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Friday, February 9, 2018

Anime Hajime Review: Made in Abyss

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Made in Abyss. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

In this world, there is a mysterious place known as the abyss. What exists within its depths are secrets one can only imagine. The prospects of treasure have inspired many adventurers to explore what lies beneath its surface. But to enter, one must be willing to pay the price.

Each level a person goes down, the greater the strain the return trip will take. Dizziness turns to nausea. Nausea to hallucinations. Hallucinations to horrific pain. Then there comes a point where ascending means forgoing one’s humanity. And should fortune be on their side, death will soon follow.

Despite the dangers, the draw of the unknown is enticing. For young Riko (voiced by Miyu Tomita), the pull is unbearable.

As an apprentice cave raider, Riko has only ever ventured into the abyss’ first layer. Anything of note here was unearthed long ago. Thus, Riko is beside herself when she discovers the abyss’ most fascinating relic ever. She finds a mechanical boy, who she names Reg (voiced by Mariya Ise).

Riko and Reg become fast friends. One day, the duo come across a message from someone they thought was lost to the abyss’ darkness. This is none other than the great Lyza. Dubbed the Annihilator, she was a legendary explorer and Riko’s beloved mother. The note the two kids intercepted claimed “they” will be waiting at the bottom.

This is the push Riko needed. She decides it's worth risking everything to journey into the abyss. Reg joins his friend to ensure her safety and to learn the answers to his own questions.

Although this pair has the courage to face any danger, the abyss is unforgiving. Once they go down, they may never come back up.

Series Positives

This was one of those series that had been on my radar for a while. The name Made in Abyss would find its way to me. What came with that whenever it happened was nothing except positivity. After some time of this, how could I not become at least a little interested?

Having now sat through this series, one thing has become all too apparent. Everything I had heard about this show was incorrect. Every word of praise, incorrect. Every hint of admiration, incorrect. Anything and everything positive associated with this show had been incorrect.

And I understand why.

To say Made in Abyss was good would be the grossest of gross understatements. As would saying this series was fantastic, magnificent, and phenomenal. I understand why everything was incorrect because I now find myself in the same position. What do you do when every word available to you doesn’t quite convey what it is you want to say.

For what it’s worth, that’s not going to stop me from trying.

There’s a thought that’s been brewing in my head over the past few months. It is a topic concerning the direction of this site. Made in the Abyss has only hardened my desire to go down this road.

2017 had many gems. Granted there were also a number of forgettable and skippable series too. But a fair amount were beyond satisfying. This was a solid year. For the countless shows that played it safe, it was nice to have plenty of alternatives.

To be fair, some of the anime I’m thinking of didn’t carve out new directions. But those series that did use many of the tried and true troupes added a refreshing spin to them. There’s nothing wrong with treading through the same water as long as something spices things up. In fact, that is now the minimum of what a show needs to do to leave an impact. And many 2017 series took up that challenge.

The problem is, I caught on to this way too late. I missed out on several, what could still be amazing 2017 shows. Even if I have watched the best of the best, there were simply too many I overlooked. Therefore, I feel I don’t have the adequate insight to do a proper best of the year list.

That notwithstanding, here are the top five anime I did manage to watch from 2017.

That wasn’t easy to narrow down. There were many other series that were excellent that deserve a look. If only I hadn’t missed so many shows from the 2017 winter and spring seasons. Had I been more vigilant, I would have felt confident in doing a true top ten. A reason I’m getting to this show now is so I can give 2018 my full attention. And seeing what’s on the “Coming Soon” list, things look promising.

What does any of this have to do with Made in Abyss? Since I can’t express how outstanding this show was in a single word, I chose to take a more convoluted route. Where would this series fall in my top five? Though it was a difficult list to rank, this question couldn’t be any easier. Every entry moves down one slot.

Made in Abyss was the best anime of 2017.

If there is a series you think is better, please tell me. There’s a high chance I never got to it and would love to. And if there is a show better than this one, that would only further prove how strong 2017 was. 

From the opening episode, Made in Abyss felt different. Super helpful, I know. But I’m not sure how else to describe it. This show had its own identity. You could never mistake this for something else. This only became truer throughout. By the final episode, this series had created something special.

This world came alive. It was simple and straightforward. There was never a point where Riko and Reg knew more than us. And to a significant extent, that was the case with most of the other characters. It was easy to pick up the routine of day to day life. As well as grasp the dangers of being a cave raider.

The only thing that remained was the mystery of the abyss itself. With everything else taken care of, this series could focus on this core aspect.

And would you believe Made in Abyss managed to do this by the end of the first episode?

