Made in Abyss: the deception of "cute and cuddly" children

Made in Abyss: the deception of cute and cuddly children

Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss is undoubtedly one of the most followed works in recent times on the Japanese scene. Halfway between action, mystery and thriller, Akihito Tsukushi's manga is still ongoing and has just 11 volumes so far. The anime, born in 2013 but arrived in Italy in 2017, consists of two seasons and a feature film, Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (2020), all products of the animation studio Kinema Citrus available in streaming on Prime Video - catch up on our article with Best Anime on Prime Video. The style of the anime really faithfully reproduces the original one, preserving those clean drawings, those rounded and almost childish shapes that distinguish the work, yet this is not at all targeting the little ones. The Made in Abyss deception is among the most subtle ever perpetrated. What lies behind the sweet stretch of Tsukushi and, in the same way, that of Kinema Citrus?

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Made in Abyss: the trick of “cute and cuddly” children

Made in Abyss : a Dante's journey A true descent into the Underworld Tsukushi in the sign of Tezuka: the influences of Astro Boy Reg and Astro Boy in comparison That strange obsession with orphanages Trust in adults: another deception of Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss : a Dante's journey

Made in Abyss
The Abyss, made up of 7 layers, is a symbol of a long and tiring descent into the depths, a real journey which becomes the spokesperson for a path that is also and above all symbolic. It is a pilgrimage to the origins, the lowest and most hidden point on Earth from which, probably, something began. But it is also the darkest place, the center of mysterious secrets to be revealed; the place where Riko and Reg could find the answers to their questions, and which tests all travelers.

A true descent into the Underworld

The stratification of the Abyss and its progressive danger are very reminiscent of Dante Alighieri's Inferno. The reign of Lucifer, according to the Divine Comedy, is made up of 9 circles, each of which is governed by its own indissoluble laws, dictated by a superior force, which each time establish the different punishment for sinners. The infernal chasm shows Dante and Virgil its gloom starting from the sixth, beyond the river Styx. Here lies the City of Dite, difficult to cross as it is guarded by devils.

Dante's Inferno (drawing by Botticelli) Curiously, even in Made in Abyss darkness begins to prevail over all creatures, especially starting from the sixth layer, in which the entire second season is set . Here stands the Village of Residues, an apparently impenetrable place that hides a sad story of violence, death, revenge and punishment. A great Hell, in its own way, with its own laws from which there is no escape. After all, this too has a connotation that we could define divine, so much so that from the very first episodes we talk about a real Abyssal Cult as if it were a great entity.

There is much crudeness in showing how the characters' bodies are attacked by the dark forces that live in the Abyss, including the so-called Curse; these are scenarios not too dissimilar to those often described in Hell. Also from the drawings of the chasm that rises under the city of Orth, it is possible to notice an incredible resemblance to the depictions of Dante's world. The map of the Abyss that often appears in the manga, and even more so in the anime with the use of color, recalls the famous representation of Botticelli.

Tsukushi in the sign of Tezuka: the influences of Astro Boy

Made in Abyss is a work full of citations to more or less distant works. De on the one hand, therefore, refers to a classic and canonical imagery like that of Dante, on the other, a contamination closely linked to Japanese tradition and the way of manga and anime is evident. The first signs of the deeply violent nature of the work are to be found in Dawn of the Deep Soul, an essential feature film which, like never before, chooses to put aside any attempt to sweeten Tsukushi's imagination.

The character of Reg is perhaps the most loved but also the most mistreated in the story. Unaware of his origins, he remembers only his name and joins Riko to descend the Abyss, protecting both of them with his fighting skills. The apparently robotic nature of him, in fact, allows him to possess a metal arm, capable of extending out of proportion and firing powerful shots at the enemy creatures that obstruct the path.

This half-human, half-robot character remember someone. In some ways, Reg takes up the idea born around the character of Astro Boy, protagonist of the homonymous manga by Osamu Tezuka published in 1952. In Italy, Panini Comics creates an anthology in 5 volumes many years later, in 2010. Who is Astro Boy? A human-feeling robot child, created by Dr. Tenma, in the likeness of his dead son. While spending his life together with his peers, he fights against the enemies that threaten the Earth.

