Image source: TVアニメ「メイドインアビス」公式 on Twitter

There are few anime series I enjoy that I generally think are suitable for pre-teens, outside of Ghibli movies or obvious kids shows, but Made in Abyss is certainly one of them. A surprising number of shows with child characters don’t really focus on child agency. Made in Abyss does.

Update 9/11: Originally the paragraph above stated Made in Abyss would be suitable for “elementary school students.” By this, I meant “elementary school students the same age as the main characters—i.e., 10-11”—as is mentioned later in the article. However, as this word choice has caused confusion, I have updated the above paragraph for clarity.

[This article contains spoilers for the first six episodes of Made in Abyss.]

Image source: TVアニメ「メイドインアビス」公式 on Twitter

Made in Abyss is the story of children who live on the precipice of a giant hole, called the Abyss, on an island. The story primarily focuses on Riko, an orphan whose mother was a famous explorer of the Abyss. In addition to the other children at the orphanage (also the children of other explorers), the other primary character is Reg, a “robot” “boy” that Riko found in the Abyss. Riko believes her mother may actually still be alive at the bottom of the Abyss, so she and Reg set out on a journey.

From the beginning, it is clear from the focus and the cinematography that the children are the primary actors. There are adult characters, but they are literally peripheral. They seem to exist only as they affect the child characters, specifically Riko and Reg—which is very refreshing, because too often in many series, it is the opposite with child characters only existing to affect the adult characters. Often child characters in most complex media, anime included, are not really presented as complete enough people for real children to identify with. Young adult literature (such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games) is a notable exception.

Image source: TVアニメ「メイドインアビス」公式 on Twitter

Riko and Reg (as well as their other friends they meet at the orphanage or along the way) act like children, because they are. They make a lot of silly and outright dangerous decisions. However, they also act like real children who are also fully real people. The problem with depictions of children in many media is that they are either unrealistically ignorant or stupid, or they are essentially small adults. As someone who regularly deals with children, especially those on the cusp of or just at adolescence, Riko especially rings true. She’s impulsive, immature, and stubborn, but she’s also knowledgable, intelligent, and compassionate.

Reg is a bit different. While he “resembles” a child, and certainly, in my view acts like one because of with whom he spends most of his time, he may not actually be a child at all. Of course, he’s consistently described as a robot, but I don’t think that’s true. At least, not entirely. He certainly has robotic parts: his arms extend, and his legs seem rather clunky. It seems that if we go by what we know from Riko’s mother—and what Riko herself believes—Reg could be merely “child-like” as his actual chronological age may be unknown.

Image source: TVアニメ「メイドインアビス」公式 on Twitter

I’m of the opinion that Reg is definitely not a robot. He’s some kind of cyborg (part organic, part artificial) maybe, but there are clear clues he’s a person in the organic sense (not just “person” in the “sentient being” sense, which he also clearly is). Despite his elfish, Vulcanoid pointy ears, I actually think he’s human. An equal amount of time is spent both on Reg’s clearly human parts and his robot parts. In addition to clearly having the majority of his body (head, neck, torso, upper arms, pelvis, upper legs) resembling what you would expect of a typical human male child, he also has nipples, a belly button (which suggests a placenta once existed), and a penis.

Perhaps some readers, especially in Western countries, might be concerned about showing Made in Abyss to children with conversations which focus on the fact that Reg has a penis. It’s discussed openly multiple times. However, some children do actually have penises, so this won’t come as much of a surprise to the age group demographic I believe Made in Abyss would appeal to (namely the age of Reg and Riko or slightly younger). Trust me on this, your children would be equally conversational upon finding out a robot had a penis. I guarantee it.

Image source: TVアニメ「メイドインアビス」公式 on Twitter

Amusing discussions about certain body parts aside, Reg, Riko, and their cohorts represent heroines and heroes in which children can easily seem themselves. Representation absolutely matters, and when it comes to adventure and fantasy anime, too often the stories presented about children get children wrong. They either appeal to children much younger than the characters themselves, or they offer characters much older than the intended demographic. Made in Abyss avoids both of these tropes, instead presenting a complex world, an amazing quest, and believable, relatable children who are peers to those who should be watching.

Made in Abyss can be seen on Anime Strike!

Comments (31)
  1. Please do not show this to children, this series is a seinen : the next episode will show you why and the manga even contains elements that are even more messed-up than in other seinen series (e.g : Berserk, not joking)…

    • Sorry for spoiling but I just had to say this or it will surely mess up a few children’s childhood :v

    • I can only go by what I’ve seen in the anime so far. Anime often does diverge, sometimes significantly, from the manga. I didn’t even know there was a manga, and I usually avoid manga if I start with an anime to avoid being spoiled or influenced.

      This is my impression up to this point. Hopefully it will not change, because there are so few anime in the representational genre as I describe above, that I would be pretty upset to learn that this was something else.

      As it stands now, this is what I think.

