Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In Made in Abyss Episode 1, “The City of the Great Pit,” Riko and Nat hunt for artifacts in the upper level of the Abyss, which they discover is not nearly as safe as they thought it was. Riko ignites trouble — again — with Belchero Orphanage’s Leader when she smuggles Regu into her room. When Regu helps her escape, even if it’s only temporary, she gives him an ethereal reward.
What’s In This Post
What I Liked
It’s rare that I have something to note seconds into the show (at 0:04, though it could easily have started at 0:00), but the scenery is beautiful! For example, we get to see a waterfall in the distance. Small grass-covered ledges partially obscure it in the foreground. There’s an amazing amount of detail, from long-winged insects fluttering near flowers to Nat’s rappelling gear to Riko’s rope hitting the grass and kicking up a cloud on bugs (0:17).
The world feels fully realized. Not even a minute in, we learn that Riko and Nat are members of the Red Whistles, apparently a junior grade of explorer. We learn that the level 100 meters down into the Abyss (where they are now) is picked over and is considered mostly safe. We also find out that punishments in this world are harsh and potentially sadistic: sometime in her past, Riko had been strung up naked as punishment. Honestly, at this point I wondered if I wanted to keep watching a show where little girls get treated like that!
The Abyss is fascinating. Riko uses a pick-axe to break through a thin layer of rock to expose chambers (1:51), some of which hold Relics. It seems like the walls are honeycombed with these chambers. Apparently, it’s also common for chambers to hide skeletons, though the one Riko found started her because she hadn’t seen one for awhile (2:30). I thought it was a nice touch that she took a moment to offer it an apology for disturbing it.
Our first view of a the flying monster called a crimson splitjaw (3:10) showed how dangerous even the 100 meter level can be. I wonder why it took the time to eat Nat’s Relics before trying to eat him? I think Riko gets points for courage: she had to know what would happen when she blew her whistle to turn its attention from Nat to her.
Looks like this isn’t Riko’s first brush with death. The crimson splitjaw was just about to eat her when it got hit with an energy beam. Did she panic? Sit there trembling? No, starting at 5:08, she analyzed the situation, saw that the path the beam had taken based on the damage it through the petrified trees (petrified trees? that’s a cool concept!), and reasoned that she’d been saved. So she followed the path back to the source. No wonder she’s the main character with poise and determination like that!
I wonder if there’s any significance to the petrified trees standing in orderly rows? It felt like they’d been planted…
I loved the teamwork Riko and Nat used to get Regu out of the pit (7:20). At the same time, I had to wonder yet again what kind of world puts kids to work at such an early age? Does a critical need drive this civilization? Is it simply cruel? Exploitative?
The fact the show is driving such questions simply by its detailed story-telling is a sign of its quality!
Well, apparently the society’s not just cruel for fun, because the passerby (riding a giant work bunny?) at 7:47 stopped to help them. Not only that, he didn’t seem to extort them or try anything untoward. So maybe the kids’ plight is driven by dire circumstance?
The shots of the city we get shortly after this scene (starting around 8:00) reinforce what the early scenes lead me to suspect: this is a detailed and full world! The city that has grown up around the Abyss looks like it’s been there for hundreds of years. Tons of little details like windmills on the ridge, water wheels taking advantage of waterfalls, and a hot air balloon dock make the world that much more engrossing.
The orphanage’s Director is a stern, imposing women (9:03), but she doesn’t seem cruel. I love the plan that Sigy devised to smuggle Regu past her. It wasn’t anything elaborate, and it showed once again how these kids have come to rely on one another.
Isn’t the design of the classroom (starting around 10:15) just what you’d expect for a civilization that’s grown up around the Abyss? I’m not convinced it’d actually work from an engineering perspective (just how are those desks bolted to the walls?), but visually it’s great, even down to the rope ladders.
In that same scene, I had to wonder about the Leader (who has a purple whistle). He seemed four or five years older than the kids in the class; besides the Director and the passerby, he’s the oldest person we’ve seen. Where are the other adults? Or have we just not seen them because we’re focused on the orphanage? Do we get a hint at 10:49, when the Director urges the kids to do well so they don’t shame their “parents who fell so nobly?”
