「大穴の街」 (Ouana no machi)
“The City of the Great Pit”

There’s this videogame series on the Nintendo handhelds that I really enjoy called Etrian Odyssey. It’s the spiritual descendant of the old-school first-person dungeon crawlers a la Wizardry, and it’s great. Basically, in its fantasy world there’s these huge labyrinths that nobody knows the origins of filled with alien fauna and flaura. Entire cities have popped up around them, supported by the explorers who hope to strike fame and fortune within these labyrinths. A tried and true formula, and also one familiar to regular anime viewers because it’s a premise frequently adapted to the TV screen either as videogame adaptations (e.g. Tower of Druaga) or actual videogames (e.g. Sword Art Online). And of course, there’s Made in Abyss, with its flavour of labyrinth being a giant hole in the ground. What really makes me think of Etrian Odyssey when I watched this pilot episode, though, was not the conceit, but the aesthetic. Unlike the minimalist Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey features ‘cute’ character designs and a bright colour palette. The dungeons one crawls through are only dungeons in the loosest sense, filled with life and light, and what one explores are not just dark corridors, but new worlds. So too, I think, is the initial draw of Made in Abyss (supported by a fantastically atmospheric score), tapping into the thrill of stepping into a land untouched by man and going, ‘Wow.’.

Indeed, Made in Abyss is a pretty anime. Very pretty. Almost unreasonably so. I can imagine it costing a background artists many hours to craft each scene. I am reminded of the breathtaking wonder when one is confronted with the lush backgrounds of a Miyazaki film, especially Castle in the Sky Laputa. Surely, I can’t be the only one who expected a trumpet solo as the sunrise caressed the mining town? Any comparison to Miyazaki, the high priest of all things good in anime, must surely be a good thing, and one can spot some shared techniques. Like in Laputa, the relatively simple character designs of Made in Abyss (mostly round, blobby children for our protagonists) places emphasis on the backgrounds. Each character must be seen in the context of their world.

But there’s another reason, I think, for these designs and here I go back to Etrian Odyssey. As I mentioned before, it’s art is definitely of the cute and cheerful variety. The player can actually choose the portrait art for each of their party member, and one can definitely assemble a party of young girls and boys to go dungeon-crawling with. Mechanically, though, Etrian Odyssey can get pretty dark. You are frequently attacked by all manner of grotesque creatures, the difficulty can sometimes be punishing, and being unprepared can well mean death for your entire party. And during your journey, you definitely will find the corpses of adventurers less fortunate than you, NPCs will die foolishly without there being anything you can do to save them, and there’s even the occasional genocide. The cute contrasting with the dark draws out an amoral malice in the setting, and I think Made in Abyss will go that route as well; I haven’t read the source, but I’ve heard anecdotes about it, and there are certainly hints already. I fear these pitiable orphans are going to be sacrificed for our horror and/or amusement. It’s the first episode and already one has almost been eaten. How long until one is actually eaten? I don’t think one goes exploring a place called ‘the Abyss’ without expecting madness and death.


  1. My first reaction was how Dennou Coil-like this looked. So much so that I checked up on it, and one of the key animators for Dennou actually did the anime character designs for Abyss.

    Stunning first episode, though. Like a Ghibli pastiche but with something terrible just under the surface waiting to break out and destroy it, like a caterpillar parasitised by wasps.

      1. And talking about trauma, I’ve just been catching up on the manga.

        I fear these pitiable orphans are going to be sacrificed for our horror and/or amusement.

        Dear God, if that were all then it might have been bearable. I think I’m going to join Passerby in having a sleepless night tonight!

      2. Get used to crazy imagery like that, cause this series has a serious lack of brakes. The fact that the girl lives in a repurposed torture room is a pretty good indicator of what boundaries to expect.

      3. It’s not the fact that Riko lives in a former torture chamber that’s crazy, it’s the kids referring to this in such an off-hand way that’s the really crazy thing.

  2. u should tell more about the anime and less
    about some game most of us haven’t played.
    the visuals look great and def make this
    worth checking out but this is not a good
    1st ep review. u don’t know if this will be
    anything like that game anyway so why go on
    about it.

