Made in Abyss on insatiable human curiosity

“That baby crawled towards the Abyss the moment she was let out of the Vessel, which is pretty darn creepy, right?”

-Ozen the Immovable to Lyza the Annihilator, Made in Abyss, Episode 8

Upon learning that she is a reanimated corpse, Riko is also told that she attempted to head straight for the center of the Abyss, even as a mere baby. This particular piece of information is used to frame Riko’s trip to the netherworld.

Earlier in her journey, Riko drops her stolen relic, the Star Compass, into the Abyss. Although she’s momentarily upset by the loss, she takes solace in the old saying that whatever belongs to the Abyss will be inevitably reclaimed by the Abyss at some point. She’s quick to clarify that this means a relic or even someone’s life. At the time, it seems like an ominous warning regarding both Reg and Riko. Reg is a robot presumably from the Abyss, and Riko was born in the Abyss’ fourth layer.

The additional piece of information that Riko was actually a stillborn and “saved” due to the Curse-Repelling Vessel that Ozen and Lyza brought with them recontextualizes Riko’s life. Riko now has multiple reasons to travel to the Abyss: To reunite with her mother Lyza, to discover the secrets behind Reg’s existence, and the instinctual pull of that which gave her life. Ozen cruelly and purposefully compares Riko to a leftover piece of meat that she reanimates that night for, in her own worlds, nostalgia’s sake. Taken with the greater context of Ozen’s actions throughout their time at the Seeker Camp, these words are meant to dehumanize Riko, presumably to test Riko’s mettle and desire to travel to the netherworld.

“Isn’t it true that you simply got an urge to see the bottom?”

-Ozen the Immovable to Lyza the Annihilator, Made in Abyss, Episode 8

Ozen’s actions are later tempered by Lyza’s words in flashbacks that Ozen has just before Riko and Reg set out for the third layer: The Great Fault. Thus begins Riko’s Road of Trials, and unlike the traditional hero’s journey tale, there’s no return for her. Made in Abyss has made it abundantly clear that returning will be impossible. Riko won’t be granted a return threshold because the act of crossing it will kill her. In the latest episode, a mere incline produces vomiting and hallucinations. These symptoms of the Curse of the Abyss will only grow worse the further she dives, should she have to ascend for any reason.

Without saying the actual words, Lyza instructs Ozen to communicate how much Lyza loves her. There’s a hint of wistfulness — a part of Lyza that wants to be there for Riko herself. Lyza stays away from her daughter because it would invite various threats on Riko’s life, but also because Lyza herself is enamored with the Abyss.

This is another love that she wishes for Ozen to impart upon Riko, the love of the Abyss itself.

Ozen tells Reg that the Abyss takes the place of a god. Reg’s existence is a defiance of the Abyss as a deity, since he can travel freely between layers and ascend without feeling the curse’s effects. Goalposts can be shifted to Ozen herself in comparison to Riko. By hiding her scars with her hairstyle and using a relic that obfuscates her true age and gives her superhuman strength, Ozen appears almost godlike in comparison to Riko, who is physically frail.

What all of these characters have in common is a desire to travel to the bottom of the Abyss. Whatever the reason, the Abyss draws their attention, imbuing Riko, Reg, Lyza, Ozen, and many others with insatiable curiosity. Riko draws a lot of criticism for her reckless nature, as have adults in the story for simply allowing Riko to continue on her journey rather than trying to stop her from effectively killing herself. Yet, I can’t agree with these criticisms of Riko’s character or the story as a whole. A Riko who is forced to stay at the orphanage isn’t Riko at all. Not once has her journey been treated lightly by the adults that she’s met en route.

It’s therefore cheap to write off Riko’s desire to go to the Abyss as a sole product of her revival in the Curse-Repelling Vessel. Like her mother Lyza, Riko has her own curiosity drawing her to the Abyss that has nothing to do with the nature of her existence or even her mother’s legacy.

Lyza says that she wants to stay away from Riko to keep her daughter safe, and Ozen teases her that she just wants to continue diving. There’s no reason why both statements can’t be true. Riko may have been born to dive into the Abyss thanks to her circumstances, but that in no way negates her innate curiosity.

7 comments

  1. It’s good that it can go both ways, because that’s what makes the setting and story so special. Is Riko just a puppet of flesh, slave to the whims of the god-like totality of the Abyss? Is she drawn by her human nature and feelings, her curiosity? Interpret it how you see fit, enjoy both.

    1. Yeah definitely. I prefer to to see it as the latter (obviously, from this post, hehe).

      My favorite nod to curiosity and how compelling/dangerous it can be is when Lyza says that she’s leaving Riko so Riko will be given a choice in what she wants to do without Lyza’s legacy hanging over her (which doesn’t happen anyway). Ozen calls her out, saying that Lyza’s words are basically covering for the fact that she just loves diving and will continue to explore the Abyss regardless. ^ ^

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