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Made in Abyss: City of the Scorching Sun Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read
© 2017 Akihito Tsukasa · Takeshobo / Made in Abyss Production Committee

It’s time to go down another layer.

What They Say:
No one has ventured into the sixth layer of the Abyss and remained unchanged. No one returns from their Last Dive, and no one knows what happened to those who delved further. Even with the possession of a White Whistle, an ominous specter hovers above Riko, Reg and Nanachi as they advance down to the sixth layer, the Capital of the Unreturned.

The pathways are more treacherous, the environment harsher, and the creatures even more dangerous, but the most unsettling thing of all is the ruins of the Golden City. Here each of the delvers will be forced to forge their own destinies and paths as they investigate the city’s mysterious origins and the strange beings who still dwell there. The answer to their questions, as always, lies somewhere ahead, down and forward.

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 2022, 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/three format where the extras are all on the second disc. Animated by Kinema Citrus, the show has a fantastic look with a lot of very rich backgrounds that play 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 sense of world design that comes through beautifully with the encoding here. The character animation plays a little more fluidly 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 which 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 our main trio together as they continue to make their journey. It’s not a bad visual but the character material is a little awkward since it’s somewhat obscured and small. 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 soft yellows to it and a cute image 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 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. The design gives us a look at some big detailed illustrated pieces where that’re so well-detailed in both the artwork and colors that it’s great to just have as a static visual on your display for a while. The theme song music adds to it as well in a pretty good way so that it builds the energy going into the show. The navigation is kept to the right with the episodes listed by title in red 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 menu 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 big new extra for this set is the “Together with Papa” short that’s about five minutes and opens like a Looney Tunes show which just delights me to no end. It’s a simple little tale and basically like some of the net animation stuff in its simplicity but it’s a little more as it tells its fairy tale of sorts.

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 2022 season after following up the 2017 series and some film releases. 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 it’s adapted that it really does capture the things in those films that set the imagination on fire. And it does so beautifully here.

It’s been a long five years between seasons but fans got two compilation films released in 2019 and 2020 saw a new feature film before this show arrived in the summer of 2022. And all that time, the manga continued on as well with it getting to eleven volumes now. With the previous season and film taking us through the first five layers, this season is focused just on the sixth layer – and opens with some flashback to the distant past first. And it’s important to know that this is the sixth layer because we’ve seen in the past the references to it being the point of no return for those that have dived down into the abyss before as nobody has returned from there. It creates a good sense of importance to crossing this barrier and reaching a kind of bottom – but not final bottom – for our characters to treat with proper respect. The sense of scale is still pretty impressive overall and combining that with the smaller nature of our characters and the gorgeous and detailed set designs, it has such a sense of atmosphere and age about so much of it.

The exploration of all of this is a lot of fun and there are a number of neat designs, creatures, and just an evocative mood from so much of it that it feels and is distinctly different from what we saw traveling through the other layers. That’s not something a lot of shows manage to handle well as there’s a kind of bland sameness through a lot of it. Not here and that’s to the benefit of the show as you pause, rewind, and rewatch segments to notice all the details and crafted design of it. There’s a lot to like what we get from this and at times I felt like I wish it just went through more of it in a leisurely fashion to explore. Where it wants to focus, however, is on the Iruburu village that the Hollows are from. It’s an intriguing place in general and presents quite the contrast from Nanachi in how different they are. Nanachi is still a character that I kind of look askew at as something about them just hasn’t quite gelled for me, but watching as the Hollows that are in this village, a safe prison of their own making of sorts, definitely provides for some good storytelling and a place for Reg and Riko to experience as their journey continues. It’s a challenging setup for them to really grasp and understand, especially knowing how Nanachi is and that she’s like them but apart.

The exploration of the Iruburu and what they represent is certainly interesting as it progresses because of the way things revolve around value. This is always something that works in a kind of abstract way because you’re not dealing with the setup we understand in our world and this is a very small and simple place overall. Value is in what you have and are and these are things that we see that can be exchanged, especially in the highly valuable thing of body parts and of children in particular, which is why our leads here are certainly important. The idea of value through this is something that I’m sure others have written on in more detail, but looking at it from the abstract it has that kind of old-school Star Trek aspect to it where an isolated world evolves in a unique way that may not make sense when you really examine it. I’m sure you can map out how to make it work, but we’re getting the simple view of it and just exploring the concept as a kind of game, though the tension is certainly real for the characters as they navigate it and their time in the sixth layer.

And what the show wants to focus on as well, which ties into that tension of value, is with Faputa. She’s someone of note within Iruburu and has a connection with Reg as we learn the two were pretty close prior to his losing his memories. This is always a dicey area because we get the whole “how could you forget me” angle playing out which is compounded by Faputa being angry, internally and externally, with the way Reg is so close with Riko and even Nanachi. That kind of tension is familiar and it also impacts how the others view the dynamic, but it works to explore the past and present for all of them and the village itself, to delve more into the Hollows and slowly but surely lessen the divide that exists between Faputa and Reg. Enough so that we see a big enough change in what she’s doing by the end of the season so that our little group grows again. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Faputa overall but I’m glad that the group hasn’t truly grown with each layer and waiting until now to really do so.

What’s interesting is that this is a series that really does well when you’re able to just invest in the individual episode. There’s a lot going on conceptually with each episode as it introduces the places and characters within and I can imagine I would have written a lot about it on an episode-by-episode basis during its original run because it’s doing so much original stuff creatively. When you pull back and look at the big picture, however, you can see that it gets into the navel-gazing side of things a little too often. I do like the idea of giving a layer an entire season to explore and to get into all of it – especially one like this where it’s the point of no return for those from up top. But at the same time, we spend so much time here compared to the other layers that overall progress slows down and watching it in full as a marathon you start wanting them to get to the point. And it depends on what you believe the point is of this layer that will determine whether and how well it works for you.

In Summary:
As an exercise in really exploring a level, Made in Abyss: City of the Scorching Sun delivers some great stuff here and I imagine is even more engaging in the manga where it can pace things very differently. Each of the layers has had its own spin and things that let them stand out but this one definitely gets the big expansion and it’s got pros and cons that come down to what you really want out of this show and the kind of entertainment you consume in general. Sentai’s release is quite good (a premium edition is in our future0 as we get a well-encoded release that’s vibrant and detailed with a solid dub and a nice selection of extras to boost it up with. Depending on how well you remember the prior works, I’d definitely recommend revisiting the first season and the film before going into this so you can reconnect the dots as it has been five years. It’s definitely worth the investment in time overall as it continues to be an engaging work.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Together with Papa (Short Film); Interviews with Actors, Director and Author; Japanese Promos; 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: June 13th, 2023
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 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.