    1. Because it’s totally like the game! Made in Abyss is from a proud line of anime inspired by videogames (the ‘labyrinth exploration’ thing basically grew from Daedalus -> games -> anime). Sometimes it’s more obvious (like that there’s actually a Tower of Druaga game, or that Sword Art Online is literally set within a game), but there’s no mistaking the influences here as well. Japanese popular culture is very tight-nit so it’s always very interesting how one medium bleeds into another.

      Incidentally, there’s much more to the appeal of Made in Abyss than just being pretty. If you’ve read our preview on the show (and I always suggest you do first), Stilts talks about the spirit of exploration and the excitement of discovery. That’s something that videogames have really dominated recently (because it’s a very good medium for it, because it puts the player right into the world). Made in Abyss seems to be trying to do a very videogame-y thing but without many of those videogame tools. Its art is the advantage it has over most videogames, and is used to serve the exploration appeal.

      1. I tend to agree that this post could have gone much more in depth in the actual first episode than in its similarity to dungeon crawlers. Just some feedback from regular readers of RC.

      2. I take all constructive feedback into account, and am appreciative of all who give it. Thank you. Still, I think there are important contextual things worth talking about. Otherwise it’ll be like, say, talking about The Lion King without also talking about Hamlet. Sure, The Lion King is fundamentally different from Hamlet, and those who have never watched Hamlet may ask why we’re talking about Shakespeare in a post about a Disney animation, but I think we need to start there regardless.

        I do understand, though, that I will often disappoint those who look to me for reviews. As I’ve noted in other comments, I do hesitate to call what I do here on RandomC—impressions of a single episode written immediately after watching it—‘reviews’, and to do so would be hubris on my part, belittling the serious task of skilled reviewers. I’m much better equipped to take a holistic view of the series as we go on, though, so stay tuned.

      3. As much as I hate to, I have to agree with the comment OP. I don’t have time to watch every anime, not even the first ep of every anime, so I use RC to help me decide what to devote my time to. I really love what you do, and most of your reviews so I don’t want to sound like I’m ragging on you, but reading this review, I still have no idea who the characters even are, and only the vaguest notion of what the plot is. It’s not really a series introduction so much as…words about a game.

      4. yeah in intro post i need to hear more
        about chara an plot. meta about some game
        is ok too but know some measure, say more
        about the anime. if we haven’t played
        etrian we can’t use it as comparison base.

      5. @Blue
        I understand your needs, but I don’t want to just summarise either, as that provides little value to those who have watched the episode, which is the majority of our readers in the age of simulcast. I will try to strike a better balance next time.

        I assure you, though, that in this case when I don’t talk about the characters at all, it’s because I didn’t see them as very important. What is dominant in this pilot is the world, and the central hook that it presents to you, why you would want to watch this show, is the explorer fantasy. It’s why I noted the peculiar character designs; it’s to put even further emphasis on the world, and have all characters be defined by it. The protagonist is simply one with a drive to explore the Abyss. The robot boy represents the mystery of the Abyss. At this point, our interest in them is contingent on our interest in the Abyss.

        What I was trying to say in the post by comparing Made in Abyss it is unquestionably of a videogame genre. If you’ve been exposed to any of the games I mention, especially Etrian Odyssey, you’d be able to instantly tell from where Made in Abyss derives. Videogames have dominated here because they express the explorer fantasy so well, being able to put the exploration in the hands of a player. The advantage that anime has is in visuals, and so Made in Abyss makes sure to come out the gate really hitting us with some breathtaking backgrounds, so that we will want to see more of its world. I’ve tried to take shots of the backgrounds liberally, so if you still want to know whether you should watch Made in Abyss, have a look at the screencaps and assess whether they inspire you to want to see more like that.

      6. @Passerby

        Thanks for replying. I do appreciate that just a plain old recap summary of what happened in the episode would be boring for someone who already watched the episode and you have to cater to a variety of readers, and I don’t really expect you to do that. I hate to draw a comparison to other reviewers here, because I don’t want to insinuate that anyone is better than anyone else at this (because I really don’t think that), but I really think Guardian Enzo’s review of Ballroom e Youkoso was a good balance of comparison (to Haikyuu in this case) and impressions about the anime itself.