Reg and Astro Boy in comparison

Although with a different aspect and born in distant contexts. , the two characters offer an interesting comparison, united by a similar nature. Little is known about Reg, the second season is able to give some clues that, in any case, does not yet allow us to decipher his cryptic origins. The taste for technology and robots, the object of attention since the last millennium, invests many works. The production of anime and manga, from the years of Astro Boy until today, sees many characters with similar characteristics: we remember the space cat Doraemon or the cybernetic Arale created by Doctor Slump.

But Tezuke's creature , mother of all the others, is the most direct reference for Made in Abyss. A child with a rounded, sweet, reassuring face; an almost childish style like that of Tsukushi, although different in its aesthetics, strongly linked to the iconography of the past. With his flamethrower boots he flies and faces his enemies while defending the planet; later he will launch powerful beams of light from his arms, just like Reg. A little hero of the atomic age, inserted in a context strongly linked to the Second World War.

Astro Boy Often the story told from Tezuke is tinged with shades of horror, with strong images. Astro Boy, like Reg, has human, real feelings that place the viewer in a state of strong empathy. This is why seeing the little robot attached to strange machinery, victim of experiments and surrounded by prying and intrusive eyes, arouses a sense of unease, of malaise. Also Made in Abyss proposes a similar scenario, which in Dawn of the Deep Soul is shocking and with a disturbing intensity to say the least.

That strange obsession with orphanages

The deception of Made in Abyss does not end there. Before the long and dangerous journey to the depths of the Abyss, and even before the meeting with Reg, the public knows little Riko. She lives with other children in the Belchero orphanage in Orth. In this real school, the little ones are trained to become Scouts. The Red Whistles, just like the protagonist, can reach the first layer and look for the so-called Artifacts, so they can sell them to increase the orphanage's finances.

Riko spends her entire childhood here, so much so that he has no recollection of his mother Lyza. She grew up to be a super intelligent child, so much so that she can already fend for herself by traversing a chasm that is at least 20,000 meters deep. A truly surreal narrative, yet a very popular topic that of little orphans with surprising abilities. These assumptions, in fact, are not so dissimilar to another work, set in an orphanage. The well-known title is The Promised Neverland.

The Promised Neverland The manga by Kaiu Shirai, illustrated by Posuka Demizu, ends in 2020 in 20 volumes. The CloverWorks anime arrives first on VVVVID then on Prime Video, completing itself in a short time in two seasons, received with hesitation by critics and fans. Emma, ​​Ray and Norman live in an orphanage along with other younger children. They are placed in a curriculum that allows them to become super intelligent, while in their free time the young orphans engage in daily activities, supervised by a woman they call Mother. Every now and then someone leaves this great abode without returning, but what seems like normal adoptions turn out to be something terrible: some Demons feed on their flesh. Emma and her friends will look for a way to escape.

Trust in adults: another Made in Abyss deception

In The Promised Neverland, as well as in Made in Abyss, the world apparently idyllic of the orphanage is disturbed and ruined by everything that exists outside that small reality. Behind the innocence there is a stain of horror, and as the narration proceeds, we witness more cruel, ruthless scenes. Here too the style of the drawing plays a bad joke, having an effect not unlike the great deception of Made in Abyss. The pain one feels upon entering these two comparative worlds lies in seeing how the adult, the most cruel one, is able to exploit the goodness, the ingenuity of children, who trust him as the only reference figure in lack of his own family.

It is a theme that we find above all in Dawn of the Deep Soul: the story of Nanachi and Bondrewd, the one who betrayed and deceived her and her companions. Again, in the second season, the Ganja, a suicide squad in search of the Golden Capital, seems to be the only home for Vueko, a new character whose trust in the father figure has been severely tested. As in The Promised Neverland and similar works, Made in Abyss demonstrates, with extreme frankness, that harm does not spare anyone, not even children.

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