Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Made in Abyss

The upper fifth of the Abyss

I was really looking forward to Made in Abyss after seeing the PV for the show, and not just because it had the word "メイド" in the title. I wasn't overly fond of the character designs, but the exploration theme of the story was extremely appealing to me.

The ongoing manga for Made in Abyss is authored by Akihito Tsukushi, and started it's run in 2012. I did not pick up the title earlier because I believed it was aimed at a younger audience due to the character design. Despite its look, the story gets pretty intense and unrelentingly grim at parts, so is definitely not for kids.

If the anime hadn't come out, it's possible I might have missed out on a great story for a rather superficial reason. It think this has taught me not to make hasty decisions about manga solely based on a single criteria.

I'm not sure when the last time an anime of this genre was produced, but the first thing that pops to mind is Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, which dates back to 1990.

The first three episodes cover the first volume of the manga, and do a good job of setting up the background for the adventure that is about to unfold. The Abyss is a colossal pit in the middle of an island that reaches over 20,000m into the earth. The town of Orth (Ōsu) has been built around the Abyss, supported by an economy based on recovering and selling artifacts from the Abyss.

During an expedition into the Abyss, our heroine Riko finds the robot Reg. Instead of turning him over to the authorities, she asks Reg to pretend to be human so he can be accepted into the orphanage school in which she lives.

It is not clear if all cave raiders are orphans, but Riko's orphanage is essentially a training center for cave raiders. We learn that it is a profession fraught with danger, ranging from predatory beasts to foreign agents, and the ever looming "Curse of the Abyss" that can prevent you from ever returning to the surface world.

The Curse of the Abyss reminds me of an element
from Jeff Long's novel The Descent, in which
humans who spend an extended amount of time in
the sub-planet start to undergo changes in
physical appearance.

One day, belongings of the legendary Lyza the Annihilator are recovered from the Abyss. Lyza is Riko's mother, and a cryptic message saying "I’ll be waiting at the bottom of the Abyss" is found among the documents.

Riko takes the words as being personally directed to her, and accompanied by Reg, decides to go find her mother in the depths of the Abyss. I have high hopes for the series.

One other reason that I am interested this show, is that back in the day, I started writing an adventure for the BRP system based on exploration of a giant vent in the ground that was surrounded by a city that owed it's prosperity to the goods obtained from deep under the earth.

I didn't do more than flesh out the first couple of levels, but if I ever wanted to revisit that particular idea, I can pretty much adapt Tsukushi's material for the game.

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