Tag Archives: Drama

The focus is on emotional conflict.

s-CRY-ed – Anime Review

Japanese Title: s.CRY.ed


Similar: GetBackers


Code Geass


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Drama Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes



  • The definition of hot-blooded anime.
  • Straight Cougar character.
  • Creative powers.


  • Younger sister isn’t of much use.
  • The Japanese acting.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Writing up my ‘Watched but Not Reviewed’ list – which I have since realised is missing many titles – gave me the urge to revisit s-CRY-ed, or Scryed for simplicity’s sake. I had watched Scryed several times within a year – I had access to less than ten titles at the time, so pickins were slim. As I mentioned in the list, I remembered this series as wall-to-wall action and similar to Marvel’s Civil War. Is it as I remember? Let’s find out.

A geological phenomenon splintered a part of Japan, creating an isolated area called ‘The Lost Ground’ where people known as Alters have started to develop the ability to summon weapons. Kazuma is one such Alter working as a mercenary to care for himself and his sister in this lawless land. The mainland government to bring the law, however, and have recruited Alters looking for a better life in exchange for their services in capturing ‘Native Alters’. Kazuma soon meets Ryuho, elite member of the mainland order HOLY, igniting a rivalry for the history books.

The rivalry is the heart of Scryed. You’re probably thinking this is a rivalry like Naruto versus Sasuke, Ash versus Gary, or Yugi versus Seto ‘I have Money’ Kaiba. No, no, no, you don’t understand. Kazuma versus Ryuho is on another level. Nothing takes precedence. These guys hate each other by mere mention of the other’s name. It’s never quite clear why. When one tries to help the other, that help is refused with prejudice because you never, ever accept anything from your rival. A starving Kazuma would tell Ryuho to kill himself if he offered food. When these two are on screen, each line of dialogue from one is met by derision or anger from the other like a bitter couple that has been married for too long, yet have to see each other every day. Ryuho would rather murder a puppy than accept help from Kazuma. This rivalry sounds absurd, but it is so absurd that it loops back around to greatness and it gives us the most ridiculous final episode of any show I have ever seen. Only this rivalry could give us such insanity.

You need to be into the rivalry to enjoy Scryed fully. However, beyond that, the action is good, thanks in most part to creative powers. I like that the author didn’t simply give them pliable powers and call them mutants. Each power is a physical construct. Instead of super strength, for example, Kazuma materialises a power gauntlet with thrusters around his right arm. Ryuho’s Alter is a humanoid in a strait jacket that kills with the straps. The most creative power has to be from the guy who can manipulate people by writing a script in his book, which is a different take on classic mind control. These differentiating factors make Scryed feel fresh, even today. Wait until you meet the guy with the gun.

The characters are a mixed bag. Kazuma is a hooligan while Ryuho is a snooty highborn – fitting for the rivalry. My favourite character is Straight Cougar, who can transform any vehicle into a super car out of Wacky Racers or Redline in addition to operating at a faster level than everyone else. His philosophy is speed, because the faster you do things, the more time you save and thus the more you can accomplish in life. That’s my kind of philosophy. He has this running gag of mispronouncing people’s names by one letter. Even after hearing this joke several times an episode, every episode, it still makes me laugh because it’s sharp and timed perfectly amidst regular dialogue. I love this character. His interactions with Minori Mimori, a researcher of Alters in love with Ryuho, are a delight.

Mimori is a serviceable character. The fact that her purpose isn’t just to be a love interest makes her more interesting. Where the cast falters is in some of the lesser Alters, who are merely filling bodies, and in Kazuma’s younger sister, Kanami. She is the narrator, of sorts, with her power to read the thoughts and emotions of others while dreaming. All she does is tell us Kazuma’s emotions that we can already see on screen… Pointless. Her inclusion is to give Kazuma something to protect, which is fine, but she has too much screen time for a clichéd younger-but-is-the-adult-in-the-house girl.

The story is where my memory went most wrong. I thought it was akin to Civil War, when its arc is the opposite, really. The Alters start divided between the lawless and HOLY. HOLD (owners of HOLY) treats the Lost Ground citizens like trash, arrested and tortured with no hesitation, eventually leading some to question if they are on the correct side. Real estate moguls want to develop the area, but the natives are a problem. I recalled Scryed as consisting of 90% action as well. In truth, though there is plenty of action, the story has much more to it than I remembered with character development, changing motives, and conflict to keep thing interesting.