While writing this review, I became more aware of the growth of this show. There were only thirteen episodes to work with and this series didn’t waste a single minute. It did help that episode thirteen, The Challengers, had double the runtime. You could say there was an extra episode. Yet this show could have been three times longer and it wouldn’t have been a bother.

It was amazing how fast things progressed. Made in Abyss’ pace was quick. Please keep in mind, I’m saying this series was fast, not rushed. Where this show ended up was a far cry away from where it started. Looking back, you can pinpoint the steps this story took to get where it did. There were no questionable choices or leaps of faith. The plot didn’t ignore questions or piled more on to add layers of pseudo intrigue. There was a goal in mind.

Everything that happened had a purpose. Each scene fed into the next. Early on, you will get the sense that this story won’t reach its conclusion by the final episode. I’ve said many times this isn’t something I like seeing. Given the choice, I would elect to have a complete story. But when a show comes along that is so well paced, it’s hard not to see that dedication continue. With how much further this series still needs to go, thirteen episodes was never going to be enough. To get to that definitive finale, things would have needed to go into rushed-territory.

Made in Abyss felt like a chapter one. A fulfilling chapter one. Though it would have been no burden to keep going, where this show stopped was a good resting point.

Plus, it does help knowing that a season two has already been announced. So, there’s that to look forward to. This show deserves a sequel. And though I would like that sequel to be here right now, having a breather isn’t a bad thing. When you go into this series, know this.

Made in Abyss is not a comedic slice of life story. This is a fantasy adventure and I will leave it only at that.

What I will elaborate on, this was indeed an adventure. This was an epic tale and it looked the part. Boy did it. This series was beautiful. The animation and artwork were stunning. I’m happy to say another highlight of 2017 was the use of high-quality visuals. Every series that would be in my top ten was stunning to look at. I hope this is a trend that continues to get more impressive.

For Made in Abyss, you get a huge selection of scenes vying for best looking. For myself, I have to go with the entirety of the concluding episodes. Is that cheating to be so broad? I don’t care if it is. Despite being an easy answer, it’s the obvious one to me.

On a related note, I’m now on the hunt for the Made in Abyss soundtrack. The music of this series ranged from mystical to grand to sober to everything else in between. When a scene was exciting, it sounded exciting. When a moment was poignant, it sounded poignant. When something was sad, son of a bitch.

The truth is, I’m still a little taken aback by how outstanding this show was. I will need to be careful with what details I talk about. To give away spoilers to this series would be criminal. Made in Abyss is something you should experience. Thus, if you were to stop reading here to go watch this show, you would be making a wise decision.

And if you’re still here, let’s continue.


There’s no denying there was a cuteness to this show. With visuals alone, you could get an idea of what this series could be about. It would be wrong, but you could do it. That’s why visuals are only one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Solid artwork is an important thing to have. It’s not the sole thing though. Made in Abyss, through a mix of animation, sound, and story created what should be the goal of any series. And that is it created atmosphere. It was this single aspect that made this show amazing.

And this was that special kind of atmosphere too. The kind that goes beyond an effective tone. This was the atmosphere a comedy that makes you feel relaxed inside has. Or a mystery that challenges how you perceive things. Or a horror that goes past scary and becomes true terror. For Made in Abyss, the atmosphere it created I can only describe as foreboding.

This show was so effective with this, it was almost a tell. There was one scene where Reg was getting the snot kicked out of him. It was rough, don’t get me wrong. Except, the knot that had been in my stomach up to this moment wasn’t as prominent. Therefore, it was easy to not be that concerned.

Yes, this series got lighthearted. There was pleasant humor. Some scenes were silly and laid back. This was a fascinating adventure tale. But no matter what was going on, there was something else. There was something waiting, biding its time. There was something unsettling about this show. And I mean that in the best way possible.

This was none other than the abyss itself.

Have you ever been in a situation where your mind is screaming at you to stop? Yet for whatever reason, you need to keep moving forward. Despite there being no other choice, you can’t help in thinking you’re doing something wrong. That was the sensation this series triggered with the abyss.

Never once was this an inviting place. The masterful part of it all was the fact this show didn’t bash us over the head with this. It didn’t need to. This setting’s eerie aura came as a natural result of the narrative. Through the characters’ reactions, we could gather what sort of place this was.

Riko was happy-go-lucky. Her positivity complimented the animation’s whimsical style. If she was our one window into this world, the abyss wouldn’t have been that bad. She was this show’s driving force.

This story needed Riko’s enthusiasm. She was what made venturing into the abyss worth it. When she committed herself to reaching the bottom, there wasn’t even a second’s worth of hesitation.

