Let us flash back to a short time ago to January 2018. The Anime Awards were happening with Crunchyroll, and for the most part, Season 2 of My Hero Academia was basically killing it. To be fair, it was a good show. I myself reviewed the whole 2nd season on here. It had great animation, a great cast of characters (except for one tiny, purple fellow) and some good fights. No matter how salty anyone could’ve gotten, which there was ALOT of salt, you couldn’t deny that it was at least deserving of an Anime of the Year nomination, let alone the winner. So, it came time to see who won it. And the winner was …. not MHA. Nope, it was a show that had gotten a bunch of talk from everyone, but wasn’t shown on Crunchyroll’s streaming service. Instead, the evil that was Anime Strike snatched it away. Finally and unmercifully, the moronically inexcusable double-paywall that is Anime Strike is now all dead. But still, it was amazing that a show that wasn’t even on, and probably will never be on, Crunchyroll’s streaming service actually won their Best Anime of 2017. But as such, I had to check out this show myself in some way. With a little help from one of my Twitter friends, I got to finally check out the Anime of the Year, Made in Abyss.
There will be some spoilers on here. If you haven’t seen the show, be warned.
The show starts off with a young girl named Riko. She’s exploring only a tiny part of the giant pit that is called the “Abyss.” She’s also being chased by a beast that lives there. She looks like she’s about to be eaten until a boy comes in and blasts the giant thing. His blast knocks him out, and since he saved her, Riko decides to take him home to the others. Riko lives in the town of Orth, which sits at the top of the Abyss. Even though she is a kid, Riko, with her orphaned companions, are one of many adventurers that explore the Abyss to collect Relics, explore the Abyss that actually had people live there long ago, and find out its many mysteries. The explorers are known as “Cave Raiders,” and they’re all represented by the different colored whistles that they have. Riko is an amateur, so she has a Red Whistle. It goes up from Red to Blue, to Black, and to the highest, White, as the White Whistles are considered legendary and can explore the deepest part of the Abyss (There’s also a “Moon Whistle” at Riko’s orphanage, which is used to instruct the younger ones.) The Abyss has 7 layers, and each layer gets harder for humans to explore because of the “Curse of the Abyss.” Its effects get marginally worse with each layer explored and can result in simple stuff like headaches and sickness in the upper layers, to hallucinating and puking into the middle layers, and then just losing your mind, bleeding from every orifice of your body, or just straight-up dying in lowest layers. Of course, there’s experiencing a fate even worse than death, as I’ll get to. To know how experienced you need to be to get there, only a few adventurers of the highest caliber have ever returned alive from the lowest layers to tell what happened.
To get back to the story, after a few “experiments” conducted by Riko, the boy finally wakes up. It seems that he is a sort of robot boy that has no name, so Riko names him Reg. He becomes a part of the orphan school Riko attends and becomes fast friends with her and all her classmates, even if the teachers are kind of suspicious of him. It’s during a town celebration that Riko’s uncle, Habo, returns with a White Whistle. It belonged to Riko’s mom, Lyza, who was considered the greatest adventurer in all of Orth. Getting this makes Riko want to explore the Abyss to find her mother, even though most think she is dead. There is no stopping her, even with the dangers of the Curse, so Reg joins her. He also wants to know who he is, as he can’t remember anything about himself.
As they depart, they make their way through whatever challenges await them, be it getting through the 1st layer without the Leader finding them, finding out how to use Reg’s own abilities (be it his extendable robot arms to his Incinerator that knocks him out), getting to the Seeker Camp on the 2nd layer and facing the challenges there, to encountering all the beasts that populate the Abyss, and surviving the Curse itself, which effects only Riko and her tiny body. It’s a great journey that showcases all that the Abyss presents, from its intricacies to every danger, along with how great the animation of the Abyss and its residents itself showcases. Studio Kinema Citrus did an absolutely wonderful job animating all the designs of the Abyss, the creatures that lurk and attack, the very distressing scenes that happen late, and all the characters that help bring the story to life.
