By Kimsen Kipgen
Like many great anime, Made in Abyss started out as a manga series written by Akihito Tsukushi in 2012. The anime series was released in July, 2017 consisting of 13 episodes and was directed by Masayuki Kojima and written by Hideyuki Kurata. There are also two follow-up films that were released last year in January, 2019.
This story unfolds around an island, both famed and infamous, for being home to the Abyss. This entire island looks exactly like the images we see of volcanic islands except, in place of a giant or deep crater, the ‘volcano’ is the gateway to a deep and seemingly never ending descent into the earth. An entire town (called Orth in this series) has grown and developed surrounding the mouth of this ‘volcano’.
Why is the Abyss so famous? Those who venture deep into the Abyss are known as Cave Raiders or Delvers and they are classified into colour categories with White being the highest level. All Cave Raiders/Delvers wear a whistle around their neck in the colour of their rank. These adventurers make their way into the Abyss in the hopes of finding relics leftover from a lost civilization who seemed to have thrived inside the Abyss. Some of these relics are unlike anything you find on the surface and the deeper one goes into the Abyss, the more dangerous it becomes. Which is why Delvers/Cave Raiders who make it back from journeys deeper and deeper in to the Abyss, are often times hailed as heroes by the people. High ranking Delvers are also sometimes called upon by their governments or nations to carry out expeditions to retrieve valuable and rare relics. The rarer relics that are discovered bring a lot of wealth, prestige and power to whoever can claim it which leads to fierce competition between governments and nations. This is played out from within the Abyss with Delvers who sometimes have to fight off other Delvers for it.
Riko, a young girl living in an orphanage, dreams of becoming a White Whistle just like her mum, the legendary Delver, Lyza. The whole story kicks off when she discovers a robot who looks like an ordinary boy while exploring in the upper layer of the Abyss. She names him Reg and along with her friends, he becomes part of their lives in the orphanage. This is soon followed by a Mail Balloon reaching Riko containing a message from her supposedly dead mother, Lyza which prompts her to begin her preparations to journey into the Abyss with Reg despite being a novice Delver.
The animation is quite different for the characters in this anime and you may find them slightly rounded and ‘childish’ looking. But it is also one of the features that make this anime stand out. By no means is the story childish. This entire world that the manga writer created is fascinating with the ranks of Devlers, the layers the Abyss is divided into, even the system of Mail Balloons and how they can only be used up to a certain level in the Abyss, or the value of the higher rank whistles and the dangers the Abyss inflicts upon those who delve deeper and deeper – the Curse of the Abyss and the dreaded 6th layer.
Each episode builds up the story, throwing in more danger and difficult decisions for Riko and doesn’t try to hide the very real danger she gets thrown into with Reg. Though eternally an optimist and cheerful, you see how every hurdle pushes a new and difficult reality onto Riko and the toll the journey takes on her. Furthermore, with each episode, new characters are introduced who build onto Riko’s story but also through their own stories, add more information and background to the world surrounding the Abyss, the tragedies of being a Delver and also the not so idealistic reality of the trade.If you’re looking for a short but well plotted out anime to watch and one they may be artistically, slightly different from regular fare, then I’d highly recommend watching this anime.
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