The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
How would you rate episode 1 of
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.5
What is this?
An enormous pit and cave system called the "Abyss" is the only unexplored place in the world. Strange and wonderful creatures reside in its depths, and it is full of precious relics that current humans are unable to make. The mysteries of the Abyss fascinate humans, and they head down to explore. The adventurers who venture into pit are known as "Cave Raiders." A little orphan girl named Rico lives in the town of Ōsu on the edge of the Abyss. Her dream is to become a Cave Raider like her mother and solve the mysteries of the cave system. One day, Rico starts exploring the caves and discovers a robot who resembles a human boy.
Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun is the second television anime season based on Akihito Tsukushi's manga and streams on HIDIVE on Wednesdays.
Content Warning: This episode contains discussion of sexual assault.
How was the first episode?
Other than maybe Chainsaw Man, I can't think of many other anime coming out this year that I've been as excited for as Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun. The masterful first season remains one of my all-time favorites, and the recent movie, Dawn of the Deep Soul, was an excellent (and incredibly brutal) follow-up. Speaking of which, you definitely want to make sure that you're caught up on both Season 1 and the movie before diving into The City of the Scorching Sun, because this premiere assumes a lot of familiarity with the story's most recent events.
However, the best part of the premiere is actually all of the material that has nothing to do with Riko, Reg, and Nanachi. Much of the episode actually flashes back to a time long before the city of Orth and its culture of cave raiders was founded on the edge of the Abyss. Instead, we follow young Vuelp, a long-suffering girl who has recently come into possession of a compass that is guiding her and her fellow Ganja to the Abyss. Dressed in garb that is reminiscent of the Conquistadors of old, these ragtag cast-offs from societies all over bring a decidedly different feel to the story, and their presence in this world adds many tantalizing questions and world-buidling possibilities to MiA's story.
As much as I continue to adore the series' dark and dangerous atmosphere, though, this episode is unfortunately not quite as pitch-perfect as the first season's grand opening chapter. For one, the muted colors and restrained visuals of the episode just aren't as inspiring as the series is at its best. Then there's the issue of the show's more problematic content. From starting of the episode with a scene of sexual assault to repeatedly drawing attention to its characters bodily fluids and excretions, “The Compass that Pointed to the Darkness" shows no signs of letting up on the manga's most obviously fetishistic inclinations. Though the Kinema Citrus team continues to adapt the material in as tasteful a manner as possible, the fact remains that a lot of this stuff really doesn't need to be included at all. The story is already visceral and vividly imagined enough when it isn't so explicitly lingering on its child protagonists' most vulnerable moments.
Still, if you're willing and able to tolerate the more graphic and uncomfortable elements of Made in Abyss, it remains one of the most meticulously crafted and compelling dark fantasy adventures you can find. Kevin Penkin's unparalleled compositions are back in full force to score the journey, too, which means that, at bare minimum, we'll likely have one of the year's best soundtracks to enjoy week after week. Made in Abyss has never been the kind of anime that you can just unequivocally recommend without a laundry list of caveats and content warnings, but when it hits its mark, there's simply nothing else like it.
So less than a minute in, and we've got scenes of child assault and desecrated corpses. Made in Abyss is back, baby! Of course, the series (and its hopefully-forewarned returning audience) is no stranger to harrowing and horrific content, and as usual there's some measure of purpose to the show's deployment of such unpleasantries at the beginning. Instead of immediately catching up with the established Riko/Reg/Nanachi power trio, The Golden City of the Scorching Sun opts to catch us up in a much more long-term way than any Season 1 recap. What we get for most of the runtime here is no less than a flashback to earlier days of the island of the Abyss, featuring travelers and inhabitants from before the time of the town of Orth itself.
It's an auspicious beginning for a season that was a long time coming, dropping us in with a bunch of new characters and situations for the setting to detail. Past-tense as these events are, much of it seems to be in service of setting up thematic elements for the season going forward. "What do you think beauty is?", a question that can very poignantly be posed in the world of this story. Made in Abyss, as we know, features a world ripe with natural beauty which will nonetheless maim or kill you at the slightest provocation. So it goes that our viewpoint heroine for this segment, Vueko, and her accompanying party of pilgrims take a brisk walking tour of so many of the stretches of that big horrible hole in the ground, learning for the first time all the way what happens if you don't respect it. In that manner, it actually works as a conceptual catch-up on the general vibes of Made in Abyss for returning viewers, until they and us metaphorically catch up with our original heroes some fifteen minutes in.