Speaking of the characters, there are more than just Riko and Reg. The kids from Riko’s orphanage all get some screen time early on and do show up a couple of times after they leave. There are the two at the Seeker Camp: the great “Ozen the Immovable,” or Ozen for short. With her assistant, Marulk, being there to help, she’s a White Whistle who is as well known as Lyza (and who actually was Lyza’s teacher back then,) is strong as hell, and doesn’t mince words when describing what’s to come. Did I forget to mention she can be downright scary at times?
After a while when they get to the 4th layer, they meet another character that has been popular among the fans. She is Nanachi, the cute bunny that is also called a “Hollow” on here. No, it has nothing to do with those ugly bastards on Bleach, for she’s adorable.
With her is a companion, who is named Mitty. She herself is cute in her own special way.
Yes, that thing sucking on Riko’s face is, or was, a girl. As was Nanachi, but the Abyss did this to them. Or rather, another White Whistle in Bondrewd did. Nanachi actually does help out the duo, as she’s her own doctor when Riko gets attacked and soon, we get to know more about them. The characters all range in how different they are, from Riko’s energetic nature, to Ozen’s open and stoic honestness, and yet they’re all written great throughout this show.
Even though the animation and characters carry this, it’s the story itself that is the real prize. The anime, written by Hideyuki Kurata, starts out as pretty adventurous and fun, even if you count Riko nearly getting eaten 90 seconds in. The story starts to unfold and tell you that not all is right. There’s the Curse, the previous civilization that disappeared, Riko’s mom and her history, and onward. It’s when Riko and Reg go off that it really starts to take fold. Meeting Ozen and learning more facts on the Abyss while Reg gets a merciless beatdown, the layers testing Riko as they go down farther, and then Reg dealing with trying to save Riko. The whole episode involving the duo on the 4th layer as they get attack by the orbed piercer, and the subsequent actions that involve the 4th layer’s Curse and its effects on the human body is very painful to watch, both mentally and physically. And yet, it’s one where you can’t look away because of how the story sucks you in already to liking these characters.
It’s not just Riko and Reg too. As I said with Nanachi and Mitty, there’s a lot to them as well, and I can’t stress this enough. The final episode where we get to see Nanachi and Mitty as humans and become fast friends is great. However, their story along with the other children with them being use as experiments by Bondrewd broke me as I watched it. To give a good comparison to this, you should know all about Fullmetal Alchemist. And you know about THAT episode (both versions of them) with Nina and her dog. You know what Shou Tucker does to them. It’s basically what happens with Bondrewd as he has Nanachi and Mitty go from the 5th layer to the 6th layer and having them transform into Hollows, only without the two girls becoming one being. However, it’s the shock and awe of that scene that just sticks in your memory like it did with Nina. Only with Fullmetal Alchemist, you never saw the actual transformation Tucker did to his daughter. Here, you see everything. It’s downright frightening, excruciating, and absolutely heartbreaking seeing Nanachi and Mitty transform into what they are. It’s only made worse since Mitty gets a bunch of painful experiments done on her where she can’t ever die. But when you find out how Mitty can die (and when she does), it’s another beautiful and devastating scene from this show. Made in Abyss is truly a wonderful achievement when it comes to the storyline.
The music for this show is also one of the highlights. It should be, as it also won Best Score on Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards. The overall music made by Kevin Penkin highlights the beauty, the danger, the calmness, and all the adventure Made In Abyss offers. The music on here are just a wonderful delight that deserves all the praise.
It also wouldn’t be a review from me without posting the opening and ending themes of the show. The songs “Deep in Abyss” and “Tabi no Hidarite, Saihate no Migite,” both sung by Riko and Reg’s seiyuu, are both great in their own way. The ending theme seems more light and fun, while the opening theme is definitely more darker in tone (thank you Sentai, for actually dubbing the openings.) But even so, they are both great songs that were fun to listen to.
