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

In Made in Abyss, knowledge is everything. The series reiterates this time and again, while playing with the different amounts of information that each character knows and is able to dispense to Reg, and by extension us as a viewing audience. By extension, the lack of knowledge that certain characters have also reveals a great deal about information flow in this particular society that has grown around the Abyss.

Episode 12 emphasizes just how little information reaches the surface, something that has been touched upon in previous episodes through off-handed mentions and conversations. There are obvious physical bottlenecks within the Abyss that cap information off at specific points.

As early as the series’ second episode, Made in Abyss establishes that the most pertinent pieces of information are more than likely passed down aurally rather than written. Jiruo relays information about Lyza to Riko by telling her, rather than Riko learning from a textbook despite the fact that her mother is famous. Within that same episode, we see the more heroic side of Lyza glorified in a staged retelling where her deeds are narrated over a puppet show. Later, Ozen tells Riko and Reg closely-kept secrets that are only passed between the White Whistles themselves.

Much of this makes practical sense. It’s presumably far easier for a White Whistle to tell another White Whistle or a Black Whistle that they’re delving with things that they’ve learned and experienced rather than sending that same information up via balloon, which we learn are unreliable. Ascending is difficult, even for White and Black Whistles, and there’s the added difficulty of the time differences within the Abyss and outside of it.

However, this also means that a lot of valuable information that would help further their society’s understanding of how the Abyss works is kept between White Whistles alone. We also know that White Whistles will hoard relics to themselves, even going as far as to keep them off the record books by purchasing them through illegal channels or simply not recording the entirety of what they find in a dive.

Anything but the message of a White Whistle is treated as a rumor within Orth, but White Whistles keep specific pieces of information to themselves, or only pass it along to other White Whistles. This is painfully obvious when we find Jiruo struggling to solve the mystery of the “birthday curse” that is affecting citizens of Orth, including Kiyui, whose illness was foreshadowed earlier in the series during Riko and Reg’s departure. As soon as Kiyui is taken away from the Abyss and onto a boat moored nearby, his symptoms vanish, further proof of how the curse of the Abyss works: the closer one is to the center, the more the curse will affect them.

Despite Reg’s shock that delvers would continue their dives without knowing how the curse works, the most intriguing part of this reveal is what Nanachi alludes to: divers will dive regardless, spurred on by sheer curiosity. Because so little of this information reaches the surface and is passed down for even the lowliest of red whistles — or kids with jingle bells like Kiyui who are still too young to dive — the citizens of Orth grow up in ignorance. Imagine if this information was taught from the moment a delver began their education.

The Seeker Camp in the second layer is placed in a strategically similar area to Nanachi’s hideout in the fourth layer, proof of some sort of awareness, even if it’s not a conscious one. It’s difficult to believe that White Whistles are ignorant to the curse of the Abyss. Although we — I use “we” loosely to describe anyone in the viewing audience who hasn’t read the original manga, myself included — don’t yet know the full story of Nanachi and Mitty, Nanachi’s knowledge is obviously from practice, not education.

White Whistles would also learn, through practice, these same qualities of how the curse operates in order to avoid the symptoms as much as possible. Perhaps they’ve tried to send this information to the surface and failed, but the discrepancy between what people on the surface know and are able to teach, and what one actually needs to know to survive in the Abyss is massive. This invites the question of why there’s such a information deficit, especially when sharing this information could help future delvers advance their knowledge of the Abyss.


  1. One of the more interesting aspects of the culture of Orth is how much they value – or don’t value – word-of-mouth information. Ozen mentioned that there is a lot of knowledge that’s kept solely to White Whistles and (presumably) their closest confidants, about the dangers in the Abyss. Even though Ozen has regular trips up to the surface, she, and presumably the other white whistles, don’t even bother writing it down – whether due to the horrors of the abyss or through lack of interest in recording it. Because of this, much of the knowledge that is necessary to survive in the lower layers isn’t told – for newer or younger explorers, it’s seen as a reward. It’s similar to how knowledge is gatekept by a number of secret societies throughout history – more information and truth about the world is given to you as you ascend higher in rank.

    In a culture that acts as the gatekeeper to the Abyss for the outside world, it makes sense that certain bits of information shouldn’t be widely known or spread – evidenced by the fact that Lyza’s journal was kept safeguarded and Jiruo had to petition/pull some strings for Riko to see it. Orth’s word-of-mouth culture and it’s reliance on White Whistles – the ultimate gatekeepers of knowledge about the Abyss – as the most revered and trusted members of the society serves as a social stopgap on the spread of information, compared to the physical stopgap on the spread of information that the Abyss serves.

    1. They also have to keep certain knowledge hidden from foreign delvers. For black and white whistles, keeping that information to themselves and only sharing to them to those who have qualified actually aid in their survival significantly. Not so for a red whistle who wanders into the fourth layer, but that’s another reason why they’re not supposed to.

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