A revisit of Scryed was a pleasant surprise. I expected nothing but nostalgia to keep me going. Instead, I finished the series and enjoyed every episode. That ending…

Art – Medium

The style is the same as the later released Gundam SEED though lacks visual depth and the animation is wonky at times. Interesting designs for the powers.

Sound – Medium

Clumsy exposition. The first line to the research scientist is someone telling her that she graduated seven years early. The acting is serviceable for the content, with a few great performances, but the Japanese acting for Kazuma and Ryuho is terrible. I like the ED – brings back memories.

Story – Medium

A mysterious phenomenon gifted select people with Alter powers, which has ignited a conflict for control over this ‘Lost Ground’ with free mercenaries on one side and organised Alters on the other. Scryed’s embodiment of testosterone in an eternal rivalry is entertaining and varied enough to warrant interest.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For action fans. If you want hyper-action, yelling out names, bitter rivalry, and cool powers, look no further than Scryed.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None


Rainbow – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin


Similar: Tomorrow’s Joe


Grave of the Fireflies


Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Historical Drama Thriller

Length: 26 episodes



  • Brutal depiction of post-war Japan.
  • Chemistry between the boys.
  • Sakuragi vs. prison guard dynamic.
  • Top-notch acting.
  • Unexpected outcomes.


  • Second half doesn’t tie together as well as it should.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Post-war Japan was a harsh place. For the poor, the abused, life was rough as the country tried to rebuild. In 1955, six teens find themselves on the wrong side of the law and sent to a correctional school, where they meet Sakuragi, their new cellmate. The events that follow will push them to the limits, punish them for daring to live, and test their resolve for survival until their sentences in hell are over.

Rainbow is brutal, not for the faint of heart. The production team warns you as much each episode with a disclaimer that the brutality, the depravity you will see is accurate of the time and it would be a disrespect to hide it. The first experience in prison is to have the doctor violate one of the boys in front of his friends. The doctor has a faux-gentle voice that makes one’s skin crawl. We witness a child rape not long after. It won’t be the last.

Rainbow never relents with either the characters or the audience. If you are to start this journey, know that peace never truly arrives.

Day one in the cell, Sakuragi beats the ego out of the other six to teach humility. Survival of the fittest is the only natural law that matters in this “school” and reckless bravado will get you killed. He becomes a role model to the others, uniting the group in friendship that even hell will have a tough time breaking. This chemistry between the boys not only makes Rainbow engaging but also loaded with emotion. When all of them put themselves on the line to allow Joe to see his little sister and save her from the rapist that adopted them, you feel a genuine bond tying these guys together.

Each brings something to the group with a distinct personality. The short but business savvy ‘Turtle’ has an endearing cockiness about him. ‘Cabbage’ is a friendly giant, ‘Soldier’ is disciplined, ‘Uncovered’ may be a bit of a prick but he’s got a plan to cover your back, and Mario is loyal to his own detriment. Every character in Rainbow is memorable thanks to a complete backstory and complex characteristics. It’s evident within an episode or two that the creator didn’t take any shortcuts when planning his characters.

As I watch these characters grow, I want nothing but the best for them. I want to protect these guys. I want them to be happy. Why can’t they catch a break? Why can’t they just be happy? It’s rare for a story to have me care so much for so many of its characters.

Their camaraderie evokes emotional moments. The most emotional scene for me doesn’t involve any violence or tragedy; it’s just everyone being there for one in the group when he needs them most.

The best arc in Rainbow belongs to Sakuragi, however, because of the conflict between him and the prison guard, a man who will stop at nothing to ruin his life. The guard tries to sow dissent among the friends, tortures the guys, and is complicit in the doctor’s vile acts as long as he can continue to torment Sakuragi. Their arc is fantastic and unexpected in direction. Rainbow as a whole makes several unexpected turns – not twists exactly. Rather, you don’t expect the outcomes of certain threads and events. The writer took bold decisions with the plot.

If I haven’t made it clear already, Rainbow is an anime worthy among the best. Yet, nothing is without fault and the major one with this anime is that the second half isn’t as strong as the first, owing to a lack of cohesion between arcs. The second half is closer to a series of short stories for each of the guys. While these stories are great, the writer didn’t weave them together. It would have been better to run several stories in unison, leaping frogging each other through interwoven events. For example, Joe’s story is about wishing to sing while Mario’s is about his boxing. There is no reason these couldn’t have had connected events and a little shared conflict. Weaving arcs together deepens the connection and raises stakes further when more characters have something on the line. Even so, Rainbow is still excellent throughout.