  2. Yeah no. The anime is beautiful, and it’s cute… For a time. This is absolutely NOT for children. Things not too far in get very, vary dark, morbid, and (in issue 36 of the manga) made me sick to my stomach, and I’ve read Franken Fran, and Berserk. To say the VERY least, don’t make this a regular thing with anyone that can’t handle morbid/gruesome stuff.

    • I’m only able to go off what I’ve seen so far. I am sure you and the other folks commenting along these lines are right, but if so, that’s very, very disappointing.

      • If just for clarification/much need edit of this article, I’d highly recommend reading up to the issue I in my prior post, issue 36. It gets dark even before that, but the sheer gratuity of the scene in question was enough to make stomach churn, and I’m ​usually find with messed up things in manga.

        Side note: this is the third time this article has shown up in my phone’s news feed. Weird.

        • I legitimately didn’t even realise we’d show up in a news feed! No wonder there are so many comments.

          Look. I get it. The manga is apparently graphic. But I refuse outside influence. If I need to make an clarification/update, entirely new article, I’ll address it when there’s proof of that. It sounds like it could be the very next episode.

  3. Anyone who watches this, or any other show, with their kids should prewatch episodes. If you have met Ozen in the anime you may need it pointed out that she is rather emotionless and doesn’t show compassion for Riko who she had to endure hardship from at her birth. Also have you thought about the return trip? Riko can hardly go up the gondola let alone a whole layer. Please take extra care going forward with this series. It’s rated 17+ on MAL for a reason.

    • It should be basic parental (or other caretaker) behavior to check any media that parents share with their children. I would be wary in general of allowing kids to consume any media I didn’t check before hand, at least up until about early-to-mid teens. And even then, it’s good policy. I’m not responsible if parents choose to let their children watch this or any anime without due diligence. In addition, this is why I advocated watching WITH and not “allow to watch alone.” If at any point a parent feels uncomfortable, they should be in a position to turn the show off. Use common sense.

      • It would be common sense to do a little research on the thing before watching it with your kids. Something you clearly didn’t do when writing this article.

        • Yes, that’s common sense for parents to do.

          My approach was to avoid all information outside of the source. This approach has a long tradition in critical theory. Not just with television shows or movies, but also with literature or static art. I chose not to investigate background information because I did not want it to affect my impressions. That was a conscious choice, not an oversight.

  4. It’s nice to read that not all north-american think that a child’s penis is something taboo from wich a yound audience should be guarded. I’m french and I can’t believe some internet consternate reactions from US people when Goku’s penis was visible in Dragon Ball (a clear kids show).
    (I admit we had our own share: those disproportionate reactions some french officials had about exposition to physical violence or breasts through shônen action anime thought for kids).

    Apart from that, well, I won’t talk about the internet comic’s demographic target but a series broadcasted in the later part of the japanese “prime-time” shouldn’t be immediately accepted as potentially for children. Though I would never say myself that children shouldn’t be exposed to depictions of fear or torments toward fictional heroes.

  5. Was the writer of this article trying to be ironic or was she seriously this uninformed about what she was writing?

    • The writer, that is, myself, has responded up above not once, not twice, but three times:

      I draw my conclusions based only on the anime episodes before me. Any other sources of information are spoilers. Manga, especially, can be very different from the anime, so it’s unfair to use it as a basis. And so far, in the first six episodes, this is the show I’ve seen, so this is the show I’ve written about. If I need to revise my opinion in a future article, I will do so. However, right now I haven’t seen any evidence that in the show itself that this isn’t a great adventure tale with realistic child protagonists.

      “Uninformed” implies that I should have taken extra information from outside of the source material into account when I wrote the article. However, that would have been a different article, written from a very different critical approach.

      • Even if you somehow missed all the hints of a darker and more grim tone in the first four episodes, you ignored the more graphic parts in episode 5, AND the clear tonal shift in episode 6, the fact that you’re recommending a series to kids without even knowing its genres is being uninformed. You only need a bit of research of the source material to find out that it is considered one of the most fucked up mangas in existence.

        • 1) If you were previously aware of information from the manga, are information about the future of the series, or of the genres you may have interpreted “grim tone” and “graphic parts” and “tonal shift.”
          2) I am not recommending the series TO children. I’m expressing why I think, given the series so far, parents might be willing to watch the series WITH their kids. Those are two very different positions to hold.
          3) “Uninformed” was addressed in my previous statement. Your assertion is that I did not do “due diligence” because I refused to taint my impressions with outside information. Clearly, that would be a different critical approach.
          4) If episode 7 or any future episode changes my position, I will address it at that point. For now, episodes 1-6 are, in my view, generally appropriate for the age of the characters and up.

          • If the level of graphic body horror in episode 10 is appropriate for kids then anything is appropriate right? That means its OK to show them all of berserk including the eclipse stuff because apparently viscerally and painfully trying to cut an arm off in full detail and fighting otherworldly creatures with all the gore and blood that comes with it as well is appropriate just like in made in abyss. of course the all the nudity is OK cause every kid has either a dick or a vagina so that’s appropriate too by your line of logic.

