Early Impressions: Made in Abyss

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Four episodes in, the atmosphere of adventure never fails.

My one true complaint, aside from being only a third of the way through the series and not knowing what it’s trying to establish, is that the pacing seems a little too quick. By the end of episode three, the whole world has been established, the camaraderie between characters is put to the test, and a number of plot devices are hinted at, resulting in a bloated opening act whose foundation isn’t completely stable. I suppose for those who just want to get on with the inevitable journey, this is no problem, but I enjoy retaining the taste that will lead unto what many refer to as “the good part.”

I lied, there’s one other complaint; I wish Made in Abyss delved more into the societal pressure of profit and competition, almost like an otherworldly capitalist culture. There are occasional hints said in dialogue and established through rules of the central town, but everyone just seems gung-ho and accepts it as non-conflicting. Aside from the adventure-esque nature of the anime and straightforward, yet not completely one-dimensional characters, there’s not much else to grasp onto. Again, this may be to blame of the quickened pace.

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However straightforward, Made in Abyss seems to draw inspiration from many olden tales of young rebels going forth on journeys of self-growth. Its art direction is wonderfully unique and eye-catching, leaving the more intricate details to the world it places its characters in. And wonderfully so is this accomplished, as everything surrounding the mystique of “The Abyss” is accentuated in a calm, mature manner. Overexplanatory by nature of the people who wish to discover its details—and a convenient characterization for the female lead—while also leaving the most weighted nuggets up to viewer interpretation. Through four episodes, I only spotted one sequence that looked clunky from an animation standpoint. Some shortcuts are taken in making the characters look less crisp, especially when shown from far away, but otherwise, I have no issue with artistic presentation.

Believe it or not, I tend to watch anime at a very quiet volume, inhibiting my ability to take in the soundtrack accompanied a lot of the time. Only recently was it that I found this to be something of a cardinal sin, as one should certainly be willing to listen to every detail as one would visually analyze every detail. Made in Abyss was a fantastic piece to hear, as a lot of the instrumentation is rather unique from the standard fare. It sounds almost jungle-like; tribalistic, I suppose. Reminding one of a rainforest setting with men in grass skirts and tiki masks hurling spears at prey. From what has been established, the technology is almost on par with that, and the fear of the unknown, ever-looming in plain sight, allows for more of that adventure-esque atmosphere to take hold of the viewer’s anticipation.

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Somewhat lingered upon above, characters are relatively straightforward in their beliefs and personality. Motivation and goals are more at play here, with the relationships built between one another already established prior to current events or behind the scenes (the first and third episodes have a two-month split). Why do people wish to explore The Abyss? What does it mean to them to become someone who explores The Abyss? Many, thus far, serve to aid with the two leads in their journey, with hardly any intention to make them more complex as characters. The leads themselves are more in it for personal reasons, ones typical of the types of characters they are. Should one want to find any positive attributes within, one should search for execution of base personality, which many are spirited enough. The stars are kids, after all. Kids are usually pretty upbeat, right?

This is a shining spot in a season already full of delectable choices (at least the ones I chose), so it goes without saying that I would recommend this without any true hesitation. Still, there are nine episodes left to change my mind, but I’m not one to cower before the unknown (in anime). Perhaps a spectacular tone and art palette will be enough to cruise past the finish line.

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