“If you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you…”
A quote from the show Made in Abyss, by the manga author Akihito Tsukushi & animation studio Kinema Citrus, indicating wonder, mystery, adventure, horror. The show is set around a giant gaping hole on earth, withholding many mysteries, knowledge, ancient relics, ruins, even entire ecosystem. Right at the first episode, when they show you the hole from up above, closing in on it, you can feel the quote more strongly as ever, as it feels like a huge eye, encompassing everything around it, including the city of Orth, home to many adventures, Cave Riders they are called & our main hero Riko, who one day dreams to go venture into the bottom of the abyss.
At first it may seem like a fun adventure story with the cute, moe, chibi artstyle & a protagonist of heart of steel, facing danger dead ahead with the. But the premise won’t let you rest since the plot armor isn’t too apparent. It’s not like typical bloody horror genre with jump scares, surprising moments but always giving you this ever-looming sense of dread. Like you know bad things will happen but don’t know when & how & what effect it will land. It gets you attached to the characters & their lovable personality, then rains you down with tragedy, depression & sadness. It gets creepier as we go deeper into abyss. But it also gives us this ray of hope, leading the way to continue the journey ahead, showing us not to underestimate the curious nature of human that just wants to dive deep into the unknown.
They can’t just help but to go into it, even if it’s mortally dangerous. It could be for fame, fortune, knowledge, sense of adventure. Some say they respond to the call of the abyss, that they are meant to be there. So many people journeyed down there to find answers to the questions, uncover the mysteries & died never getting any answers, becoming questions themselves for the next comers. Entire civilization we know nothing about have lived, ventured & perished in the abyss as the people of Orth do now. Invented their own devices & tools to aid & exploring now laying in moss covered ruins, structures & dark caves. The steampunk aspect of the weaponry & gadgets really calls back to the age of discovery.
The world building is done so well, giving so much meaningful details. Like geography, wildlife, plantation, science, etc. Even minor ones like you’ll see in the show that some trading ships come to visit Orth implying some sort of global economy, trading relics maybe, some relics have the capacity to shift the balance of power in different nations, the Cave Raider system etc. But all that pales in comparison to what the abyss has in it. Everything is handled masterfully that makes it feel like a real world to get immersed into. And our main hero Riko, fits perfectly in this.
Characters & Plot
Riko is cheerful, optimistic, loves adventures & discovering. She dreams of going into the abyss herself to quench the thirst for knowing the unknown of what lies down. Her hobby is going through the relic records & books about the abyss, trying to be prepared as much as possible before finally setting off. It’s as if she craves the abyss & it’s inevitable that she will end up going. One day she runs into a robot boy who seems to have come from the depth of abyss with no recollection of his memory. She befriends with him & gives him a name, Reg. After receiving a letter from her mother, which was found by the cave raiders, she finally starts off with Reg to find her in the depth of giant pit. In her journey, you get to see the world through her curious eyes, giving off a fairytale like charm & make you wonder. It keeps the audience captivating that what wonders lie ahead, what challenge they are going to overcome. But then it slams you into the harsh reality of this world & cruelty of the wilderness as they keep descending into the deeper layers of the abyss. But through all the suffering & sorrow, our hero’s pushes through, giving meaning to all they’ve endured & find closer in heart, making this story very emotional, with the people they’ve met & bonded with.
Aside from the main characters, the secondary ones are also given much love & attention. The design, personality, quirks, details, everything makes then stand out from one another, which makes them memorable in their own rights. And they serve their purpose in the story well. Which also helps in terms of world building.
Visuals & Animation
The visuals are truly the eyecandy here. The background looks vibrant & crisp with the details in environment, even the ecosystem. Each location have a unique look that sets the vibe of the story & the intensity of the tone. Even the plantation, wildlife & different creatures have unique look serving different purpose of the story. It’s such rich & captivating as a whole.
The animation is top tier. Every action scenes packs a hard hitting moment. Choreography, camera works, sound effects everything is handled masterfully. Even non-action scenes carry meanings like the body language of Riko expressing her playful nature, facial expressions everything is just captivating. Animation studio Kinema Citrus really put their heart into this.
Sound & Voice Acting
The sound is breathtaking. I literally have no right words to express how each soundtrack feels. Every soundtrack carries different emotions such as playful curiosity, timidity, indescribable sadness & just feeling of the atmosphere of the abyss itself. All that making every scene play ever so perfectly. The music composer Kevin Penkin masterfully did the job.
The Opening and Ending are very nice too. The OP really gets you up for an adventure & the ED just gives you a spoonful of moe to relax. Both songs & animations are fitting perfectly to each other. The OP song “Deep in Abyss” sang by the voice artists of Riko & Reg i.e. Miyu Tomita & Mariya Ise and the ED song “Tabi no Hidarite, Saihate no Migite” sang by Miyu Tomita, Mariya Ise, & the voice of Nanachi, Shiori Izawa are both fun to watch & listen to.
The voice acting is really well done as well. Both Japanese & English voice are handled very well. All character including secondary, tertiary, or those who showed up once, all have fitting voices. But it may go down to your personal preference on which version you want to watch.
This is truly one of the best anime of all time. Every aspect mentioned above is top tier. And they managed to do it all in only 13 episodes. I can go on forever talking about it but words alone cannot describe how much fascinating it is. You can judge it yourself by watching it. I tried to find flaws within it but can’t really make of anything. No matter how many times I watched, I kept wanting for more. It’s such a surreal experience. It’s short, captivating, those wanting to start watching anime & also those who already loves anime, this is a must watch.
A canon movie sequel came out with the title of “Dawn of the Deep Soul” in 2020 after the events of season 1. The second season has been announced to come out this year with the title of “The Golden City of the Scorching Sun”.
The manga author Akihito Tsukushi took inspiration from the games Dark Souls & Wizardry.
The music composer Kevin Penkin was born in Australia but can speak fluent Japanese.
The series was awarded Anime of the Year and Best Score at Crunchyroll’s 2018 Anime Awards.