“But you know, less than ten percent of the creatures in the Abyss have even been named.”
-Riko to Reg, Made in Abyss, Episode 10
An essential piece of any adventure or fantasy story involves describing the fantasy world that the characters inhabit. Yet, telling or showing the environment is often a tricky endeavor. Too many expository monologues will easily send viewers running in the opposite direction and take away from the mysteries and wonder of the world that a series is trying to showcase.
Made in Abyss has done an exceptional job of dispensing facts to the viewing audience without tedium. Even longer expository passages from various characters in the series blend seamlessly with the visual and auditory storytelling. Made in Abyss‘ characters are experiencing parts of the Abyss for the first time themselves, which lends an authenticity to their words. The series plays with characters’ levels of familiarity with the mysterious Abyss to distribute bits of knowledge organically making the most of how much we, and the characters, do not know.
Any story that follows the monomyth, or Hero’s Journey — as named and made popular by Joseph Campbell and his The Hero with a Thousand Faces — involves a return.
The return is one of the more important parts of a standard hero narrative, since it’s at that point where the hero must not only eschew the place (physical or metaphorical) of where they received enlightenment, but is tasked with gifting that knowledge to the unenlightened. Arguably, bestowing that wisdom upon everyday people in their everyday world is the very thing that makes them heroic.
For example, in the post-apocalyptic short story By the Waters of Babylon — which I’ve referenced before in relation to Made in Abyss — John returns to his father and tribe with important knowledge of the civilization that preceded their own. Although his father cautions him of dumping too much information on the uniformed, the realization that what he thought were gods were actually mere humans who destroyed their own world is what inspires him to say that they must rebuild. His realization and return likely spark a period of growth and industry.
Made in Abyss‘ second episode is also the start of Riko’s journey as the hero of the main narrative, but it also has some fascinating commentary on the return itself, through the structure of the Abyss.