Made In Abyss Complete Season 1 (Cert 15)

2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 345 minutes approx.

All kids love an adventure but sometimes they can bite of more than they can chew. The motive for undertaking a dangerous mission might be noble and deeply personal but is stubbornness and determination a good enough reason to risk your life – especially when you could wait a few years before setting off into the deep unknown?

Well, this IS anime where teenage kids live alone, ten years olds fly across the world unaccompanied, or pilot giant mecha against alien invaders. Therefore, we are asked to simply accept the fact a 12 year-old girl is about to descend into a mysterious deep pit known as The Abyss, where remnants of ancient civilisations and strange creatures are found.

In the town of Orth on the island of Beoluska is the Belchero Orphanage, where the children are trained to be Cave Raiders, treasure hunters of The Abyss. Among them is Riko, daughter of the legendary Lyza the Annihilator, said to have passed away in The Abyss ten years ago when Riko was just two. Spellbound by her mother’s legacy, Riko wants to follow in her footsteps and reach the White Whistle status that allows her to go deep into the Abyss.

During a mission, Riko is attacked by a creature but is saved by an amnesiac young boy she finds unconscious nearby who she discovers he is a robot. Riko names him Reg and takes him back to the orphanage. When some of Lyza’s affects are discovered, among them is a recently written note telling Riko she is waiting for her. With Reg’s help, Riko sneaks out of the orphanage and into The Abyss to find her mother, taking them both on an adventure of a lifetime.

This high concept fantasy adventure comes from the mind of mangaka Akihito Tsukushi and follows in the footsteps of Puella Magi Madoka Magica by featuring cutesy character designs for its prepubescent cast but is in fact a very dark and subversive series. It may be classic shonen in its set up but Made In Abyss isn’t afraid to try out new ideas whilst putting a twist on some favoured conventions.  

Part Indiana Jones, part Princess Mononoke/Nausicaa and a dash of Fullmetal Alchemist, each of these influences deftly combine to create a provocative yet entertaining coming-of-age tale with a difference. Riddled with mystery, action and uncomfortable horror, its greatest asset is the aforementioned cartoony appearance of the young characters since it makes the audience ill prepared for what they are about to see.

The Abyss itself is less a bottomless pit but a whole world in its own right, made up of various levels each one with its own dangers that are not limited to the prehistoric type monsters and mutated animals that dwell within, not to mention unsavoury humans with chips on their shoulders. Similar to the bends for divers, returning to the surface from The Abyss takes its toll on people just as it does the further down they go, from sickness to delirium, exhaustion, and finally death.

Riko is driven by her childish impetuousness and hero worship of her mother, whom she never got to know, but learning Lyza may be alive is enough for Riko to risk her life to get answers. He may seem kooky but Riko has studied The Abyss and knows everything about it from the various records at the orphanage. She is a bit capricious however, and brave to a fault which is why she needs Reg to rein her in and more often than not, save her from harm.

Despite being made of a hard substance (although he has a navel and fully functioning boy parts) and possessing retractable arms with a laser canon in each hand, Reg suffers from the same pre-teen anguishes of any boy, squirming whenever Riko gets naked (not explicitly mind) or getting easily upset.

It becomes a bit of a recurring motif having Reg save Riko from danger at every turn, so to add an element of drama, it is revealed that whenever Reg uses his palm canons, he will faint ten minutes later then sleep for two hours. On a few occasions, this leaves Riko having to fend for herself whilst dragging a comatose Reg behind her, but this brings out the resiliency and resolve of her character.

The further the journey progresses, the darker the content gets, forcing our intrepid duo to perform some pretty desperate acts in the name of survival that will make the audience flinch. In the last few episodes, they meet a young girl named Nanachi, a Hollow, and her strange pet Mitty, revealing a tragic backstory that adds further mystery to the world of The Abyss, but pales in comparison to what happens next.

Not everything is so grisly and violent, with plenty of levity to break up the misery, although some of the icky humour should have been excised. Action is aplenty and with a plethora of monsters, natural phenomena and other dangers lurking there is seldom a dull moment in The Abyss. Vegetarians won’t approve of Riko turning every creature she meets into dinner though, no matter how cute and fluffy it might be.

Kinema Citrus are responsible for the production of this show and the artwork is simply stunning. Both the surface world and The Abyss are rendered in great detail, sharing a medieval European influenced aesthetic beholden to the fantasy genre, with vivid colours for the verdant landscapes, and the dank sub-prehistoric depths within the cavernous hole.

Closing with a double length episode, Made In Abyss ends on a deliberately open note as a lead in for a sequel which is coming, except it will be in the form of two films and not a series. This is a shame, but certainly doesn’t diminish the sheer entertainment value and emotional resonance this series engenders in its audience, but like its two plucky young leads, you’ll soon be invested in this adventure for the long haul.

 

Extras:

English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

English Subtitles

Disc 2 only:

Clean Opening Animations

Clean Closing Animations

Japanese Trailer

Japanese Promos

Interview With Composer Kevin Penkin

Jouei Event

Making Of Made In Abyss 01

Making Of Made In Abyss 02

Music In Abyss

 

Rating – **** ½  

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