I loved Made in Abyss when it came out in 2017. With beautiful art, endearing characters, and an enchanting soundtrack, it’s little wonder that the show had me and many others enthralled. Watching Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn brought back to me the feelings I had while watching the anime series. However, for this review I’d like to try my best to talk about Journey’s Dawn as if I haven’t seen the 2017 television broadcast.
Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn follows Riko, a young orphan training to be a cave raider. Cave raiders are adventurers who travel into a massive void, known as the Abyss, to find ancient treasures from lost civilizations. When Riko receives a letter from her assumed-dead mother beckoning her to venture to the bottom of this netherworld, she vows to travel to the deepest part of the chasm. Alongside her is an amnesiac robot boy named Reg, who was discovered by Riko during one of her cave raiding expeditions.
While Journey’s Dawn is a story about exploration, it is not without action or dramatic tension. Scenes like the escape from the Crimson Splitjaw crank up the excitement, and the ominous inevitability from the visit to the Seekers’ Camp puts you on edge. In both of these examples, the animation and sound design serve to immerse you into this fantasy world, and Kevin Penkin’s soundtrack, with its heavy use of echoey reverb and often melancholic instrumentation, pulls you in even deeper.
But above the animation and soundtrack, Made in Abyss’s greatest strength is that every part of the movie is proficient in eliciting more than surface level reactions. You can feel very small while watching this film. The huge expanses of the backgrounds, the size of the child protagonists, and the lingering reverb that fills the soundtrack all give Made in Abyss a massive sense of scale. In wide camera shots, Riko and Reg are dwarfed by everything around them. The creatures that live in the Abyss can swallow them whole.
The character designs also help with this goal of eliciting emotions. Riko, Reg, and the other children in the show are round and squishy, and that squishiness is more than just a visual effect. It portrays the innocence in the characters and compels you with a desire to protect them. This feeling of wanting to protect them makes the harrowing events that happen to them even more crushing. Some of Ozen’s scenes almost border on psychological torture. Despite the brutal blows that are dealt to them, Riko and Reg still persevere, and the film’s ending is an encouraging one. This contrast between happy adventure and remorseless reality, and the positive attitude of the protagonists in the face of that hard truth are two of Made in Abyss’s defining traits, and Journey’s Dawn is all the best parts of that experience.
For those that watched Made in Abyss when the show was airing, Journey’s Dawn is your chance to re-experience the world of the Abyss. The new animation sequences give some characters more depth and help develop the world even further. For those who want to learn about the world of the Abyss, but don’t want to watch the entire show, Journey’s Dawn is an excellent summary of the first eight episodes. All the important story elements are included, and even though the movie has to compress eight episodes of anime into a two-hour film, the pacing doesn’t feel too rushed. Either way, Journey’s Dawn is an engaging adventure film that excites every individual’s inner sense of curiosity and natural urge to probe the unknown.
If my review has sparked even the smallest curiosity, then I recommend you try Journey’s Dawn for yourself. The film has a wide release on March 20 (subbed) and March 25 (dubbed). You can get tickets here, and find more information here.