        If the characters didn’t make an impression on you or didn’t seem important then I think there’s value in saying so. Something like “the world rather than characters are what make this show interesting” or “the characters look quirky but are more archtypal stand-ins than fully fleshed people” would be a more valuable insight than…nothing. You said in your comment that “At this point, our interest in (the characters) is contingent on our interest in the Abyss.” That’s great! I had no notion of this from reading the original review.

    2. I was writing a reply further down and since I couldn’t remember the main girl’s name, I went back to the review for it and realized with some surprise that the post somehow manages to not talk about the characters at all – which admittedly is a little unusual for something with a “series introduction” tag. I didn’t pay attention to this at first since I’d already seen the episode, but I can see how it could bother the uninitiated. (Eventually I got the name from the comments.) This might matter less if this were an actual game review, because then the player/reviewer typically is the/an MC, but we’re talking about watching an anime here, with a slightly different level of self-immersion.

  3. Graphically impeccable, stunning backgrounds more for a feature movie and glorious OST… but the cartoonish-like characters seems little bit out of the forementioned picture. Still, this one will be a must see this season

  4. What a spectacular first episode! Really loved the sunrise scene and it did remind me of Laputa. The soundtrack was mesmerising, too, though my only complaint would be the ending theme, where the music was great but the vocals were atrocious.

    1. Perhaps it’ll be—and I speculate here—like, for example, Gakkou Gurashi and pretend to be very cutesy and have characters sing the OP in a high pitch so they can better flip the script down the line.

  5. I love the art style, and everything about this show visually. I don’t care if it turns out bad(It won’t..) it’s such a gorgeous looking show.

    These are the types of shows that remind you why you love anime.

  6. Actually this anime is based on manga with the same name by Akihito Tsukushi. Wikipedia
    Did the author get influenced by the EO? Maybe, but you gotta respect the author no matter what.

    Anyway this anime looks to be the one I have to get hooked this season.

  7. Based on that final screencap, I would say the Abyss is a volcanic crater. Hopefully dead, although given the number of other hazards that clearly come from exploring in there, encountering signs of volcanic activity seems like a minor issue.

  8. I think this is my favorite anime premiere of the season. I’m already locked for this!

    When it comes to the abyss, I can’t help myself but to compare it to the dark continent of Hunter X Hunter. The way it is barely discovered must mean that whatever lies deeper in it must be both more amazing and valuable, and more dangerous.

    The kids are innocent adventurers here. They have many colors in them. Robot-kun, on the other hand, is uncharacteristically human, and has quite the charming personality for it. He might have been a human who later turned robot.

    And I can’t say enough nice things about the visuals and music here. It’s all so beautiful.

  9. Don’t know whether i ship riko x regu or riko x nat. Hopefully this show will bring forth boy x girl kid relationships in anime again. Getting tired of the “girl only” companion that studios have fallen back on especially in regards to moe.

    1. There are airships in this world, which was how the island was discovered in the first place.

      But in general, yes, scenario creators do often forget that it takes an acre of land to support each person.

    2. There is harbor in town,caravan ships and other kind of transport visit Abyss regularly because this is very important place for many countries in this world,it’s just not shown in this shot.

    3. As Loken said, there are harbors in the coves and bays of the island, just not shown. The focus of the story is more to the Abyss itself rather than the world beyond, so its just mentioned in passing or extra chapters.
      Also said Caravan Ships are immense – imagine mini steampunk Gargantia.

      Oath isn’t an isolated backwater settlement. Its true that it may be faraway from any landmass, but the Abyss itself and the artifacts and discoveries it yields places the city in an incredibly strategic position almost Arrakis-like. Researchers and delvers around the world flock to the city – Greater Artifacts and flora and fauna from way down the Abyss held immense scientific worth, it become national treasures of the nation possessing it.

  10. I thought I was watching a movie.. The animation is incredible.. I don’t actually mind the cartoonish drawing because it is actually really cute. But wow, really looking forward to this show this season!

  11. Agree with everyone about the visual quality. Definitely looked good IMO, and the show gives off a quality feel in general. Solid opening episode all around.