I don’t know how this anime stayed off my radar until requested for review. I had the horrid thought the other day that I may never have seen Rainbow if not for one dear reader… Even though I’m certain I have every great (or said to be great) anime on my list already, I am going to go through the databases again, just to be sure another Rainbow doesn’t slip past me. Such great anime deserves to be watched by all.

Art – High

The animation is only above average, but the visual style has atmosphere and the painterly stills during key moments are gorgeous, full of emotion.

Sound – Very High

You need great performances to pull off an anime of Rainbow’s weight, and they did it. I love the OP and ED, which stay the same throughout, unable to skip them each time they started. The only audio flaw is with some of the American characters likely played by expats in Japan with mixed acting expertise.

Story – Very High

Seven cellmates in a juvenile reform school cling to hope and friendship during a harsh post-war Japan. Rainbow’s uncompromising conflict will have you engaged and cheering for these boys to the end.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch unless you don’t like the brutal subject matter. Rainbow is a top tier anime that deserves a larger audience.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)


Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentGreat OP or ED SequencePhenomenal VillainStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None

Neon Genesis Evangelion – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Neon Genesis Evangelion


Related: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (true ending – included in review)

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth (summary)

Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (new version)

Similar: RahXephon

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Ergo Proxy

Guilty Crown


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 26 episodes, 1 movie



  • World and mecha design.
  • Oppressive atmosphere.
  • The restraint in unfolding mysteries.
  • Varied enemies and action.
  • A cast of complex characters.


  • Handling of the 17th Angel.
  • The original episodes 25 & 26.
  • Final 20 minutes of the new ending.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I used to hate Neon Genesis Evangelion – hate with a burning passion, which I alluded to in my ‘Former Favourites’ list. The hatred was so strong that it was part of my core as an anime fan. When I brought up Evangelion to my friend the other day, the first thing he mentioned was my hatred of the series all those years ago.

Why the hatred? Well, it was my teenage mindset. I used to have a problem whereby one significant fault in a series I otherwise enjoyed could ruin the whole thing. My reaction was disproportionate to the fault itself. Evangelion’s fault was with the ending, and nothing has more negative impact on a viewer than a bad ending because it’s the last impression you leave with, the bad aftertaste of a banquet. It takes effort to override the feeling of a bad ending to remember your enjoyment before that moment. That was my weakness, to the point of venom.

To understand the significance of this ending, let’s go back to the start.

The world is nearing its end as Angels are descending from above to wipe out humanity. It has suffered two cataclysms already; it cannot withstand a third. The last hope lies with Nerv, a military agency in Tokyo 3 with only one weapon: the Evangelions, giant robots that can match the Angels. To unlock their full potential, they need pilots, 14-year-olds to be precise, capable of maximum synchronisation between human and machine. Shinji Ikari has been chosen to pilot EVA Unit-01, tearing him from his ordinary life to the frontlines where is father, who hasn’t cared for him in years, leads Nerv. He joins Rei, pilot of Unit-00, and Asuka of Unit-02 later.

Neon Genesis Evangelion has a perfect first episode, showcasing ‘in medias res’ (in the middle of things) with Shinji’s arrival in Tokyo 3. Misato, his guardian, is late as an Angel attacks, almost killing him, then a mine intended for the Angel detonates and rolls Misato’s car with him inside, ending the episode in him having to pilot the EVA. Rough first day. When you watch it, note how you understand the world and the situation without feeling lost, despite having zero lines of exposition. This episode and the three that follow are so strong that I watched the first DVD several times within a week as I waited to borrow the remainder from a friend at school. It sucked me into the world and I had to see more.

The first element that grabs me is the visual design. Evangelion wouldn’t have been so iconic without the unique look and feel to its world and mech designs. Everything was Gundam or a pale Gundam imitation at the time, so to see something so human and monstrous infused with mecha was revolutionary. The designs alone aren’t the reason for success. The use of the Evangelions cements them into memory. How often do you see a mech or vehicle so flashy, so overdesigned never justified by the anime? (“Why does that mech have giant spikes everywhere if it never uses them?”) Evangelions look the way they do for a reason and when that full potential blooms, it makes for the anime’s most memorable moments. That is to say, copying a Gundam design but keeping every Evangelion event the same wouldn’t have had half the impact than what we have here.

