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Made in Abyss Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

© 2017 Akihito Tsukasa · Takeshobo / Made in Abyss Production Committee
Every journey into the abyss reveals new secrets.

What They Say:
No one knows what’s at the bottom of the Abyss. No one who’s ventured that far has ever returned. What is known is that the Abyss is filled with strange creatures and priceless relics that have lured generations of fortune hunters into a diabolical trap. Because while anyone can descend into the Abyss safely, coming back up triggers a nightmarish series of transformations and madness. And the deeper you go, the less chance you have of coming back unchanged.

But when 12-year-old Riko receives a message that her missing mother might still be alive deep in the Abyss, she knows she has to go to her. She must go even if it’s a one-way trip for her and her robot friend Reg as they brave the ultimate darkness in Made In Abyss.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has some neat moments to it with its audio design as we get some fun movement across the soundstage thanks to the creatures at hand as well as some fun things with the climbing all around. There are some creatures with good sound effects that get some good placement and there are a few big moments that work well, such as Reg’s weapon. But it is, for the most part, all about the dialogue. That combined with a great score really delivers an engaging show with the performances captured well with how it unfolds. There are some good variable levels with it and there’s a lot to like with the cast on both tracks. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with a nine/four format where the extras are all on the second disc. The final episode is also twice the normal length so it’s like a fourteen episode series. Animated by Kinema Citrus, the show has a fantastic look with very rich backgrounds that plays to the natural side exceedingly well without it becoming too garish or overdone. There’s a lot of detail to all of it and a rich world design that comes through beautifully with the encoding here. The character animation plays a little more fluid with what it does and without quite as much detail but it connects well to the overall design. The encoding does a great job here in bringing this to the screen with solid colors and a lot of very visible detail that makes for a rich experience. It’s definitely what you want for a show like this that makes it all the more engaging.

The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with the two discs held against the interior walls. The front cover works with the familiar key visual material of Riko and Reg running along the edge of the abyss as she pullshim toward adventure. It’s not a bad visual but the character material is a little awkward since it’s somewhat obscured and small. The abyss side itself is visible but not completely clear at first and the city side behind it is pretty small, especially with the logo covering a lot of it. It’s a good piece of artwork but not the best kind of cover overall. The back cover goes for something a little brighter with lots of green to it and a cute image of Nanachi along the right. There are some fun shots from the show along the top and a simple but effective summary of the premise. The extras are copious and listed well, though I wish we got an overall running time for them listed, while the bottom of the cover breaks out the production credits and technical information clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is great as the two discs get separate pieces of artwork as static images that really sets the mood. Giving us a look at some big detailed illustrated pieces where the first focuses on the ending episodes and the second the early episodes, we get a look at the underworld and the city rim above the abyss as well. Both have great color deign and a lot of strong detail with all the illustration work that makes it engaging to just look at for a while. The navigation is kept to the right with the episodes listed by title with white and orange while the numbers to the right of it are done in orange and black, working from the title color design. It’s cute and a little busy but a nice contrast from the rest of the static image. The selections are quick and easy to load and access both as the main menut and as the pop-up menu, making for a good experience overall.

The extras for this release are pretty great all around with how it’ll expand your enjoyment of the series. We get the basics here that are welcome with the clean opening and closing as well as the various Japanese promos for it. The get a solid interview with the composer, Kevin Penkin, on working in Japan to bring the score to life. There’s a stage event that runs about twenty minutes and focuses on the actors and staff talking about while we also get a recording of some of the scoring of the series. There are also two making-of featurettes that run about forty minutes total that takes us through the process of how the show was made which gives us a great look at it from start to finish.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Akihito Tsukushi, Made in Abyss is a twelve episode anime series that aired during the summer 2017 season. While I review a lot of anime I do my best to not really compare shows to other works because they have to stand on their own and using a shorthand descriptor in that way doesn’t feel right to me. This series has me bending that rule a good bit as what director Masayuki Kojima and writer Hideyuki Kurata have done at Kinema Citrus is to produce what is essentially a classic Studio Ghibli style show. I mean, it’s obviously not but there are so many thematic choices made here from the source material in how its adapted that it really does capture the things in those films that set the imagination on fire. And it does so beautifully here.