    The only thing I wonder about is how grim-dark/gory this gets. Despite character designs, etc, I strongly suspect this won’t be quite as light-hearted as I thought before watching Ep. 01. That’s fine, but I’d rather have the proper perspective moving forward. I’ve read a couple comments that this can get fairly (quite???) grim-dark & gory, but not sure if that’s 100% correct.

    While the tone and visuals are not 100% light-fluffy, there is some material degree of that. IF (key) this does go gory/grim-dark, I do wonder how that will play out since to me there’s a risk of tonal clash. We’ll see I suppose.

    Still, strong start and I’m in for another two episodes for sure.

    1. EP 1 has many hints it will be very dark.
      Skeleton of a dead person(maybe a young person)on early upper floors.
      Orphanage with many children(parents maybe are dead from comment of director).
      Monologue mentions a great many loves were lost to the Abyss.

      1. @Patchy: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. Yes, it’s clear this isn’t going to be super light fluffy like Dog Days or something. Also, yes there a long dead skeleton and the kids are orphans. The skeleton is nothing gory or all that dark really IMO. As for them being orphans, cue protagonist “Dead Parent(s) cliche” which is practically unavoidable anymore. Frankly, the most surprising thing was that they showed quite a bit of blood from the one kid’s head wound. So not 100% fluffy-light, but Ep. 01 wasn’t any issue.

        What I’m taking about stems from some random comments I’ve read describing the series as “seinen” (and so far I’d say this is easily at shounen levels), “gory” and even a comparison to Berserk. Freaking Berserk which as you may know is VERY gory and grim-dark. THAT is an entirely different level. I’m NOT looking for spoilers or anything, but would like to know of possible without spoilers if this has kids being slaughtered, ripped apart with pools of blood and body parts flying.

  12. I will however say one thing about this world that I didn’t like. Not in terms of story telling quality, but in terms of ugly reality. The orphans are the sons and daughters of fallen abyss explorers, and they are employed to undergo this dangerous venture. Do I take that to mean that explorers and their kids are basically recycled in order to take on the abyss? What kind of mind made this ugly system become reality?

    1. It may not necessarily be a question of malice. In a city built around the Abyss, the only job available may be Abyss exploration, and they just apprentice early. Unfortunately, I’d imagine that such dangerous work has a high turnover rate.

      1. That’s one of a ton of questions I have about this setting. Besides the orphanage, what does the rest of the city do for a living, to just get food on their table?
        I’d imagine, since this city is the closest to the abyss, they consider it their primary source of income, which mandates that they keep mining it and, when the mines eventually run out, the explorers would have to get deeper, and therefore subject themselves to even more danger. With the depth of the abyss unknown, it’s an endless cycle of pain and profit.

        Which leads me into thinking, some dedicated labor would have to be raised solely to explore the abyss. Who better than children knowing only their passion for exploration?
        The fact that those orphans are children of fallen explorers though? That will keep me thinking as I can only have assumptions about it.

    2. @yoloalchemist
      It didn’t look like the kids disliked the exploration and even the danger of it, it’s an adventure for them. The main girl Riko was certainly itching for more, and I’d imagine many others would also want to “carry on” and “live up to” what their parents were engaged in, and probably “take revenge” for them in some of the cases. It seemed like the main issue for the kids was the orphanage not necessarily playing fair with them about the artefacts they find. But who knows, maybe you’re right and the whole thing turns out to be more sinister.

      1. Yes, the kids liked and wanted it indeed, which is a different story all its own. I was talking mainly about the system itself.
        And if what I hear about this story being even darker later on, then I think there’s still a chance that the whole thing turns out to be more sinister.

  13. I read the manga, but the pilot episode of this took my breath away. Beautiful and very Ghibli like (unsurprising because the director and some of the staff are Gainax and Ghibli veterans).

    And I have to say, for such a cute art, it gets quite dark in later chapters (spoiler free).

  14. The giant hole is reminiscent of Patema Inverted (2013). This episode is excellent (esp. production-wise), but I’m not sure if the story will be as great. There are just too many (good or not-so-good) precedences in this genre. It is hard to stand out from the crowd.

    The suffocated
    1. Do you mind listing a few anime that stand out from this genre? I happen to love this genre but have run out of good quality things to watch. Made in Abyss is the first in a while that’s gotten me excited. If it’s the same quality as the manga, this will be far superior to Patema Inverted.