The second element of notice is the action and Angels. The action doesn’t simply look great; it’s creative. Hideaki Anno could have made the Angels straightforward Godzilla monsters that rampage about and take many shots to kill without effect on the grand plot. Instead, each Angel is creative in both design and threat. One Angel splits in two upon death only to regenerate a moment later, requiring both halves to die at the same moment, while another Angel is a nanoscopic virus that hacks Nerv’s central brains. Each encounter brings something new for the viewer and the characters. When Angels go after the mind or allies, Evangelion is at its best.

The human conflict adds a dozen layers of depth to humanity’s end. Shinji is a kid who just wants to feel needed, particularly by his arsehole of a father, though he is saving humanity, to be fair. His father has the weight of the world in his decisions. Not making him straight evil was a good choice.

Misato is another great character. She’s a total slob, drinks more beer than water and is a little pervy, but she has a good heart and cares for the kids – one of the few who does – making her the most human element of the series. Each supporting character receives enough attention for depth without breaking the hierarchy of importance to the plot.

I had it in memory that each DVD was worse than the previous until the final one nosedived. Rewatching Evangelion now though, I loved every episode until the 24th (rushed despite an amazing finale) because I can appreciate the points of view and purposes of characters I once didn’t like. For instance, I used to find Asuka annoying. She still is annoying, but I can see that she is a well-designed annoying. Perhaps it was Anno’s intent for teenage boys to find her annoying, much as Shinji does.

What turned me around on the majority of episodes was the craft that went into the mysteries that make the reader want to know more. As a teenager, I couldn’t perceive how the story metered out bits and pieces of information, foreshadowing greater reveals in the final act. Where did the technology for EVAs come from? What happened to Shinji’s mother? Who is Rei? So many questions. Study Evangelion if you want to learn the importance of mystery in narrative.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is well known for its psychological brutality and insane imagery, but there is a good amount of levity to stop the audience from wanting to completely blow their brains out quitting. Much of the humour revolves around Misato or takes place at school. She has this penguin living with her, not as a pet – maybe? More like a roommate. Who is this penguin? The strategic censorship is also funny and when Asuka moves in with Misato and Shinji, we get one of the greatest lines. Asuka wants to make-out with Shinji, you know, for fun, ‘cause that’s what girls do (?), but he hesitates and she mocks him. “I’m not afraid – pucker up!” he yells in retaliation.

Humour is important even to the darkest narratives, as it keeps the audience sustained and gives the dark moments more impact through contrast.

Evangelion reaches its darkest point in the two-episode finale, both in real life and in fiction. The original episodes 25 & 26 I still find terrible, if not worse because I can see more writing problems than before. The budget and time ran out, leaving almost no animation. Without going into spoilers, these episodes are mostly still shots of text, real life photos, and characters vomiting expository dialogue. Most attribute the poor quality to the visuals. Had the team had the budget, the episodes would have been great, they say. This isn’t true. Everything about these episodes is trash. The dialogue, the writing, the ideas, the imagery, the characterisation – all trash.

I hunted and bought The End of Evangelion after my school friends had mentioned a remake, though they hadn’t seen it. I eagerly booted it up and all seemed fixed. The visuals were back better than ever with spectacular action. The bad dialogue was gone. Each episode was double length. This was the ending Evangelion deserved. Then the climax began and threw all that the series had worked for, which to teenage me was a deal breaker, a ruiner of all good things. I hated the series since.

The climax is 20-minutes of imagery with a minute’s worth of plot. The visuals are nice and certainly better than the original version, but it’s too much when you don’t have the story to accompany it. The issue is build-up. It escalates and escalates, creating expectations that all will end in spectacular fashion. Instead…nothing. Now, a negative ending is fine but after such build-up, this just wastes the audience’s time. Five minutes of the best shots would have sufficed.

What do I think of the ending now? I don’t mind it as much. It’s still no good for the last 20 minutes, yet it no longer affects my opinion of the series prior. Simple compression would fix most problems.

And that’s where I stand today, at the end of a long journey of hate and love with a mere anime. I have debated at length with myself about where to score Neon Genesis Evangelion (one of the reasons for the review’s delay). I am still unsure. Who knows; perhaps I will change my thoughts again in fifteen years.

Art – Very High

It is incredible to think that we had such good-looking anime series in the 90s, drawn by hand. Evangelion doesn’t have the consistent animation of Cowboy Bebop, but its creative design drips with grit and atmosphere. Of course, this quality took a toll on the final two episodes. This rating assumes End of Evangelion replaces the original ending.

