You may, from time to time, hear us talking about ‘The Three Episode Rule’ around here, which refers to the amount of time we should generally give an anime to convince us to watch it all the way through. My personal take on this is that any given show has one episode to hook and three to impress, but the general gist is that by three episodes we should be able to predict whether a show is any good and whether it’s for us. Curiously, many anime are paced in such a way that their Act I fits neatly into three episodes—I don’t know if this is why the ‘Three Episode Rule’ was devised in the first place, or whether directors acknowledge that three weeks is about as much patience as the average viewer will give them. You can see the structure in Made in Abyss as well. The first episode is the hook. The second pulls back a bit and develops some core concepts or characters that will be important for following the story later. With the third, the journey can begin in earnest, the true nature of the plot is established, and it starts rolling with increasing momentum.
It’s a testament to the strength of Made in Abyss, I think, that while I am quite familiar with this structure, I also dreaded it in a small corner of my heart. Sure, the children are leaving the nest and that’s great, because we’re not going to get any adventure until they do, but it’s also a decisive moment of separation and presumably the hardship starts now. This was a powerful episode tinged with the grief of parting, not just because it made sure to include of plenty of human moments where we can empathise with the characters, but also because of how well Made in Abyss has developed its world up ’til now. We can feel how serious Riko’s decision is, and perhaps nervous about the wisdom of it. Part of me, certainly, was hoping that somebody would stop Riko at the last moment, even as another part was encouraged by the support she received from her mentor. Everything we know about the Abyss tells us that, when considered rationally, running off to the depths of the Abyss alone must be a bad idea. Countless explorers have made the attempt to no avail, and even current progress is built upon generations of sacrifice. What can a child and her robot friend hope to achieve? Even the heroes of this society, the White Whistles, do not live to tell the tale. For a Red Whistle to go so far down is considered literally suicide. And I’m sure Riko knows it. Even if she succeeds, she will never see her friends again.
…Unless they go in after her, but I can’t imagine that ending well either.
Well, such is the reckless haste of children that drives many a story. The journey truly begins now. I presume we’ll be tackling this one stratum at a time, but will we have enough time in a single cour for all of them? Even the first is quite large (roughly 4000 feet in depth, for the Americans following along at home), and considering how much Abyss there is, this is not going to over in a hurry. Well, I want them taking their time, because Made in Abyss has been great all around so far and I’m eagre to watch however much they want to show me. If you’re still wondering whether you should be following Made in Abyss this season, you can stop. This one’s a keeper, for sure.