Her partner Reg, took this idea in a more somber way. Yet he never once tried to talk Riko out of going. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to see it, Reg was immune to the abyss’ effects. He was the one who made the journey possible.

So, we had this duo where one half wasn’t affected by the dangers that would come about during this trip. And the other didn’t care about those dangers. The story could have left it at that and things could have gone along without much trouble. Had this happened, though, this would have been a massive disservice. It would’ve downplayed the seriousness of the whole thing.

If Riko went into the abyss, she would not be coming back.

This series could have overlooked this detail. It would have been one of those “lingering in the back of your mind” kind of things. It would have been this show’s white elephant. Made in Abyss decided not to do that. Instead, this was a reality that remained front and center. And it became all too real when Riko and Reg were standing over the pit.

One of Riko’s lifelong friends, Nat (voiced by Mutsumi Tamura) was adamant in his disapproval over this journey. It was through him we got a sense of what was about to happen. But try as he might to convince her otherwise, Riko was going. Seeing these two at the edge was good storytelling. Too bad good storytelling doesn’t always mean fun. And in one shot, everything finally clicked. “Oh my God, what are we about to do?” And it wasn’t a shot of Nat. It was a shot of Riko.

Despite her gung-ho attitude, Riko did realize what going into the abyss meant. She was saying goodbye to her best friend. This would be the last time they would see each other. This was the first of several fair well moments. And each of them brought me right to my limit. One extra push would have brought on the tears.

This was Made in Abyss’ atmosphere. The path Riko and Reg were going down had no return plan. Every time they had to move on, they were moving on. There was no coming back. They were going to a place where the people they loved could not follow.

Any story that can bring me close to balling my eyes out has done something right. I got invested. But this alone is not what makes me say a show is the best of a given year. No, that honor goes to a series that brings it all the way.

There were so many points in Made in Abyss were I almost lost it. Somehow, I was able to fight back that urge each time. Except for once. There was one scene that broke me. The second it dropped, my immediate thought was, “Nope, we’re crying at this.”

By the way, this wasn’t the moment that made me fall in love with this series.

Riko and Reg

It was like seeing Sheeta and Pazu from Castle in the Sky again.

Riko and Reg were a perfect pair. Their closeness and teamwork were enduring. Over the course of this series, their bond only grew tighter.

As individual characters, these two had a lot going for themselves.

Riko, as stated earlier, was optimistic. Although she couldn’t keep her attention on one thing for that long, she had an inquisitive mind. She was always trying to figure out the world around her. In a classroom setting, she was a poor student since sitting around wasn’t her thing. Out in the field, she was more in her element.

Of the two, it was Riko who had the knowledge. The abyss was her life. For someone at her age and with her level of experience, no one knew more about this place than her. She could identify the threats. She could chart the best course of action. She was the navigator. Without her, Reg would have been at a loss for what to do.

On the other hand, Reg was the reason going into the abyss was even feasible. Once past the first level, Riko would not have lasted long. Thanks to Reg, the two became physically capable of pulling this off. Plus, he was the more level-headed one. Riko did have a tendency to get distracted. It was good to have a dependable anchor to counterbalance that.

These two filled in the gaps their partner was missing. Then when you add in the stress of actually descending the abyss, they had to rely on each other that much more. By the end of this series, it’s no exaggeration to say they loved one another.

And that was what was great about their relationship. Riko cared about Reg and vice versa. There were mutual feelings between the pair. Except what they had between them wasn’t anything romantic. I can’t say these two became a couple. Nor do I want that to be the case. If things do go in this direction, it’s not as if the set up doesn’t exist. But it would take away how unique their dynamic is.

There was one scene that was a perfect illustration of how important these two had become for each other. Had Riko and Reg been closer to actual lovers, this moment would have been more of a given. You would expect things to turn out the way they did. Since these two weren’t this, what happened was so much more meaningful.

Not to give anything away, but Reg had to do something that could have turned awkward. And in a lesser show, things would have. The whole dilemma of one character being a boy and the other being a girl could have turned immature. Not only did Made in Abyss not do this, it ignored the possibility. With the circumstances he found himself in, once Reg knew what he needed to do to get the job done, he didn’t even hesitate.

I can’t wait to see how much further these two’s story will go.

Before I move on to my next point, I have to give credit where its due.

Miyu Tomita, the voice of Riko, and Mariya Ise, the voice of Reg, were outstanding. Including this show, 2017 was good for these actresses. Earlier in the year, Ms. Tomita was fantastic as Gabriel White Tenma in Gabriel DropOut. And for Ms. Ise, this was the first of two stellar performances. The second involved her turn as Antarcticite in another of the year’s best, Land of the Lustrous.