Sound – High

I didn’t notice until this viewing – because you often skip the ED after a few times – that the ending song changes each DVD to a different cover of Bart Howard’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ (popularised by Frank Sinatra). Some of these covers don’t work though I like the variety. Everyone knows the theme song ‘Cruel Angel Thesis’, which has become famous beyond its original use. Still a classic. The acting is where quality doesn’t quite hold up, in either language. A few examples: Asuka’s German in Japanese is…what Unit-01 does to the 13th Angel; several supporting English characters are a regular earsore; Japanese Shinji needed a male actor to pull off some scenes.

Story – Very High

Humanity faces the End Times and must place its hopes on three psychologically damaged teenagers and their mechs. Neon Genesis Evangelion never relents in punishing its characters, evoking a sense of hopeless that grips you until the finale disappoints. This rating assumes End of Evangelion replaces the original ending.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch. Regardless of how you feel in the end, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a must for any anime fan due to its importance and impact on the medium. Watch the original series with the director’s cut of episodes 21 to 24 (I insist) followed by The End of Evangelion. Return to the original ending for intellectual curiosity afterwards, if you wish (the remake reversed several decisions). Death & Rebirth can be ignored as a recap movie and the new scenes went into the director’s cut of the aforementioned episodes.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)


Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)


Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentGreat MusicHoly S***Riveting ActionStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support CharactersStunning Art Quality


Weak End

Iron Man – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Iron Man


Related: Iron Man: Rise of Technovore

Similar: Wolverine

Tiger & Bunny

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Action Drama

Length: 12 episodes



  • Looks decent.
  • Better than Blade.


  • This Tony Stark doesn’t have enough charisma.
  • Villain’s plan gets a little silly by the end.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Iron Man was the first of the Marvel anime and like the other titles, this takes place in Japan with billionaire inventor Tony Stark arriving in the land of the rising sun to unveil his Arc Station, which would supply clean energy to the country free of charge. He intends to announce his retirement as Iron Man at the ceremony and have a new generation of armour pilots take over. It all goes wrong, however, when his new armours turn on the people.

The ‘Iron Man in Japan’ conceit may sound forced for the local market, but it has precedence in the comics. Tony had a significant arc in Japan as he dated a Japanese woman (same one as in this anime? I can’t recall), which made this adaptation smoother than the likes of Blade.

Iron Man is decent if you want a straightforward plot with action, life-threating dilemmas, and comic book craziness. The plot later incorporates a virus, mind control, and mechs.

This anime has two huge problems: the Marvel movies and the variety of Western Iron Man/Avengers cartoons available. Why bother with this anime when you can watch those instead? This applies to all Marvel anime productions. They are decent at best, which isn’t good enough to warrant your attention unless you really want to see Marvel characters in anime.

It may be harsh to have much of the criticism relate to other adaptations, but every viewer will make the comparisons regardless. Even standalone, what you have here in Iron Man is your average action series.

Art – Medium

The art is good, but Iron Man’s CG, while not the worst, does standout at times. A hell of a lot better than Blade (effort ran out by the fourth series?)

Sound – Medium

Neither audio track has enough charisma for Tony Stark – decent otherwise.

Story – Low

Tony Stark goes to Japan to unveil his Arc Station and a new line of power armour with hopes of retiring, but a criminal organisation puts those plans on hold. The story get silly in the end, but it’s okay overall.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Eh… Watch the movies or Western cartoons instead unless you want an anime that requires no concentration to enjoy.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)


Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Made in Abyss – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Made in Abyss


Similar: From the New World

Hunter x Hunter

Haibane Renmei


Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Mystery Science Fiction Fantasy Adventure

Length: 13 episodes



  • The world.
  • Final episodes.
  • Stunning artwork.


  • Protagonist never shuts up.
  • Forced cuteness.
  • Several episodes of padding.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Imagine a world with a city built around a vast and seemingly endless chasm filled with monsters and treasures untold. This world is grand, gorgeous— a mysterious place that echoes silence and danger. Now imagine a shrill voice piercing that world for eternity. That is Made in Abyss.

This noise machine is Riko, a 12-year-old girl that wants to become a Cave Raider like her famous mother. She never stops talking. If another character isn’t talking, then she certainly is. The writer had her comment on everything. An energy blast out of nowhere fends off a monster about to eat her and she gives a line that someone must have saved her. No shit. She doesn’t ask, “What was that?” because it would mean less words. These ‘stating the obvious’ lines along with an inordinate amount of forced cuteness dialogue permeate the series.

Episode one does not have a moment of peace until the 20-minute mark. It lasts 18 seconds.

