Made in Abyss is a tale of a journey to the land of no return.
It's a dark fantasy featuring obsessed little girls, shy robots and sarcastic bunny critters. Also giant mind-reading porcupines, don't forget those.
It's bizarre, beautiful, inventive, painfully emotional and bizarre (did I mention carnivorous porcupines? Pretty bizarre).
It's one of my all-time favorites, so let me tell you why.
So, what does make Made in Abyss so special? Just about everything.
For one thing, it's the Abyss itself. It's a weird and fascinating place with its very own laws of physics, mythology and ecosystem.
Mesmerizing scenery, lethal monsters, priceless treasures - the Abyss has it all,
has it everywhere, has it in any combination.
Beautiful flower meadow, eager to kill you dead (or worse)? Coming right up!
Toothy monster of shocking visage that wouldn't hurt a fly? Got one right here!
Legendary weapon that misfires regularly and gets lost all the time? Not even a problem!
You might've seen many a dungeon before but rest assured you've never seen the like of the Abyss.
For another, it's the art. It is amazing. Precise drawing, outstanding design and composition, exquisite shadows and lighting - this manga has it all and then some. It's a visual feast putting to shame at least 95% of all the other manga out there.
Also, the characters. Some of them are extremely likable, some are instantly hateful, some are totally incomprehensible but every one of them (including minor parts making appearance in a couple of panes) are distinctly and beautifully drawn and feels as real and alive as anything ever committed to paper.
All that being said, if I had to single out one element that contributes most prominently to the greatness of Made in Abyss that would have to be the story.
It's exciting, dreadful, weird, breathtaking and totally unpredictable. I mean, you get the general idea and know where it's supposed to take you eventually (although I strongly suspect it's going to be more of a way-point than the finish line) but have you the foggiest what's going to jump in your face when you turn the next page? Not a chance.
Anything can happen to anyone, all bets are off, no happy endings are guaranteed (neither are bad ones, for that matter). Have you ever been afraid to turn a page but unable not to? You will have this pleasure.
That is something you should be aware of before entering the Abyss - this is not a lighthearted story. I've seen this manga being described as a cross between Ichigo Mashimaro and Berserk and this analogy might just have grasped the gist of it. As the story progresses it grows darker, more disturbing and ominous. It is the main reason I only give it 9 points - sometimes reading Made in Abyss is frustrating and pretty painful. Still, if that is something you can stomach you're in for an experience well worth your while.
Made in Abyss is an outstanding work of art by any standard. Cute and gritty, vivid and gloomy, delicate and overwhelming, heart-warming and spine-chilling - it'll sweep your off your feet and drag you down into the world of sinister beauty you'll never forget.