humanity came to this island, found the abyss and, as the world’s last great frontier, seek to explore its magical mysteries. Riko’s mother, Lyza the Annihilator (seriously how bad-ass can a name get?), is one of this society’s great heroes having fought off foreign factions looking to steal from their Abyss. For her epicness, she became known as a White Whistle (the highest colored whistle rank for Abyss Raiders). Despite her disappearing in the Abyss 10 years ago, Riko yearns for the day when she can meet her again. That day comes sooner than expected after she meets a humanoid robot artifact, Reg, and learns that his grappling robotic arms are ideal for Abyss diving and his synthetic body is immune to Abyss sickness. Also, when her mother’s whistle gets retrieved they uncover her research notes with a message that Riko believes is for her reading “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting”.
It’s important to note that this entire society is hellbent on sending able bodies down into this monster-ridden dangerous chasm, regardless of age. Although kids Riko’s age aren’t allowed beyond the second level. They almost have a cult-like mindset about the Abyss, feeling no regard for their own lives and reserving themselves for the possibility of death in service of solving the Abyss’s greater mysteries. Nat, one of her raiding partners, rebuts their plans of adventure and tries to insist that her mother is likely already dead, but with an emotional far well, Riko and Reg go anyway. Riko has shown her willingness to put her own life at risk before and her drive to almost borders on suicidal tendencies. However, her character makes sense considering what her society has imparted on her about the nobility of becoming a white whistle, despite all her classmates being orphans like her because all their parents were Abyss divers as well. Despite the show’s cute aesthetic and young cast, this mentality creates an uneasy feeling of danger through this trying journey they’re about to embark on; also I hear it gets dark so I believe it.
These first three episodes do a great job of world building and deliver exposition in unintrusive ways, creating a lived-in and wholly believable fantasy setting. The art is gorgeous, some of the background designs were made with the aid of a former Studio Ghibli artist and it really shows. The animation of the creatures has this otherworldly feel with a big stylistic change from the more simple character designs. Simple still works, as the character art and animation are strong in creating two very memorable lead characters. The same praise can be said for the music; Kevin Penkin created a spacey low-beat R&B that plays in the first episode in place of the OP and it is astonishingly beautiful.
Now we’re caught up to episode 4, which was a bit slower so it will be easy to cover after all this recap. Riko and Reg make it down to the first layer after sneaking away from the orphanage and we are treated to several key survival scenes that show us our heroes capabilities. Reg can use his grappling arm to set up alert traps as they rest and can handily escape the threat of monsters using his arms as well. Riko shows her survival knowledge and ability to cook that, although not the best considering their new life they have no reason to complain. They make it further than they’ve ever gone before but despite being only this far down we can already see Riko’s slowing being affected by the Abyss sickness. This causes concern since it only gets worse the further down you go, the worst case being the loss of one’s humanity. We do know that Riko was born in the Abyss and despite her mother’s best efforts to keep her safe with an anti-abyss artifact, Riko’s eyesight was still affected. This has to come up later and hopefully be some sort of advantage for Riko when some mysterious truth about the Abyss comes to light.
The main plot point of this episode, however, is that they’re being followed by Leader, one of the older kids from the Abyss. Despite his aloofness to Riko and her friends’ plan he seemed to suspect something and pocketed Lyza’s research notes along with a note saying if they can make it to level 2 before he finds them he will let them go. Other problems arise when they think Leader has found them but instead it’s a Black Whistle (that’s the second best) named Habo, who was tipped off by Riko’s friends to watch over her as she makes her way down. Habo, interested in Reg as a high-level artifact goes but isn’t so willing to apprehend them and take them back. But Riko, eager to prove her worth, insists they make it down to level 2 without his help. Habo admire’s Riko’s spirit and gives the two words of encouragement and a mission to find another fellow White Whistle, consequently the one that helped Lyza carry Riko out of the Abyss, but warns that she may not like what she sees mentioning they’d journey off sooner or later anyway. In and of itself that’s a pretty dark and nihilistic perspective but works for this show in a way it may not have anywhere else. The find the mouth of the Forrest of Temptation aka the beginning of level 2 and set off. I’m excited to see where this goes next and where that Leader side story is going. I have a foreboding feeling that if anyone dies in this show it might be Leader in an attempt to risk his life to save Riko because of something naive she does. I feel like our main character’s plot armor will keep them safe as far as the story goes, but Riko does need some event to whip her into the realization of how scary this world is before the real dangerous stuff approaches.
Be sure to check back once a week as I continue to revisit the world of Made in Abyss.