Every once and a while a show comes along and has an impact on the anime world. Made in Abyss S1 has been one of those rare shows. Based on the the manga by artist Akihito Tsukushi, the TV show adaption by studio Kinema Citrus was a world class hit ranking in the top 20 anime on MAL. Sadly it was found only on Amazon Anime Strike, so it did not get the reception it deserved. The Rights holder in North America is Sentai filmworks, and the manga, still not published is being poorly handled by Seven Seas. We will see a Bluray from sentai sometime in 2018 and the first volume of the manga will also publish in 2018. I have read the manga, all of it that is currently out and I loved it, I hope Seven Seas does a good job with it, they have been taking there time with it.
So how does the Anime stack up against the manga source? Very well in my opinion, sure they made some changes but this does not hurt the plot in any way, in fact the streamlining has helped tighten up the pace and really cuts out nothing important. You can watch the anime and honestly you would not be missing out on any major details found in the manga. Despite that I still recommend reading the manga, and watching the show, both are worth your time.
So what is the Abyss, and what makes it so interesting? The Abyss is a gigantic hole found on an island that adventures, scientists and treasure hunters have flocked to in search of the wonders found there. A city and a culture have sprung up at the surface of the abyss. The hidden wonders of the abyss are relics of various grades and objects that have mysterious and powerful effects. These objects vary in usefulness, but are coveted and extremely rare so people fight and kill each other for them. The people of Orth auction off the relics and findings from the Abyss to make a living and of course shops, stores and private enterprises have sprung up to support the excavation and exploration. The bottom of the abyss has not yet been discovered. And reaching it and coming back is currently considered suicidal due to the curse of the abyss.
The Town of Orth on an island in the sea of Beoluska is home base for most operations in and out of the abyss. The Whistle system of rank is the towns official way of controlling who can dive to the deeper levels of the abyss. The ranks are
- Bell <Training for Red Whistle, to young to enter the first layer>
- Red Whistle < Beginner allowed to enter the first layer and with guide can go near the second>
- Blue Whistle < Intermediate explorer at least 15 years old, Able to explorer up to the Third layer outpost>
- Purple Whistle < Leader intermediate able to lead and train Bell through Blue explorers. Allowed to enter the forth layer with a black Whistle>
- Black Whistle < Expert seasoned explored with many years of diving and training. Allowed to dive up to the fifth layer station.
- White Whistle < Legendary class explorer, highly talented, very dangerous, No limits on depth, This rank is held by only a handful of explorers. White Whistles generally wield powerful relics and many are super human or augmented.
So why are Whistles and levels so important? It all comes down the the dangers of the abyss. The monsters get stronger, smarter and more powerful the deeper you go into the abyss. And the most powerful and terrifying is an invisible enemy known as the “Curse of the Abyss”.See image below.
The curse works in such a way as to trap those who enter the abyss, the deeper you dive, the more dangerous the curse becomes. The curse hits you as you ascend in the abyss, going uphill in the abyss is deadly at lower levels. Making a trip to the bottom pretty much a one way trip, most white whistles consider their last dive to be descending past the 5th layer from which they never return.
Okay So now you know about the town, the ranks, the curse and the basics lets talk about the cast and the story, and the art, music, voice acting, animation and production.
The Story focuses around a young female red whistle named Riko who was left a a young age at an orphanage that mostly consists of orphans who’s parents died in the abyss. Riko’s mother Lyza a legendary white whistle left Riko to continue cave raiding deeper into the abyss. There is a lot of plot around this but I won’t spoil any of it for you.
One day while collecting relics in the first layer Riko encounters a huge monster from the 4th layer and is saved by a mysterious powerful laser like blast. She traces the source of the blast and discovers a robot\cycborg human like being passed out that could not be woke up. With some help she sneaks it back home. She names it Reg and studies him in depth, discovering that he himself is a relic from deep in the abyss. Reg wakes up and is at a loss as to how he got there, who he was, and what he was. Riko bonds with Reg and gets him admitted as an orphan to the orphanage and they attend class together and go cave raiding together. Some time passes and Riko and Reg have become close friends.
One day a survey team returned to the surface with Lyza’s white whistle and a bunch of journal pages and a letter written to Riko. The return of a whistle is generally the sign of a dead or MIA cave raider. This surfacing brought new information and data from deep in the abyss. Riko is permitted to read the letter from her mother, and is allowed to examine the information. She is issued the white whistle of her mother and a personal letter. The letter states that Lyza is alive and can be found at the bottom of the abyss. This letter and the series of events with Reg are what set in motion the trip to the bottom of the Abyss.
The world building in the manga is incredible and the anime does a great job adapting it. Made in Abyss has a rich well developed world, the anime does a great job building and presenting this world. The people, the technology, the reason, the place, all the little details that make this world something nay somewhere you can get lost in. And that has a lot to do with that source material and the next section of this review.
Lets talk about the visuals because they are world class. As far as seasonal anime goes Made in Abyss stands at the top with the likes of Fate Zero in terms of quality of the visuals, animation and backgrounds. The teams that worked on this production are all very talented and no shortcuts taken. The amazing team working the backgrounds and painting the world are EX Studio Ghibli. Just look at the details, shadows, depth and texture. The use of CG and effects are blended so well you don’t notice them.
A great example of this is in the lighting of the dust in the caves, the water effects and feel of the wind. It all feels natural and looks like it belongs in the world. The animation of the characters and monsters are smooth and detailed. Lots of attention went into the movement of the characters and it shows, you can feel the emotions of the characters just through their body language, the camera angles enforce the scale and danger, and the little details that make the characters feel so alive. Overall I feel Made in Abyss is a quality production that towers above many others in the seasonal anime world, achieving near feature film quality in a weekly show.
The Voice talent team behind the cast is sublime. The talent, dedication and vocal direction are fantastic. The delivery of the story through the voice actors could not have been better. You are gripped by every word, moved by powerful on point delivery. Casting was perfect with VA choice perfectly fitting the characters. I feel really bad for the team trying to match this for the English Dub they have quite the challenge ahead of them trying to match One of the best vocals team I’ve heard in years.
The soundtrack to Made in Abyss deserves it’s own review, it is so good that it stands on its own. Kevin Penkin put together one of the best anime OST in years, it sits in my top ten for sure. Every track, every melody, oozing with the abyss. This soundtrack fits the source material in ways you won’t realize until you hear a track after watching the show and it brings you to tears or puts fear in your heart. This sound track gives me goosebumps, if you can get your hands on a copy I highly suggest you do. Play it as load as you can on the biggest system or best headphones you have, this sound track has huge range, bass dipping all the way down to 10hz, and crispy clean highs. The tracks are a mix of live recordings, orchestra, digital, and vocals. If you enjoyed the show you owe to yourself to take the adventure again with the soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed. Made in abyss would not have been this damn good without this OST.
The bottom Line….Watch this show…..Read the Manga…..Listen to the OST…..Join us in the Abyss…
Made in Abyss S1 TV
- Amazing Soundtrack and FX
- Fantastic Voice Acting Cast
- Stunning World and Art
- Deep and Dark Story with Heavy Feels
- Top Shelf Animation Quality
- Art style can be off putting for some
- Dark Story Telling is Not Family Friendly
- Monster animation is sometimes clunky or odd
- Violence and survival are real in the Abyss, again this show is not for kids or babys
- Launched on Amazon Strike only- At this time- Will change over time