The premise for this is certainly intriguing as the setting is around a massive hole in the world that goes down so far that each layer of it is like another world. The rim of it, which looks like an expansive volcano that’s hollowed out, has a city that has grown up around it over the decades as people explore below and bring back all sorts of relics for fame and fortune. Within the abyss, the Cave Raiders go down and each level introduces its own strange turns with creatures and an ecosystem that becomes more self-sustaining the deeper you go. The Cave Raiders have their own system within it where those that go down past a certain level rarely come back and the few that do are so changed and different so as to be unrecognizable. The mystery of each as a new world of discovery makes the whole thing vastly interesting from there and the show adapts the wonder that Akihito Tsukushi put into the manga to create it. That makes each level a journey all on its own and the challenges to it unique.

Within this we’re introduced to ten-year-old Riko, the daughter of a very well-respected and almost legendary Cave Raider that sacrificed herself years ago to get Riko back to the surface after being born down there. That has left Riko with a desire to go down into the deeper levels where her mother, Lyza, operated out of and see the wonders there, to pick up and carry on where she left off. Riko’s fun to watch as she and those in the orphanage with her spend their time going down into the first “easy” level to find things that they can sell to help keep the place afloat and we get a good understanding of her, her friends, and the way the surface side operates through the early episodes here. But everything for her changes while exploring when she comes across Reg, a humaniform robot that has lost his own memory. He’s a bit odd in some ways in being able to process food but he also has high-tensile strength hands that can extend out hundreds of feet on a wire and a powerful beam that exhausts his energy supply for a few hours after each use, causing him to go to sleep. Riko sees him as a good friend when he saves her but there’s also the reality that she saves him, and he ends up bonding with her over her desire to sneak into the abyss and find out more about her mother.

The series delves well into things with the surface side, the orphanage, and those that exist within it that you could run a full couple of seasons and not be bored by exploring all of it. But once it shifts to Reg and Riko making their way down it becomes a lot more personal as they explore, fend off danger, make new allies, and really deal with some serious troubles. There’s a lot to like in the slow pace of going down the first few levels and experiencing the creatures there and the wonderful set designs as there’s so much to take in that, again, you’d want to spend months going through all that each offers. But I like that as things get stranger the further down we go and the more these two bond together that the difficulty really increases. It’s not meant to be easy going down to the fifth level and beyond with what resides here and seeing how badly it goes for the pair really ups the ante on the series.

In particular, it sidelines Riko for several episodes of an already far too show series. What it does, however, is allow Reg to shine as he now has to ensure her survival in a strange environment and it puts an immense amount of pressure on him since it was working as a “buddy” series up until now. Thankfully, he does get help from the introduction of a hybrid character named Nanachi that has a fascinating story in herself with secret experimentations going on deep below the surface. This arc turns into a very heartrending piece as we learn Nananchi’s story, worry with Reg over Riko, and see how Nanachi needs them to help her finally move forward again. It’s beautifully brought to life here with such emotion in the acting for both languages combined with such striking visuals that it’s very easy to get lost in all of it, especially on a big screen when watching into the dark of night.

In Summary:
With a sequel announced previously and two compilation films coming up, there’s a big push behind Made in Abyss in Japan and that makes me very happy. I’m definitely curious to see how well this can be reworked into two feature films because everything about the show feels theatrical in design to begin with. There is so much to love in this show with what it presents in characters, locations, and intent that it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in it and realize that the time has flown by. Sentai’s release is really strong here with a great dub, a fantastic encoding, and lots of extras for fans to sink their teeth into in how the production came to life across the board. This is a really highly recommended project worth owning.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Trailer & Promos, Kevin Penkin Interview, Jouel Event, Making of Made in Abyss 1 & 2, Music in Abyss, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 23rd, 2018
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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