Toonami Faithful had a chance to check out the Made in Abyss movie before it hit theaters! Fans of Toonami might not have checked out this series while it simulcasted, and I for one believe this movie might pique your curiosity. It does a fantastic job of storytelling and seems a lot crisper than it did watching the series week to week. And while some might call it underrated, Made in Abyss left its mark on the anime community. Hopefully, it’ll get a push to where Toonami will pick it up in the future.
If you didn’t watch the Made in Abyss series, you’re in luck. Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn is a recap movie that adapts the first eight episodes. So you can see this film without any prior knowledge about the franchise. I’m sure many people might groan that instead of new content it’s just stuff that fans have already seen, but I didn’t have much of an issue watching it. While I had already viewed every scene, Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn wasn’t plagued by fluff or stretching that you would have in an anime. Instead of taking multiple episodes for our main heroes Riko and Reg to begin their journey, they do it in about an hour as they make their way down this abyss. And this crisper pacing continues throughout the film. It’s a shorten version of eight episodes and gives a great sense of satisfaction throughout the entire time.
Like the series before, the main plot of Made in Abyss concerns how Riko (an orphan cave raider) wants to explore the unknown abyss in the town she lives in. Her mother is one of the most famous cave raiders (Lyza), and Riko believes that her mother is waiting for her at the bottom of the abyss. During one of her explorations, she discovers a boy who appears to be a robot, making him a rare relic of the abyss. Instead of turning the boy in, Riko hides him from the orphanage, and the two quickly become friends. Riko and the robot, named Reg, feel as if they must travel down the abyss to figure out the mystery of Reg (who Riko’s mother might have seen in the abyss) as well as his amnesia. The two set off down the dangerous abyss and try to survive the perils as they go lower and lower.
When I first watched the series, what grabbed me was the intrigue of the mystery of the abyss. It’s the only cavern that isn’t fully mapped out, and so civilization began developing around it. Thus the characters began to create a sense of wonder thanks to discoveries made from the abyss. Learning what the people know about the abyss, such as the deadly creatures that inhabit it, as well as the phenomena like the curse of the abyss created such an enticing world that I wanted to know more. Like Riko, viewers become as obsessed with finding out what’s down there as much as the characters. Made in Abyss holds on to that sense perfectly and you won’t get bored whether you watch the series or the film. There’s always a new mystery and discovery right around the corner to keep the story moving in all kinds of directions.
Lore will always be the main force keeping me interested in any property. Building a world with a history, known or not, is still something I crave for when ingesting media. Made in Abyss has that in spades. There are multiple levels that cave raiders have discovered and documented. But that only seems like a small piece of a giant puzzle. I want to know more. I want to know how deep this abyss goes. I want to know about all the exploration teams that traveled down there and how they survived. What is the origin of the relics that this town wants to excavate? There are so many questions that Made in Abyss have that aren’t even related to the main characters (who bring a ton of problems of their own to the table). It’s a huge selling point of the franchise and a driving force for making you want to learn more.
The storytelling Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn does, was something that I much enjoyed. Following Riko and Reg after they decide to leave the orphanage at first felt bleak. How could two young children be able the handle the perils that wait in the abyss? Sure Reg has some abilities such as his grapple arms and incinerator to help. But their lack of experience had me worried. I wouldn’t have been opposed if other cave raiders like Nat or Jirou joined them. But the fact that Riko and Reg have such a massive investment in the abyss, I was okay with how quickly it felt the two leave everyone behind.
MADE IN ABYSS MOVIE 1: i shotgunned the TV series last year and don't remember every scene, so even the old stuff felt new. A solid presentation of some great, great storytelling. Don't hold back on movie 2, @SentaiFilmworks!!
— Mike Toole (@MichaelToole) March 21, 2019
Watching them descent down the cavern seeing all of the creatures gave some legitimate fright, making me hope our heroes would survive. The corpse weepers (a beast in the abyss) were especially cruel considering they mimic the dying words or humans to try and lure more in for food. While the animals in the abyss don’t look as terrifying as one would think, the way that they live can give off a tone of it’s either kill or be killed, which you don’t expect an anime to do so well. Just like in the real world, every creature around you will look for nourishment; however they can get their hands on. Despite how optimistic Riko sounded during her journey, everyone around her realizes just how dangerous this journey is.