It's uncertain at this point how much of the season of The Golden City of the Scorching Sun is going to continue spending on flashbacks to Vueko and her adorable friends that definitely had nothing horrible happen to them. There are enough named characters with the propensity to affect the current-time situation of our original main trio arriving in the new setting, plus enough focus already on the deep lore of the deep Abyss, that some sort of interlocking long-form tale seems likely. So much of Vueko's story at this point, however, seems couched in vagaries and general vibes. We get a whiff of her developing bond with the cute little native girl the Ganja pick up before descending, and the way she and her people regard their leader Wazukyan as just so cool and amicable indicates that he's probably definitely going to end up being untrustworthy by the end. But otherwise, so much of what happened to this group has already been established in this first episode as nearly a compelling mystery as what Riko, Reg, and Nanachi will find at the bottom of the Abyss. As with so many things in this series, it comes across both compelling and fear- inducing.
If it all seems a slower start to the beginning of this anticipated new season, know that those vibes of Made in Abyss remain on-point. So much of the cold cruelty of those opening minutes seems to be in service of arriving with these characters at the island, greeted as we are by some stirring new Kevin Penkin music and a striking shot of the lush, green, undeveloped version of the area around the Abyss. And all that establishment forms a neat contrast once we do catch up with our original heroes and things immediately take on a more familiar feeling— Including a segment focused on detailing Riko's bathroom break, because Made in Abyss gonna Made in Abyss. In some ways, it almost makes this 'first episode' feel more like an extended teaser or trailer for the new season proper, though it's also kind of amazing that after a first season and a movie it can still communicate the feeling that the journey is 'just beginning'. It's got my attention, I'm drawn back into the story of these good kids, and I'm absolutely terrified about what's going to happen to them.
After a few years away, it's time to return to the beautiful, fascinating, ruthless, and horrifying depths of Made in Abyss! And this return episode for the new season is very much about jumping straight into the deep end. You'll need to watch the Dawn of the Deep Soul movie before this one, as there is absolutely no attempt to recap or catch you up on anything. We pick up with Riko, Reg, and Nanachi at the exact second after the movie wraps up, and you're going to have several hundred questions if you aren't up to speed.
Though you're going to have a lot of questions regardless, as this premiere is all about building up new mysteries around the Sixth Layer of the Abyss. Specifically by giving us a prolonged look into the (seemingly) first people to ever venture into the pit from outside. And in typical MiA fashion there's a whole mountain of things to chew on across just that half-episode. There's disturbing things, like Vueko's backstory for joining the seeming suicide mission. There's tentatively heartwarming things, like the awkward but earnest relationship between all the other, doubtlessly doomed spelunkers. There's even some darkly comforting bits, like being reminded of when the worst the Curse of the Abyss could do was make people really sick instead of horrifically mutate their bodies. And it all raises a ton more questions about the nature and history of this deep, dark fantasy world that I'm itching to find answers to across this new arc.
It's all very much in line with the first season – capturing at once the mystifying beauty of the Abyss and all the dark horrors that lie in wait – but if I'm being honest it also felt a bit like this show going through the motions. I loved season one to death, but somewhere between 2017 and now, some of the luster has faded from the story for me. Maybe it's just that after the brutal jack knife of Nanachi's introduction, I've been braced for more horrors and thus they haven't hit as hard, but there definitely reaches a point where all the suffering and darkness start to blend together and it takes something truly unexpected to get the same reaction. I've also run critically low on patience for the weirder scatological parts of the writing – like did we really need an entire scene about Riko dropping trou and taking a dump while they rode the eyeball elevator? I feel like a jackass just writing that sentence, let alone watching it happen in real time. Together, that means I'm definitely still interested in seeing where this all goes, but I'm not quite as enthralled in it as I once was.
Still, while my enthusiasm for the series has waned a bit in its time away, there's no denying that it's an expertly crafted creation that's thoroughly unique. Kinema Citrus' production – and Kevin Penkin's idiosyncratic score – are as majestic and haunting as ever. And I'm genuinely curious about what kind of secrets lie in the new layer and the apparent Golden City. There's a lot to enjoy here, even with a relatively subdued premiere, and I'm excited to see it all play out in horrific fashion.
discuss this in the forum (216 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history