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Made in Abyss explores the depths of hope and despair

Don't let the adorable characters fool you; this one's rough
Made in Abyss
Posted at 3:46 PM, May 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-15 18:46:54-04

Released: 2017
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Episodes: 13

In the U.S. cartoons tend to get grouped into either the children or adult categories with very little crossover. If a show has cutesie child characters embarking on an adventure, it's pretty certain that the show is aimed toward a younger demographic.

Made in Abyss looks extremely cute on the outside. From the character designs to the first couple episodes, this gorgeous anime feels like its going to be a pleasant, light-hearted romp into a mysterious world of topsy-turvy nature and neat monsters. There are some indications that's not what you're going to get -- but there is no indication just how far Made in Abyss is actually going to go.

Riko is a 12-year-old girl living on the outside of the titular Abyss, a pit that plunges straight into the Earth. In this town, young people train to be Delvers, braving the dangers of the Abyss in search of artifacts. During one journey into its depths, Riko is saved by a strange robotic boy who becomes her best friend. When an item belonging to her long-lost mother makes it to the surface, Riko and her mechanized companion, Reg, begin a journey to the bottom of the Abyss to find Riko's mom.

The Abyss itself comes with a number of rules. It is layered, and much like the Hell of Dante, each level has its own personality, creatures, flora, and dangers. The further into the Abyss you go, the more likely you are to die or suffer some form of deformity as the "Curse of the Abyss" takes hold. And ascending from lower levels comes with at the most basic nausea, at worst death or something worse than death.

After a tepid few episodes setting up the big adventure, Riko and Reg begin their descent and the tone of the show spirals into madness the further they go. Along the way the duo meet other Delvers (including my favorite character, Ozen the Immovable) living in the Abyss. They also befriend a goat-like creature with one of the most disturbing backstories I've ever seen in an anime.

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Much of the show past the set-up ranged from good to really good. Made in Abyss is always flirting with being interesting whether with new character introductions or entering another level but it didn't really grip me until the last couple episodes. After the shocking events of episode ten onward, I became more invested as things got darker.

My biggest hurdle with Made in Abyss was that I felt really apathetic toward Riko and Reg . As I said above Ozen was my favorite and it's debatable whether I was supposed to like her or think she's horrible. The goat creature, Nanachi, is pretty great, but isn't introduced till near the end. Everyone but the heroes is interesting and that was, for me, a big problem toward my enjoyment of the series.

Otherwise, I like pretty much everything Made in Abyss is trying to do: The unexpected horror aspects that go in disturbing yet unique directions combined with the interesting world and characters peopling it.

Made in Abyss is a tough watch with some seriously disturbing horror content. Though the early episodes can be a slog and much of it is middling, those who stick to the end will find some memorable characters and a handful of moments among anime's most shocking.

Final Rating: 2.5/4
Made in Abyss is available through Sentai Filmworks, or can be viewed on Amazon Prime and HIDIVE.

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