Manga Review: Made in Abyss V 1 by Akihito Tsukushi

May Contain Spoilers

I picked this up during a trip to the library. I liked the cover, the library had more than one volume of the series  (though I only checked out the first one), so I thought, what the heck. I didn’t even read the back – I just grabbed it and took it home.

I have a confession to make. After finishing Slam Dunk, there hasn’t really been a series to hold my attention and wring an emotional response out of me since. Leaving Hanamichi and the rest of the team was difficult, and I would have happily read more volumes if Inoue had continued writing them. I am floundering around now, seeking that same level of story engagement, and I’m just not finding it. So I have started to blindly pick up series I haven’t glanced at in the past, with mixed results.

Made in Abyss has a fascinating premise. Riko lives at an orphanage in Orth, and she is a Red Whistle. She and the other residents of the orphanage go cave raiding for relics in the first layer of the Abyss, a mysterious pit that is the only unexplored area in the entire world. Entering the various layers of the Abyss poise physical dangers, called strains. The deeper you go, the worse the strain. If you descend far enough, the ascent will result in certain death, so the cave raiders are effectively trapped in the Abyss.

Riko’s mother holds the rank of White Whistle, and she had been in the Abyss for ten years. White Whistles are the cream of the cave raider crop. They descend the furthest, recover the rarest relics, and usually perish during their adventures. There are terrible monsters in the Abyss, and cave raiders from enemy countries, so job security isn’t a selling point. Careers are short and end with a painful death.

When Riko and Nat, one of the other orphans, are attacked by a monster during a trip into the Abyss, a weird boy saves them both. Nat has no memories of the ordeal, but Riko sneaks her savior into her room and tries to figure out what he is. Giving him a jolt of electricity, she revives him, discovers he’s a robot, and names him Reg. Reg has no memories of who he is, or what he is, and he longs to find out the truth about himself. When Riko’s mother’s whistle is returned from the Abyss, along with a note stating “I’ll be waiting for you,” they both decide to enter the Abyss and get some answers to their questions.

This is a very convoluted and complicated story, and it took forever for it to get going. I don’t think I had the patience for it. The art kept me engaged with its unusual shaded style – kind of like watercolor drawings, only using various diluted tones of black ink instead of color. I really liked the art.

Now that Riko and Reg are getting ready to start their big adventure in the Abyss, I have hopes that the pacing will pick up. This volume was too slow for me, and the groundwork it laid out was so confusing. I don’t have a good picture of what this world is like, or of Orth, or the Abyss, or even the where the enemy raiders fit onto the world map we’ve been given. I am putting too much thought into this, and it’s not helping me to get in a groove with this story.

Grade: 3.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

Explore endless possibilities in this fantasy series?now with an anime adaptation!
In an age when the corners of the world have been scoured for their secrets, only one place remains unexplored–a massive cave system known as the Abyss. Those who traverse its endless pits and labyrinth-like tunnels are known as Cave Raiders. A young orphan named Rico dreams of following in her mother’s footsteps as a Cave Raider, and when she meets a strange robot when exploring the Abyss, she’s one step closer to achieving her goal!