False enthusiasm constitutes half her character. As she searches for relics to bring back to town, she must keep telling us how enthusiastic she is while “cutely” tripping over and getting into accidents. It’s not enough that we can see enthusiasm. Oh no, she must tell us all about it. Made in Abyss desperately wants you to find Riko cute, at the expense of all else. Most of the humour falls flat because of how rammed down your throat it is. “Is she cute? I asked, is she cute!? IS SHE CUTE!?”

These characters are in this vast, mysterious world and instead of allowing the audience to take it in, the camera stays on this annoying girl. She does ease up a little later. However, various characters along the journey expositing on the Abyss replace her chirping. We almost spend more time hearing about the Abyss than exploring it, which leads to another problem with the script. The first nine episodes have three episodes’ worth of content – the first four could have fit into one episode. Unlike usual slow pacing where scenes drag on forever, Made in Abyss slots pointless scenes between events that matter. With all this excess space, why not include moments to reflect on the world and the adventure? Of course it has to be forced cuteness and pointless dialogues instead.

Riko’s descent into the Abyss begins when a Cave Raider returns to the surface with her mother’s white whistle (denotes rank) and a message that she is waiting below. Riko, who idolises her mother, answers the call and begins the journey with Reg, the robot boy that saved her with the energy blast earlier.

He is a bit of a problem in the story due to his ability to stretch his arms with ease and accuracy, which trivialises the danger of falling into the depths, and his arm cannon can obliterate the monsters that make the Abyss so dangerous. Made in Abyss still has tension, but you will realise how much easier several moments would be if the writer didn’t conveniently forget Reg’s power.

Along their journey, they face monsters and meet a variety of characters, most of which aren’t particularly interesting. One supposedly scary woman, a legend and partner to Riko’s mother, is a walking cliché of the mad woman with the low, insane voice. No one actually believes she would harm the kids, do they? Her scenario comes from a writer out of ideas for conflict during downtime.

Thankfully, characters become more interesting the further we descend into the Abyss. In fact, the whole anime is more interesting further down. The final three episodes are better than the previous 10 combined. The final episode is better than the previous 12 combined. The change in story and character quality is like a parabola, redeeming the show, though there are great elements before the final act. Most obviously, the world is fantastic, not just in the intrigue of the Abyss. The human society is fascinating because it isn’t like ours. You notice how mediocre anime in different worlds like Re:Zero still have people that feel as if they are from our world? No one acts medieval in those medieval worlds. Made in Abyss’s society is one shaped by the Abyss. There is no greater honour than being a Cave Raider that brings back the best relics. Everyone knows that once you go down you’re probably not coming back and yet it is still celebrated. Even a child descending isn’t particularly odd. It reminds of Spartan society where a warrior child is the norm, not the exception.

My favourite world building detail is that of the Curse. Reaching a certain level is a point of no return, as to ascend again would be to active the ‘Curse’, dooming any diver. The hardy can survive in the depths, assuming the increasingly powerful monsters don’t eat them. The origin and extent of the Curse is the mystery I am most eager to see answered.

Answers – Made in Abyss doesn’t give many of those and as such, its final quality is hard to determine. Most anime – any story, honestly – shows you its quality within a few episodes. That’s not to say there won’t be fluctuations, but typically, a good anime starts that way. You know it’s good from the beginning. However, for stories that hinge on the Great Mystery, the end can make or break everything. If the payoff doesn’t deliver, then all that came before has little value. Made in Abyss is one such story.

As such, my thoughts are temporary and I will write a new review after the series conclusion, to see how it all comes together. It could go either way.

Art – High

The backgrounds are stunning – out of Ghibli or Shinkai works. The animation, sadly, doesn’t stand out and the quality drops after a few episodes.

Sound – Medium

Great OP song – sounds like Seal’s ‘Kissed from a Rose’. The acting is fine, insufferable protagonist aside, but the script is at least 30% padded.

Story – Medium

An abyss of unknown depth calls to a child when her mother sends a message from the deep below. This first season of Made in Abyss sets up a mysterious world and delivers a great finale in spite of prior padding; however, everything hinges on the payoff that has yet to come. Do note that the last episode is the best, so the trajectory is upwards.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Wait for another season. Made in Abyss, as it stands, is 99% setup, the first five episodes of other shows, and while the setup is great by episode 13, if it doesn’t pay off next season, then it isn’t worth it. Few anime need a complete adaptation as much as Made in Abyss does. Knowing the modern anime industry, expect to finish with the manga. Let’s hope MIA doesn’t take on its classical meaning…

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)


Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: N/A (pending further seasons)

Negative: N/A (pending further seasons)