Made in Abyss is an anime from last year brought to us by Kinema Citrus (because poor literacy makes for good studio names). Now, I only know this studio because they worked with White Fox on the second series of Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka. I’ve also heard of this anime because MAL is enamoured with it and my highly intelligent sister hates it. But she also didn’t care for Akuma no Riddle or Angel Beats so I may well disagree with her on this too. Of course her big complaint was that it went into super twelve year old edgelord writing during the last part of the series and if that is an apt description, I don’t think we’ll be disagreeing.
We open with young Riko exploring the early part of the Abyss, a great and mysterious area where explorers can find treasures but also encounter deadly perils and suffer from a “curse” when they ascend that can wreak havoc on them. After an encounter with a monster that’s strangely high up, she finds a mysterious robot boy. She decides to keep him rather than turning him in and they soon find themselves setting out on an adventure into the depths of the abyss.
The biggest narrative issue with the series is that the tone is wildly inconsistent. Now, I don’t agree with my sister about it going really badly edgelord but it does go from more light-hearted adventure to some pretty dark and gruesome stuff involving unethical medical experiments and bleeding eyes. And that does cause some tonal issues. It’s like when Gintama went from joking about anuses to a serious story arc about children being raised as prostitutes or when Galaxy Angel went from zany comedy to a serious episode for some reason. These things don’t work well together.
Now, to its credit, there’s clearly an effort put into separating the content to minimise the potential problems from the darker content clashing with the lighter with some work at shifting between them properly instead of just going from one to the other out of nowhere.
Then there’s the curse of the abyss. When I first heard it described, I thought it was going to be like a diver ascending or descending too rapidly, but the series gets a bit stupid with it. There’s a point where we see our plucky heroine ascend a slight incline and get hit by the curse. Which doesn’t even make sense with the actual explanation they give for how the curse is supposed to work, by the way. The series also has a strange obsession with child nudity. To the point where I have to question whether or not the original writer just has a fetish for it. Seriously, they bring up Regu’s penis at least five times and the idea of stringing up children naked is brought up and actually shown in action at one point.
With those issues out of the way, there are some good ideas present in this series. The whole set up with the abyss could make for a pretty fantastic dungeon crawler. The concept behind the curse is interesting, even if its not always executed well. When the series is sticking to its normal aesthetic, it has some strong moments. This is a series that could be really good, but a lot of its ideas aren’t out of the build up stage by the end of the first series. So, its potential ends up being largely unrealised.
At this juncture, most of the characters are pretty under-developed. Riko is adventurous and knowledgeable but she doesn’t have the skills to pull off a lot of what needs done. She probably should’ve stuck to the earlier layers grinding up her level for a while. Regu is just bland. He’s determined to protect Riko but he easily gets his jimmies rustled. Oh, and he has amnesia so his past is mysterious. Yeah, he’s one of those rather generic protagonists. Undoubtedly, he’ll learn to harness his power and reign in his emotions to emerge as “the greatest hero” because that’s what usually happens with that variety of protagonist. Then we have Nanachi. The androgynous character with the dark past.
To be fair to both Regu & Nanachi, there’s enough room in their back stories for something different and interesting to be put in there. If I review the next series, I’ll tell you if that happens. It definitely doesn’t in this one.
Then we have the various secondary characters. I’ll be honest, I don’t foresee any of them moving past their rather trite archetype forms. Clearly, the story is going to follow Riko, Regu & Nanachi. The rest might show up briefly but I doubt they’ll get enough focus to become three dimensional. But maybe they’ll pull a Lower Decks on us.
The biggest issue is the copious levels of child nudity. Seriously, is Tsukushi on some kind of watch list? He probably should be. Not only is Riko, the child we see starkers most often, all of twelve but the art style makes her look even younger. So, that’s uncomfortable for everybody. And the action sequences are a bit weak since they largely involve Regu getting kicked around and then firing his laser or something else happening to just end it abruptly. I will give the series credit on the abyss itself. The environments look great. The creatures are interesting looking as well.
Our main characters are voiced by Ise Mariya, Tomita Miyu & Izawa Shiori. The three of them are pretty good in their roles. Kevin Penkin’s soundtrack is quite nice. Really, the sound as a whole is the only element I don’t have any major issues with.
This series is like Soul Eater in regards to ho-yay. Whether or not it has a good amount depends on whether or not the androgynous character (Nanachi) is female or male. If they’re a girl, there’s a fair amount once they show up. Both because of the stuff with Mitty and because of their response to Riko once she starts interacting with them. If they’re a male, there’s not really any at this juncture.
Ultimately, I can’t agree with the hype surrounding this series. It has a foundation that could be built upon for a great series, but it also has some major flaws. That being said, I also don’t agree with my sister. With all due respect for her, the dark moments aren’t all that bad and they do at least try to transition to and way from them properly. I would be interested in checking out the second series once it airs to see if it fleshes out the characters and takes full advantage of all the potentially strong elements that have just been built up at this juncture or if it wastes them. But, for the first series, I have to call it average. The flaws and strengths balance each other out pretty thoroughly and it winds up neither good nor bad but with the foundation in place to go either way. Yeah, I’m definitely going to review the second series when it’s finished.