Made in Abyss

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2017); original title Meido in Abisu. Kinema Citrus. Based on the Manga by Akihito Tsukushi. Director: Masayuki Kojima. Writers: Keigo Koyanagi, Hideyuki Kurata and Akihito Tsukushi. Voice cast includes Shiori Izawa, Mariya Ise, Eri Kitamura, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Sayaka Ōhara and Miyu Tomita. Thirteen episodes, twelve of 25 minutes and one of 48 minutes. Colour.

The Abyss is a pit, its mouth one kilometre in diameter, discovered on a remote Island 1,900 years ago; in its depths (see Lost Worlds) are exotic creatures and valuable artefacts. A "Force Field" of unknown origin carries light and nutrients even to the deepest parts. But there is a price, "the curse of the Abyss": ascending (that is, going against the grain of the force field) causes sickness and at its worst, climbing from the sixth level, brings loss of humanity or death.

Trained adults search the lower levels; in the upper ones, children from the orphanage also hunt for relics. One is twelve-year-old Riko (Tomita). When pursued by a crimson splitjaw she is saved by the incinerating Ray shot from a Robot boy (Ise), the exertion rendering him unconscious. Sneaked into the orphanage, he awakens with Amnesia, expressing surprise that he is a robot ("does a robot need a belly button?"); however, his extendable arms make this difficult to deny. Riko names him Reg. Later, a manuscript from the depths arrives, seemingly from Riko's mother Lyzo. Riko interprets it as a request to join her, noting that it also apparently mentions Reg. The pair journey into the Abyss.

Early on they meet Ozen (Ōhara), who probably loved Lyzo. Ozen reveals Riko had been stillborn deep in the Abyss but was resurrected whilst stored in a "curse repelling vessel" – an example of the unfamiliar Technology found there – that was dragged to the surface by Ozen and Lyzo. Ozen is creepy: she is cruel to be kind, and she is very kind.

Further into Abyss, Riko becomes poisoned, but is cured by Nanachi (Izawa), originally one of many street children brought down to the fifth level by the Scientist Bondrewd (Morikawa) as experimental subjects to measure the effects of the curse. Most, like Nanachi's friend Mitty (Kitamura), were mutated (see Mutants) into mindless creatures; Nanachi (of unknown gender) was more fortunate, acquiring rabbit-like qualities. The first season ends with Nanachi joining Riko and Reg – and, ominously, Bondrewd noting Mitty's death.

Though initially promising the familiar story of young people on a picaresque journey, with discomforts bravely born, the show later darkens and chooses not to flinch at Riko's protracted suffering, the flashback of Mitty's distressing transformation, Reg being persuaded to kill Mitty because Nanachi cannot bear her plight, and Reg making Nanachi promise not to then commit suicide. On a lighter note, the show has cheery end credits and is often amusing.

Made in Abyss is one of the most impressive Anime productions of recent years, both in terms of story and animation: the announcement of a second season is to be welcomed. [SP]

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