“So you like poppies, Chise?”
-Elias Ainsworth to Chise Hatori, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Episode 2
“You know, that girl simply left without ever turning to look back, but I could see her profile. And she was just like all of the cave raiders I’ve seen. That eye I saw was full of longing. And then, I remembered what it was I wanted to be one day.”
-Riko on meeting Mitty, Made in Abyss, Episode 13
When we first meet her, Riko is bored.
Cave raiding still excites her, but she’s already looking into her own future to a time when she won’t be stuck on the first layer, combing through graves that have already been dug up by countless red whistle trainees for run-of-the-mill artifacts. Initially presented as part of a larger vertical society where the delvers give back to the community in the form of artifacts or new Abyss discoveries, cave raiding first appears to be a societal contribution first.
Yet, from the moment she appears in the series’ first episode, Riko’s desire is far more selfish. She admits to hoarding the Star Compass because its value as an artifact that guides its user towards the truth of the Abyss is more important to her personal goals. She is rarely in the present, talking instead of a far-off time when she’s a white whistle like her mother, Lyza.
Riko looks into the Abyss and sees her mother. Riko looks into the Abyss and sees endless opportunity and possibility. Riko looks into the Abyss and sees her own insatiable curiosity, the inevitable pull that every human has towards something.
*Sakura/cherry blossoms not included.
Watching a reboot or sequel to a classic favorite is inevitably an awkward endeavor. I first experienced this in anime through Sailor Moon Crystal, a reboot of one of the properties that, among other highly personal things, gave me an initial push down the path of becoming a lifelong anime fan. Crystal was a homecoming at first, then a massive disappointment, then a fun return to a franchise that resonated with me unlike any other media property from elementary school through my own adolescence.
Even returning to Naruto through Boruto was accompanied by an odd feeling of time passing without me. I was never deeply immersed in the world of Naruto, or even too emotionally attached to any of the characters. Despite never finishing the Naruto anime itself, I enjoyed the time I spent watching it and my passive participation in the fandom consuming fanworks. Perhaps this is why Boruto initially registered as a fanwork itself, albeit an official one, in my mind.
Yet, Card Captor Sakura is neither Sailor Moon nor Naruto for me. Revisiting Card Captor Sakura is another, different experience and return to a beloved franchise.
“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
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.