Speaking of the seiyuu, they are also a point of emphasis, since they shined on this one. Riko herself is voiced by Miyu Tomita. The thing about her is that she only started voice acting in 2015. She’s not even in her 20’s, so her playing a big role here is pretty amazing, but she did work before this, voicing Otako in Please Tell Me! Galko-chan and voicing the title character (and the complete opposite of Riko) Gabriel White Tenma in Gabriel DropOut. But Reg’s VA is more well known. He’s voiced by Mariya Ise, and she had some major roles before this. She is known for voicing Killua on Hunter X Hunter (2011) and voicing Levy and Romeo on Fairy Tail. She has also voiced Eureka/Bonnie on the Pokémon XY series. It’s not just the the MC’s who have famous seiyuu. Mitty, with her limited lines, is voiced by Eri Kitamura, who voiced Sayaka on Madoka Magica, Karen in the Motogatari series, and Ami Kawashima on Toradora! Ozen is voiced by Sayaka Ohara, who voiced Erza on Fairy Tail and Milly Ashford on Code Geass. Riko’s mom, Lyza, is voiced by Maaya Sakamoto, who has voiced Ciel on Black Butler, Hitomi on Escaflowne, Haruhi on Ouran High School Host Club, and Mokoto “Major” Kusanagi on Ghost in the Shell: Arise (and voiced the young version of her on Stand Alone Complex.) Even Marulk’s VA is well known. Marulk is voiced by Aki Toyosaki, who is known for voicing Yui on K-On! The voice cast on here is amazing, and with a dub of Made in Abyss being announced, the dub cast has their work cut out for them.
Overall, this is an amazing show that is fun, heartbreaking, and very well written. Even with all the positives, there were some negatives too. For one, I kind of wanted to see more of Lyza and Ozen’s past. Yes, we got some stuff from Ozen about her, saw some of it, how they “saved” Riko as she was birthed, and a little of how their relationship as student/teacher played out. But there’s definitely more to it that wasn’t told that I wish we got to know. Also, we should have some more screen time with Lyza as well. She was present, as Riko talks a lot about her, but we didn’t get to see a lot of her, if you get what I mean. Lyza is an interesting character who has a lot to do to with the story, so even if they’re flashbacks, I would have love to see more. I also would have loved to see Nanachi earlier on, since she’s a well-developed character who doesn’t show up until late, even though she’s presented in the ending and wallpaper for the show on Prime. There’s also the fact that this show has jokes involving private parts. While it’s not excessive like it is in stuff like Family Guy and are pretty funny, it does revolve around kids who are about 12 years old, or however old Reg is.
I know some will feel uncomfortable with seeing naked kids, hearing medical stuff that involves putting stuff up where the sun don’t shine, and making dick jokes about a robot boy will definitely turn some people off. And that’s fine. Some people really don’t like stuff like this. It doesn’t take away from the show, but it can be a nuisance to some. And lastly, there’s Riko’s dad. Like, we hear he died, saw Lyza fell in love/marry him, got just one shot of him, and that’s it. Nothing else. They just pass off her dad like it’s not important, and inconsequential to the story. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It just felt like a quick brush-off to shock Ozen when she heard the news. Maybe we’ll get to know more in Season 2 and/or the movies. Which, by the way, a 2nd season was announced, along with 2 movies to go with it. Made in Abyss is not done by a long stretch, and I like that. Maybe if we get the shows on something other than Amazon Prime, that would also be a positive. Overall, Made in Abyss is a wonderful show that truly deserved to win the top anime at the Anime Awards. Great writing, great animation, great music, and great voice work throughout. Sorry My Hero Academia, you got beat by a damn good show. I highly recommend seeing it, if you haven’t.
My rating for Made in Abyss: 9/10
Made in Abyss was made by Studio Kinema Citrus. It is licensed by Sentai Filmworks, and can be seen on Amazon Prime.