  15. First of all, this was really nice to read. (as usual, may I comment.)

    Second, thank you for talking about Etrian Odyssey. This game may be demanding but should be more popular. Like, please guys, try it.

    I think reviews should also be not only a review of the anime itself- but also contains references to other games, animes, mangas- It allows you to know other animes (maybe old, maybe that you missed) who could tickle your fancy right ? Why not video game?

    Plus, for those who complain about the comparaison with EO- I think it was super revelant of what the anime hints and what could happen in the future. Like Passerby said, EO can be pretty dark (I have war flashbacks) and so could be this anime. (more like so will be this anime, if we can refer to some of the comments.)

    So yeah, just wanted to say that I found the EO comparaison nice. (and probably super on point too. Poor children-explorers.) Love to see other people knowing the game. And I hope some people will get interested in the game thanks to that.

    1. hey i never said he can’t talk about etrian,
      i said give us _more_ about the anime and
      _less_ about some game. this is not etrian
      adaptation to anime. if we haven’t played
      etrian we can’t compare this to etrian.
      u have played so it’s useful for u but not
      for many others. capisce?

      1. No-ones forcing Kiba to read what Passerby writes either. If he’s not happy with the authors use of words, he can always just write a comment about the episode in question or respond to other people here.

      2. anon, don’t troll like u didn’t understand.
        he doesn’t have to write less about sth else
        if he writes enough about the anime, but if
        he keeps the same article length, he should
        write more about the anime and less about
        other things.

      3. Lyfe, u can take ur attitude to my original
        comment where many people agreed with me.
        don’t be a wiseass down here when i post only
        to make my original point clearer to Syõ.

      4. Good thing I’m not on the internet to seek approval from other people, or else I’ll be caught up in social media all the time.

        In any case, to say I can’t compare Made in Abyss to an established videogame genre just because you don’t know about it must certainly be a fallacy, and a narrow-minded one at that. No media exist in a vacuum. There is a history behind the genre, and all the influences on Made in Abyss will be there regardless of your awareness of them.

        If you want to talk about something else, by all means! There’s more episodes to come and we will talk about all sorts of things yet. Feel free to start a discussion about your take on the episode in the comments, as others have done, and as you have seen I do reply and will engage you on it. But to react so poorly in so many ways to things and people who don’t conform to your preconceived world view, though, doesn’t really help anything.

      5. Passerby, u too can’t tell the diff when i
        explain to some1 they misunderstood my point
        and think i insist or what is ur problem that
        u now attack and call me narrow-minded? it’s
        not ok with u when i reply to people who
        replied to me? when i say some1 elses name
        i’m talking to them not u.
        i spelled out very clear already that u _can_
        talk about anything else u want but please
        also write about the anime more when its
        intro post. u know very well people come here
        to check out review before they see 1st ep.
        when u write later eps or final review u can
        even talk about a hole in ur wall and compare
        it to the abyss because by then people know
        the anime, but for the 1st ep many people
        look for information and not from something
        they don’t know. i get u think etria is great
        and maybe i’ll check it out but right now it
        doesnt help me and many others.
        why i even have to explain this again when u
        already heard it from many people? it’s weird
        how u now want to make this about me. i don’t
        teach u how to live so why u start to lecture
        me? i only said this about this post and it
        was on topic and others thought so too so
        why u can’t accept it?

      6. And here was me thinking I was being diplomatic towards you. Oh and btw, upvotes don’t really mean anything, I’ve seen plenty of users here with great posts that don’t get much recognition, while regulars often upvote each other.

      7. Lyfe, u think its good attitude when u start
        talking that i should write about the ep when
        i said clearly that i came to read if the
        ep was worth watching before i saw it?
        u think i paid attn who even wrote this
        review, Passerby or some1 else? usually here
        at rc i can always get good information but
        not this time, so i mentioned that. it’s not
        personal except now u guys try to blame the
        messenger and make this about me because
        Passerby lost face when many people wrote
        similar opinion, not just pressed the like
        button for my comment. i know u saw that so
        don’t ignore it and talk about votes.

