Made in Abyss is frequently one of the most breathtaking shows of the season (you might recall Dee’s glowing premiere review), juggling gorgeous cinematography and dark fairy tale elements with a grim but (thus far) not hopeless narrative. Its young lead, Riko, is an endearing sometimes-crybaby who never gives up or lets her fear get in her way; and the show has also played with gender fluidity, featuring two nongendered characters whose designs contrast feminine-coded presentation with masculine-coded pronouns (a shy child who wears dresses and uses the politely masculine “boku”; a fuzzy bunny-person who wears pink and uses the casually masculine “oira”). Even when it’s frustrating, I’ve never wanted to tear my eyes away.
Unfortunately, it’s also a show whose flaws are all the more glaring in comparison to its moments of excellence. Discussing those flaws offers a unique challenge, however, as many of the show’s failings are cloaked beneath a layer of in-narrative justification; in other words, it makes sense on the surface as to why these things are happening in the plot. But no media exists in a vacuum, and justifying a trope doesn’t stop it from playing into broader harmful trends.
CONTENT WARNING for nudity and discussions of sexual harassment. SPOILERS for events in Made in Abyss Episodes 1-9.
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