We had hints earlier when Riko mentioned wanting to get the most valuable haul, but at 12:41 we find out why she wants to go deeper: so she can equal her late mother’s abilities as a White Whistle.
Riko has questionable attention to detail. At 13:54 she and her friends were trying to revive Regu. Instead of setting the electro-shock device to 2, she set it to 20, which not only almost fried Regu, but blew out power to most of the orphanage. Then she proceeds to inundate Regu with a stream of questions.
Regu’s nonchalant way of asking “Do you guys work as torturers” made me laugh (14:57). It also made me wonder again what kind of civilization I’ve invited into my home: what kind of world strings little girls up naked, sends kids into a pit, and employs torture in an everyday kind of way? Or even puts Riko in an old torture chamber as punishment — even if she’s not being actively tortured?
Details about character matter. Riko’s a smart, smart kid — but she’s still a kid. Otherwise, it would have been obvious to her that the first thing the Leader would do is look under the big green blanket covering the chair in the middle of the room (16:50).
I should be saying “Regu’s amnesia as a plot device? Cliche!” But dang, it works so well! He goes from realizing “there’d be hell to pay” if the Leader were to find him (17:44) to his own extending arm hitting on the head because he can’t remember how to use it correctly. Plus, it means we get to discover this world through his eyes.
Again with the details — Riko’s joyous expression when Regu asked her to grab onto him (18:46) and again as they swung out the window showed us just how much she loves excitement and adventure. And then she geeked out about his extending arm.
I almost felt sorry for Regu when he learned that Riko gave him that name because of a dog she once had (19:28).
I had already decided I was going to keep watching this show by the time Riko led Regu to the ridge to watch the sunrise (around 19:45). Then we get to see the sun rise over Orth, the city at the edge of the Abyss. Wow. Scenes like that are why I watch anime. They’re useless by themselves, but when coupled with a realistic world and characters like these, they elevate the amazingness. The music during this scene — throughout the episode, in fact — added to the sense of wonder.
Don’t stop watching at the credits. There’s a cool map around 23:31 whose style reminds me of the maps of Middle Earth I used to pore over when I was younger (before the Internet; before cool Middle Earth maps like this one!).
I guess judging by the volume of things I noted under What I Liked in this Episode, I must have really liked this episode! That section’s about three times longer than most other reviews I write.
I’m glad that I read the Made in Abyss reviews on Anime News Network. I generally don’t watch shows focusing on children. In fact, I almost stopped watching Food Network when they started producing a ton of shows like Chopped Junior. It’s not that I don’t like kids; I helped raise two of my own! It’s just that for entertainment, they don’t usually catch my attention.
I wasn’t more than a couple minutes into this show that I realized the narrative was in good hands. The world was deep and lush, but the dialogue wasn’t dumping exposition on me to prove it. Instead, the details came through in the natural progression of all elements of the story: dialogue, scenery, plot, etc. By the end of the show, I was dying to know more about this world and its people. Why does it demand so much from children? How did Riko’s mom die? What are those Relics? What is Regu? What’s at the bottom of the Abyss?
In other words, I’m excited to continue with the story.
I was on the fence this month about what show I would review to replace Alice & Zouroku. For awhile, I thought I might review Restaurant to Another World. The character mix there interested me, from the adorable Aletta to the well-adjusted and dependable Tenshu who, like Zouroku, seemed to be a positive role model for adult males.
I suspected that I might switch to Made in Abyss within the first few minutes of this episode. What really decided it was the scene starting around 19:45 when we get to see sunrise over Orth. I’m a sucker for good sunrises and sunsets in fiction. One of my favorite all time first persons shooter games is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and its sequels and mods. It can have a realistic weather system (especially if you install the AtmosFear mod). There’s been more than one time that I’d stand on one of the guard towers in Agroprom just watching the sunrise. There was something about it that made the world more real for me. In the same way, the sunrise over Orth cemented my connection to the world of Made in Abyss.
When did you know you were going to like this episode? Or did you even experience such a moment? Let me know in the comments!