Messages from the Abyss

“I wonder who wrote that? It’s written overly large in crooked penmanship using old nether glyphs without any of the simplified forms. On top of that, the paper it’s on isn’t even paper. It’s an unknown relic. It looks all worn out, but it really surprised me. That thing can’t be ripped, even with my strength. What in the world is waiting down at the netherworld’s bottom together with Lyza?”

-Ozen the Immovable to Riko and Reg, Made in Abyss, Episode 8

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The small details of Made in Abyss (or, layers of storytelling in Made in Abyss continued)

After last week’s pivotal episode, Made in Abyss‘ latest offering allows us and Reg to decompress a bit, further showcasing the strength of its atmospheric storytelling. This is one of the series’ greatest strengths: it knows when to breathe. Made in Abyss has several layers and they’re not the ones that can be measured on a map of the titular Abyss.

Instead, it continues to offer bits and pieces that are part of the overall atmosphere of the show, leaving us as audience members and Reg guessing as to what is actually happening.

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Layers of storytelling in Made in Abyss

“But you know, less than ten percent of the creatures in the Abyss have even been named.”

-Riko to Reg, Made in Abyss, Episode 10

An essential piece of any adventure or fantasy story involves describing the fantasy world that the characters inhabit. Yet, telling or showing the environment is often a tricky endeavor. Too many expository monologues will easily send viewers running in the opposite direction and take away from the mysteries and wonder of the world that a series is trying to showcase.

Made in Abyss has done an exceptional job of dispensing facts to the viewing audience without tedium. Even longer expository passages from various characters in the series blend seamlessly with the visual and auditory storytelling. Made in Abyss‘ characters are experiencing parts of the Abyss for the first time themselves, which lends an authenticity to their words. The series plays with characters’ levels of familiarity with the mysterious Abyss to distribute bits of knowledge organically making the most of how much we, and the characters, do not know.

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Here in Monogatari Hell

For high school me, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit was a revelation. It still has a firm place in my heart — The Little Prince was the first book I learned to read in French, but No Exit marked when I really felt that I could actually read the language with any amount of competency — and every subsequent reading has been an experience. It makes me think, even if it also makes me wonder just how much of my own young pretentiousness I’ve dragged along behind me as I’ve grown older.

I’ve often thought about why I return to No Exit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly a reflection of my own personal preferences. Then again, Mayoi Hell is specifically about hell, so perhaps this framework fits Owarimonogatari better than most series.

The moment Koyomi Araragi begun wailing to Mayoi Hachikuji about being in hell, I couldn’t help but recall Joseph Garcin’s arrival and introduction to hell in No Exit. There are no torture devices, only a room furnished in the style of the French Second Empire.

Hell is not at all what he expected.

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