bondrewd the novel

[Eight] Animating Reg and the monstrous in Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul

One of the few, yet common, criticisms levied at the 2017 Made in Abyss television series was at animator Kou Yoshinari’s creature designs and animation. When Yoshinari was given creative control of how the creatures of the Abyss would be designed, he purposefully made them visually-jarring and otherworldly. They’re animated as an other, with blurred lines that distinguish them from sharply-detailed backgrounds of the Abyss itself.

Alongside the citizens of Orth and cave raiders of the Abyss, we as viewers know little about this gaping maw other than what the series tells us. The series’ visual direction makes us part-time travelers with Reg and Riko, and part-time voyeurs, watching them from a distance with a calculating eye (like the monsters, the Abyss which is a character all its own, or high-level cave raiders like Bondrewd who have eyes everywhere).

The monsters aren’t animated badly, they’re unnatural by design.

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Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul and Riko’s Last Dive

“My mother is waiting for me, after all!”

-Riko, Made In Abyss, Episode 13

Outside of an affirmative yell and calling Nanachi’s name, this is Riko’s last statement within the scope of Made In Abyss‘ 13-episode run. Her mother is waiting for her. She wants to continue adventuring immediately (despite a near life-ending injury among other things). Riko’s entire journey through the Abyss began with her desire to see her mother Lyza again while living in the massive shadow of her mother’s legacy.

(spoilers for Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul)

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Made in Abyss on “The Return”

“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.

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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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