Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Made In Abyss
Anime Studio: Kinema Citrus
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Adventure / Dark Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Released: March 25th, 2019
Language: Japanese / English
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Japanese trailers and promos, composer interview and four documentaries
An enormous pit and cave system called the “Abyss” is the only unexplored place in the world. Strange and wonderful creatures reside in its depths, and it is full of precious relics that current humans are unable to make. The mysteries of the Abyss fascinate humans, and they head down to explore. The adventurers who venture into pit are known as “Cave Raiders.” A little orphan girl named Rico lives in the town of Ōsu on the edge of the Abyss. Her dream is to become a Cave Raider like her mother and solve the mysteries of the cave system. One day, Rico starts exploring the caves and discovers a robot who resembles a human boy.
Based on Akihito Tsukushi’s manga, Made In Abyss is an anime with a really good reputation. Some even describe it as a modern classic. Does it live up to the hype though? In a word, yes. This is another winner of a release from MVM Entertainment and should be a must-buy for anime fans. Let’s look at why.
The series has a really interesting sense of aesthetics. Our main protagonists, Reg and Riko, have fairly simplistic designs. In a way, the art style makes them almost feel like they wouldn’t be out of place in Disgaea, especially in Reg’s case. What I like about this is that the characters are supposed to be around 12 years old, and the design work here makes that quite apparent. Even with the simplicity of it all though, there’s a lot you can do with body language and facial expressions. Kinema Citrus do a great job in ensuring that the cast comes across as really emotive by applying just that.
One place that the series goes all out in terms of detail though is in the backgrounds. Whether outside or underground, the high detail work here is phenomenal, but in a way that balances with the characters rather than feeling out of place. The monster designs are also decent, especially when it comes to the first giant worm that we meet, and strike a good balance between Kaiju size and traditional folk creatures. Throw in that the animation itself is wonderfully smooth, and you’ve got a real visual treat on your hands here.
The OST is absolutely beautiful. At times, the piano and orchestra led pieces are reminiscent of the ever popular Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, and they never feel out of place against the scenes unfurling on screen. Honestly, if you’d told me that it was lifted from a big budget movie release, I would have believed you. Meanwhile, some of the sound effects hit a few nostalgic notes, with a distinctly 90’s feel coming through at times. The Japanese voice cast is really good, but I have to say, I thought that the English V.A.s were also great in this one.
From a story standpoint, I thought that the world building was definitely one of the strong points of the show. The combination of fantasy and steampunk elements comes across as really rich and gives us a nice backdrop to set our heroes against. Reg and Riko are very likable in their role too and are easy to get behind as they push deeper into the abyss. The supporting cast is given plenty of opportunities to shine too though. For example, Ozen gives off a calm-almost-evil sense of dread throughout her arc, adding some real intrigue to her part of the tale. The reason it all works so well though is that the series understands how to work within a suitable timeframe. We get to spend adequate time with each new character to get to know them enough to miss them when Riko and Reg move on, but also avoid running the risk of them overstaying their welcome. This is key to stopping them being nothing but side attractions, and actually being key parts to the story. It also helps with the natural way that the story builds, picking up steam as it goes along and pushing further and further as Reg and Riko go deeper and deeper.
This is absolutely not a show for those who don’t enjoy darker stories though. In a way, it feels – tonally at least – like a more concise and focused Casshern Sins. You see, Made In Abyss has no qualms with presenting some harsher moments, especially as we approach the later end. The youth of the characters combined with not showing us every detail works really effectively here. Sometimes, just a sound is enough to make you flinch and wince. You genuinely fear for their lives multiple times, even when you know that there are other episodes to come. It’s not just our main protagonists that suffer either. The final arc places the focus on Nanachi and Mitty, and the flashbacks contained therein are absolutely harrowing. The end to the arc is a real tearjerker too, which goes a long way to cementing Nanachi as a favourite for me.
In terms of potentially problematic moments, there isn’t a lot there. If anything, Made In Abyss seems to go out of its way to avoid fan service a lot of the time, which is a definite positive given the characters ages. There’s a moment at the end that maybe pushes that a little, but it’s mostly harmless. Outside of that, there isn’t anything I’d really pick up on as being a major issue.
Now, it’s not just the quality of the series that makes this a must-own. The collector’s edition Blu-ray is jam-packed with extras, including an interview with the musical composer, and a plethora of documentaries. That’s not all though, it also comes with a 76-page art book and 12 art cards. That’s a fair bit of additional stuff to go with your purchase! MVM have really gone above and beyond here, and it’s really great to see.
In all, Made In Abyss is a wonderful piece of work. Dark, but heartfelt, it drags you through a thoroughly enjoyable story that makes you eager for the upcoming movie sequel. MVM have gone above and beyond with the release too, and that makes the overall package a true classic. 5 out of 5.