Visual bookending from Made in Abyss to The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

Made in Abyss’ second season begins with a sort of chronological bookending, placing Riko’s imminent arrival at The Capital of the Unreturned side-by-side with the journey of Vueko arriving at the same location 2,000 years in the past. As viewers, we know that the actions of Vueko’s group were likely instrumental in what eventually became Orth, a busy city that grew up around the edge of the Abyss’ first layer. In case you didn’t get this message through the cinematography of the series itself, Made in Abyss: Golden City of the Scorching Sun‘s opening also places these two stories together, merging them as both groups make their way through the Abyss with 2,000 years between them.

In the second season’s third episode, Village of the Hollows, Made in Abyss also continues framing their journey as if someone is watching them, using several visual callbacks to the first season.

One of the most noticeable ones is this shot, which is a direct reference to the first season’s fourth episode.

In both of these scenes, Reg makes a trap with his robot arms creating a momentarily safe environment for both of them to sleep. At this point, they’ve just delved into the first layer of the Abyss. The rest of this episode is full of shots from above, reiterating that something or someone is always watching them — they’re never safe, even in these moments of respite.

When this shot is reprised in the third episode of the second season, it’s used in a near-identical way. Riko and company have just delved into the Abyss’ sixth layer: The Capital of the Unreturned. It’s the beginning of another journey and a specific threshold crossing, just like leaving Orth was for her in the first season. There’s a constant sense that someone is watching them as they make their way through this new place.

In the first season, this shot provides a small scene of comfort before Riko and Reg move forward towards the second layer, saying goodbye to the black whistle Halbog along the way. However, now in the second season, it adds to the sense of confusion and unease when the main characters realize shortly after they wake up that Riko’s white whistle (Pruschka) has been stolen and whoever stole it not only made it through Reg’s arm traps without tripping over them but also found their mail balloon note and defaced it along with cutting some of Nanachi and Riko’s hair.

When thinking within the world of Made in Abyss, the series visual framing always keeps the curse of the Abyss at the forefront of viewers’ minds. This is done not only by using top-down or off-center shots to emphasize the characters as they travel further into the Abyss, but also by emphasizing any and all ascents, keeping viewers guessing as to whether this particular ascent will harm the characters due to the curse. Village of the Hollows also uses visual cues from Riko’s arrival at the seeker camp in season one (also walking upstairs in Bondrewd’s lair in Dawn of the Deep Soul).

Majikaja acts as a similarly unrelatable guide as Ozen — they both have knowledge that Riko and company don’t, and a better understanding of the rules of the Abyss that are in effect. There’s even a similar scene between Ozen and one of the hollows. The former scratches her fingernails against Lyza’s white whistle upon meeting Riko, the latter chips away at Riko’s freshly-made-from-Pruschka white whistle with Majikaja adding that Pruschka isn’t in her true form.

Even with Nanachi saying that the curse in not in effect as they ascend, the framing of this scene adds a lot of tension due to what we know about the Abyss and how it’s been established that ascending in the sixth layer causes one to lose their humanity, becoming like the hollows that populate this city. Nanachi, Riko, and Reg walk from the light into the darkness, ascending as they follow Majikaja. We’ve been trained that walking up or ascending means bad things for our characters, and Made in Abyss plays with this visually. It’s a different, more subtle foreboding than the visceral and abject horror that occurs later in the episode, but ties both seasons together with its own specific visual language.

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