      8. I didn’t mean to cause you to have a meltdown, sorry. I was just suggesting that in the future that you stick to discussing the episode with other people here if you’re not a fan of Passerbys write ups. I would do the same if I was following a show but wasn’t a fan of the coverage here.

        You just have to remember that these guys and girls love anime, and dedicate their time and effort to write about these shows. They’re not being paid to do it, nor are doing it with strings attached, they’re just fans no different to anyone else here. Because of that you don’t really have a right to complain or make demands of the staff, no one does in all honesty.

      9. Lyte, if that is what u meant then thats ok
        and lets not fight anymore. it seemed like
        u didn’t read what i said when u replied to
        me and told me what to do.
        i didn’t rly make demands to any1 i just
        said it wasn’t a good review in my opinion
        because it didn’t tell enough about the
        anime. it stuck out too much from usual rc
        posts i know i can count on for impression.
        this site has a rep and if sth doesnt live
        up u get a reaction.

      10. anon, this kind of talk is empty words
        to make the other person sound
        unreasonable. if u think i’m wrong use
        a real argument not rhetoric.
        underlined less and more doesnt mean
        it is demand, it means i want to make
        clear its about proportion and not like
        never bring up sth other than anime.
        i can express my opinion and u saw it
        had much support. its called feedback.

  16. With the talk of “100 meters” and “600 meters”, along with children, I am getting flashbacks of a certain Asimov’s SF magazine/periodical story series where Time is different for a group of stranded humans. As you go down the cliff they live on, Time gets slower, to where criminals are kept in old wells where they do not age, and explorers go up the cliff and age much faster than the people below.

    This series has the same “danger is DOWN” feeling to it. Of course, so did a lot of other dungeon-type stories, where our Level One heroes are told about Level 60 of the dungeon, and the certain-death creatures that live there.

    With an island like that, something must be draining the water away, or the water level would be the same as the ocean around it. Of course, no one can see past the fog-like clouds, and you wonder if the sunlight ever reaches the bottom…

  17. what kind of offtopic halfa**** anime review is this? This should be a recap of the first episode of made in abyss not some comparison of videogames none of us know about. Next time review the anime and leave your personal comparisons out of it or at a minimum.

    1. I’ve addressed less entitled concerns from other commenters already, but I should say: I refuse to believe our world is one where we’re so fearful of knowledge that we will only wish to read about things we already know.

      1. Passerby, why u still try to distort the
        point? no1 has said they don’t want to read
        anything new, no1 is afraid to read about
        etria, thats nonsense. people dont like how
        u missed writing about this anime because u
        got carried away with etria. no1 minds
        interesting comparison but if we don’t know
        the anime yet and also dont know the game
        we can’t compare them.
        please say u finally understand this point
        even if u dont agree. also u don’t have to
        get personal about this. i didn’t even look
        who wrote the review when i commented, it
        was about content not u personally.

    2. Can we please stop with this nonsense.
      There’s a truckload of episode recaps in anime blogging scene, why bringing out another one?
      What’s really valuable is author’s unique take on the show and this particular episode, his thoughts basically, not some mindless parroting of the plot one can find elsewhere.
      People should cherish the variety, not try to nip it at the bud.
      It’s not like you don’t have a point, but you sure do realize that this is not a paid service to provide you a short episode summaries and that you’re not tied to this particular site and is free to seek what you want elsewhere without venting it out on the writer needlessly.
      Tl;dr your comment is bad and you should feel bad.

      1. AnoN, if u want this topic to stop then
        stop trolling.
        u saw very well that i only posted brief
        comment at first and there was zero
        venting. i only wrote long replies to
        those who replied when they didnt
        understand my point or distort on purpose.
        most of what i said was not directed
        at the writer anymore. u must be another
        person who can’t tell the diff between
        clarifying a point and repeat insisting.
        ure also afraid to post higher up where
        people agreed with me.

  18. https://randomc.net/image/Made%20in%20Abyss/Made%20in%20Abyss%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2039.jpg

    Ahh, The Abyss Island, Well, can’t Comment anything for this for a while…


    OH Yeah..The VA of this girl, First we got this Super Lazy Girl and this Weird Costume Collectorthis and now this one, Well, she is just ordinary alright, but still…. Hmmm…I wonder if she will became the Female VA Rookie of the year


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