And it isn’t just the physical nature of how grueling this journey will be for Riko and Reg. Once the two reached the second level of the abyss to meet up with another legendary cave raider, Ozen, at a safe house, both heroes go through a terrifying psychological battle. Ozen torments both Riko and Reg, throughout their visit, as a way to train them for what is waiting for them lower into the abyss. Ozen mentions how Riko’s mother giving birth to her was a mistake and how she’s an animated corpse thanks to a relic that kept her alive (since Riko was born in the abyss). This confrontation created fantastic drama, and I’d say this arc was billed as the climax for the film. And while storytelling-wise I found it to be captivating, it’s still tough to watch. It’s toward this arc where you start to pull for Riko and Reg instead of just going along with them considering how much the two try to prove Ozen wrong. In the end, Ozen explained that what she was doing was merely training the two. A ruthless way to prepare, but that theme was found throughout the series (and film). But we get to see how much Ozen respected and dare I say loved Lyza. So Ozen probably viewed this as a way to help our her favorite student’s daughter.
— Right Stuf Anime (@rightstufanime) March 24, 2019
I might be overplaying this, but I found the music in Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn to be fantastic and a huge selling point for the film. The OST in the anime was superb, and the movie did little to change my mind on that. Plus, I was pleased with the animation in the anime, and the film did a great job to up the ante and gave it the quality that Made in Abyss deserves. When fights were happening, such as when Reg had to save Riko from the corpse weepers, and when the two had to fight Ozen, the animation made my eyes grow larger, and hoping that it would never end. And I enjoyed the fights when they did happen. The more subdued moments of the film could lull me into a false sense of security, thinking that our characters were going to be okay.
I wouldn’t have minded if the movie was 30 minutes to an hour longer, to have it fully recap the first season (even though it was two hours long already). Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of long movies, but I would have made an exception for Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn because it ended as fans would get to the more gruesome and intense moments of the series. This isn’t to say that more gore makes the franchise better. Made in Abyss isn’t trying to be edgy for the sake of being edgy. But it wasn’t until episode 10, where fans were taken on an emotional roller coaster, that was quite the rush. It was devastating to watch, and I wasn’t fully prepared when I first saw it. It’s the moment that I feel put Made in Abyss on the map. So while it is better for those who aren’t familiar with the series to be gently pushed in, I would have loved to see it again on the big screen.
I have been giving Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn a glowing review, but that doesn’t mean I had didn’t have some issues with the film. But they are more nitpicks than anything else. I wasn’t a fan of the punishment system of the orphanage when it came to discipline. Cave raiders who misbehaved would be tied up naked and slapped with a rod. This is an odd choice for their punishments to be that explicit, considering the age of our main characters. It was on camera once and mentioned a few times, but it was something I never understood. I know that in the past capital punishment was a way to discipline children, especially in more religious schools. But this seemed a bit much.
It was exciting that I got a chance to hear the movie in English (since I saw the series in Japanese) and I enjoyed listening to the cast. I thought Brittany Lauda did a great job depicting the childish excitement that Riko portrayed. It sounded natural, as if Lauda herself was going to go on this adventure. I was impressed and enjoyed how well she delivered punch lines throughout the film. Veteran Luci Christian got to play Reg, and while she wasn’t bad by any means, she didn’t have the opportunity to shine as much as I would have wanted. I think if we were able to see more of the series adapted that would have changed. However, I give the nod for the best performance to Christine Auten who played Ozen. She was able to sound not only calm and collected but maniacal at the same time. She has a knack for sounding perfect in roles like that, and this was no different. The rest of the cast seemed fine, although Daniel Regojo (Jirou) did sound stiff at points.
In case I wasn’t clear, I found this film to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Made in Abyss Journey’s Dawn does everything you’d want to entice newcomers to watch the series. And dare I say, it might be better than watching the first eight episodes. It was fantastic, and something I hope anime fans take the time to check out. The simple mystery of what’s down the abyss is so simple, yet creates a fantastic world that sucks viewers in whole. It’s a beautiful story and one that might even capture the attention of non-anime fans. Exploring new worlds never looked so good.
Pros: Wonderful story telling that captures the wonder of discovering something new; actually gave legitimate worry if our main heroes would survive; the animation and music were fantastic; the climax of fighting Ozen; superb English cast.
Cons:The way cave raiders were disciplined felt weird; wish it was longer to adapt the entire first season.
C.J Maffris is a senior staff writer at Toonamifaithful.com. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris