D.he children and adolescents who “Made in Abyss” is about are brave, funny and painful. When they cry, their noses run, but that doesn’t look repulsive, it looks touching. They are cartoon characters, and the fact that their pathos does not seem fake, their pain is not dull and their wit is not flat, when these characters with their apple heads and giant eyes not only laugh and cry, but also bleed and die, can only be explained by the fact that Japan has meanwhile raised his animation art to a level that can take on all the demands of great adult drama under the toughest conditions. It must be said that “Made in Abyss” is absolutely unsuitable for a child audience. The complex aesthetic form must overwhelm children just as much as the deadly serious, torn material, which has much more to do with the body cinema horror of David Cronenberg than with Harry Potter or Pixar.
At the beginning of the series, the heroine Riko, who grows up as an orphan in the city Ôzu, is still about to reach puberty, as an additional danger in the already sufficiently dangerous place: The city was built as a ring on the upper edge of a funnel thousands of meters deep, the abyss or Abyss is called, hence the series title. There are rules down there that one could call “anti-natural laws” – inhuman and incomprehensible.
In Ôzu one lives from cave diving, because below there are seven layers deep “relics”, fragments of a lost, perhaps human civilization. Bringing them up is risky: In addition to cute spherical squirrels, bamboo bears with water mushrooms on their backs and meadows full of evergreen blossoms, gigantic purple worms and fur blocks with poisonous spines also live in the throat. Less than ten percent of the creatures in the Abyss have names at all, most are unknown.
Riko is trained in cave diving with other children. There is a ranking system that is sorted according to the pipes that people wear around their necks, inexperienced young red pipes as well as admired, untouchable white pipes. Riko’s mother is one of the latter, lost in the abyss. When a letter from her emerges from the darkness, the daughter goes looking for her – that’s how the story begins.
Riko is accompanied by Reg, who outwardly is the same age, who seems to be a mechanically complemented little person, but maybe not a person at all, but rather a robot. He can’t remember anything and protects Riko on the scary journey with his enormous physical strength and futuristic gadgets, sometimes better, sometimes worse.
Deep in the Abyss funnel, which is not only reminiscent of Dante’s hell on the outside, the two are rescued from dire need by a fascinating, ambiguous creature that does not clearly belong to a gender, who calls itself “Nanachi” and introduces itself as a “fluffy cuddly toy”. Like the other two, Nanachi is in some ways more than a person, on the other hand less – with “Made in Abyss” it is basically a painful confrontation with the age-old body-soul problem: Sometimes the body doesn’t do what it does Psyche wants, sometimes he does more or something different than what is okay with her. This causes people frustration or grief, sometimes it also triggers shame, and “Made in Abyss” looks at all three unpleasant emotions without a filter, sometimes deliberately embarrassing – puberty in particular is confusing, especially at the beginning and actually too hot a topic for adolescents, let alone children.
Long awaited next chapter
One of the many challenges that “Made in Abyss” poses to the audience in Germany until April 30th was waiting for a sequel. Akihito Tsukushi’s manga book template continues to appear in our language, but after thirteen series episodes it was over for the time being in September 2018 – especially after Nanachi’s story with the tragedy of his friend Mitty, first her human form and then her Lost life, had taken a turn that was absolutely devastating. The question of whether to help people at risk of incurable suffering to die added to the abuse of wards and questions of scientific ethics in human experimentation as one of the appalling issues the team at Made in Abyss production company Kinema is addressing Citrus around the director Masayuki Kojima works artistically.