I fell in love with Nanachi (voiced by Shiori Izawa). If I could I would give her the biggest of hugs.

I’m going to say this now even if it does fall into spoiler territory at tad. But when season two comes out, this is going to come up anyway. Part way through Made in Abyss, Nanachi became the third main character. Our duo of Riko and Reg turned into a trio. A trio I cannot wait to follow along with going forward.

Nanachi was the middle ground of the three. She had the knowledge and experience to survive in the abyss. Later on in this story, I can only imagine how useful this is going to be. Outside of a practical perspective, she was an amazing character.

While she had qualities of both Riko and Reg, there was something to Nanachi that separated her apart from them. She had an air of confidence and positive arrogance to her. She was much more sarcastic which played off well with the more ridged Reg. This went into what was so good about her.

The more time spent with Nanachi, though, the more cracks began to appear in this persona of hers. I’m going to say it was interesting to see how much of this was an act. Except "important" isn't the correct word. When you get to her part in this series, you will know the term I should be using. You will also get more context for some of the other things I’ve said in this review. 

Nanachi as a character aside, her role in the Made in Abyss’s story was critical. From the beginning, this series was doing everything to make itself memorable. It was climbing the ranks of 2017’s best fast. Nanachi’s introduction signaled the start of when this show took the top spot for me.

Of course, I’m not going to pinpoint exactly when this happened. Nor am I going to say what happened. But you are going to know. To downplay the scene, it was intense. If the thickness of this show’s atmosphere was any less than it was, this moment would have been jarring. I know that because even in this atmosphere, this was jarring. The difference is, enough foundation existed to support the weight.

This series only built up from there. Everything that followed was an incredible display of storytelling. Not just for 2017, but period.

Series Negatives

I don’t want to do this. That and I’m not sure how to do this. If there was anything negative concerning Made in Abyss, I can think of two things. Two small, insignificant things.

Imagine you are vacationing at this gorgeous five-star resort. You’re in the most picturesque location you can think of. There’s a lot of stuff to do. The food is delicious. The service is world class. You’re in paradise. The only annoyance is, your room is the furthest one away from the elevator.

That’s the level of insignificance these two things were when compared to the rest of Made in Abyss. This is not going be a long section. As far as I’m concerned, this review is over.

The first thing, this story cut back to the surface on occasion. This served to give a peek at what other characters were doing. While this show was in its original run, these scenes would make sense. They provided recaps of what had been going on. These moments also served as set up for events that were about to take place. Waiting a week to get to the next episode, I can see how this would be helpful.

But that’s not how we do things at LofZOdyssey Anime Reviews. I’m a marathon viewer. These types of things are not necessary for me. Also, these instances didn’t fit with the previous goodbye scenes. Why does the audience get to know what everyone else is doing but not Riko and Reg?

The second thing, there was a reveal this series didn’t need to do. This didn’t ruin anything and the reveal itself was pretty decent. But this was information this show could have held on to a bit longer. Perhaps a better spot to do this would have presented itself in the next season.

Then again, I’m saying this with the knowledge that a second season is coming. To give the benefit of the doubt and knowing the nature of anime sequels, a follow up is never a sure thing. A better place to reveal this detail may never have come. And since this didn’t affect the story in any way, there was no real need to keep this close to the chest.

There’s one more thing I want to say.

Throughout this review, I’ve been playing up how excited I am about a second season. But what does it mean to say a sequel is coming? It means a sequel is coming, nothing more. I have no idea where this story is going to go. I have no idea if this was a product of luck. A follow up can always be garbage. There’s no safeguard against that possibility.

Plus, you can’t pretend this next thing is not a thing. The whole project could get canceled. A whole bunch of nonsense can happen between now and season two’s premiere date. Which, by the way, I don’t even know when that is going to be.

While Made in Abyss stopped at a nice pause point, it didn’t finish the story. Doing that comes with risks.

To end on the positive note this series deserves, I’m optimistic. I only need to be realistic down the line.

Final Thoughts

I wonder what I’m going to say here. If I had to bet on something, it might be the thing I have been saying during this entire review. And I don’t mind doing so again.

This series was great.

From its world to its characters, this was outstanding. From the animation to the soundtrack, this was magnificent. The atmosphere was thick and alive. Riko and Reg's tale reached levels of storytelling that equals the strongest I’ve come across.

This was something special. I cannot wait for the day we get to come back to this one.

2017 had many stellar anime to come out of it. And this was the best of the best. Made in Abyss is an absolute must watch.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Made in Abyss? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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