            Honestly when are you going to admit you messed up when you wrote your article because
            1. your first point about future info is invalid because anybody with a functioning brain could feel the tone shift from more light hearted in the first 4 episodes to grim in episode 5 when we see monsters using psychological methods of capturing prey as well as visually showing intestines on the corpse. this is coming from a person who has never read the manga before watching the show.

            2. that argument about how the point of this article might be why parents would be willing to watch the series with their kids is invalid since you never mention the words “parent” or “guardian” or make it about how a parent or guardian would view this in your article as well as having your opening paragraph being “There are few anime series I enjoy that I generally think are suitable for elementary school students, outside of Ghibli movies or obvious kids shows, but Made in Abyss is certainly one of them”. How is that NOT a recommendation FOR elementary school children to watch this show?

            3. What we think is “undue diligence” is that that you were either (1.) not interpreting the episodes presented with common sense as to how the situation has changed throughout the show via plot developments in the show or how the tone of the story has shifted or (2.) that you have a twisted sense of what level of gore and human suffering for characters to root for is appropriate for elementary school kids to watch.

            4. you have still not reflected in your article the changes of the show from episode 7 onward and have been stubborn to call all just criticizers of your article as “those with outsider info” so their arguments aren’t worth anything and not considering the possibility that maybe JUST MAYBE you are ignoring obvious cues in the show that imply that this isn’t meant for kids and that you are unintentionally trolling people cause this is how this article comes off as to everyone.

  6. So now that episode 10 is out, are you going to do an update on your article?

    Or are you still mentally recovering from the trauma?

    • I’m watching it now. I will do an update if it is required. Please don’t spoil me though. Y’all made me think the next episode was going to be horrible, and that was like three episodes ago. This is why I try to avoid spoilers or extended discussion as much as possible.

      • …what are you even talking about? That wasn’t any worse than anything I’ve read in YA literature or seen in movies made from YA literature (like Harry Potter or Hunger Games). Y’all either trolling me, or you have very, very conservative views.

        • Just because young adult literature can be violent doesn’t mean that all kids are okay with violence. You should at least make an addendum mentioning that the show has visceral depictions of violence that could be upsetting. Not bothering to mention this at all because you personally think it isn’t that bad is a major misstep. I’m not saying that kids can’t or shouldn’t watch this show. I’m saying that some kids are going to be upset by it and that’s something you need to acknowledge. That way, parents considering watching this show with their kids can make a more informed decision based on your article.

        • what would be an example of a show that is inappropriate for children in your point of view because if you watch this whole show there have been graphic depictions of peoples heads being disintigrated, Rikos Arm being poisoned, broken, twisted, and halfway amputated as well as her bleeding from every orifice in her body, multiple large creatures dying of being disintegrated by the beam reg uses. riko realizing she is actually a stillborn that was brought back to life like a zombie, corpses being consumed like vultures to roadkill, religious themes about the abyss being a god to these people, and the fucked up society that puts 10 year old kids into a pit to mine for relics that contains all these horrific creatures JUST so they can breakeven on money from outside buyers of relics. if any of that is fit for elementary school children then I DARE YOU TO ACTUALLY SHOW THIS TO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN TO PROVE YOUR POINT

        • you’re in denial that you’re wrong.

        • “I refuse to taint my impressions with outside information”
          “Why you shoud be watching MiA with your kids.”

          Yep.
          no information = correct conclusion
          Definitely how logics works.

          http://i.4cdn.org/a/1505030293994.jpg

        • I think you have to be pretty out of touch to think the level of violence in episode 10 was normal for kids to see. The violence in Hunger Games was shocking and frightening to me when I was 13, and it wasn’t nearly as visceral and painful as episode 10 of MiA. Nevermind the fact by the time kids are reading Hunger Games they probably don’t want their parents to be telling them what shows to be watching. If you actually think this is okay why don’t you go to some 8-12 year olds, show them the episode, and try to make them sit through it? You talk about YA novels as if they’re what kids read rather than what young adults read, and that gives me the impression you really don’t understand what kind of media kids enjoy or is appropriate for them.

        • I’m now convinced you are a troll.

          However I EAGERLY await what kind of justification you will think up once ep11 and ep12 air, because I know the content of those episodes based on the manga.

          If you still think the show is ok to watch with kids then, I think you need some reevaluation about what is an isn’t appropriate for children.

          Made in Abyss is tagged as Seinen (for older audiences) and rated 17+ for GOOD REASONS.

  7. What an embarrassing article with an even more embarrassing comment section. This isn’t professional journalism. Don’t deflect when people confront you with the fact that you haven’t done your own research with “Well just do more research.” Don’t call people who point out your glaring mistakes names, fix the problem. This show has disgusting body horror and you can not deny this. It is not a kids show, and it’s only going to get worse as the season comes to a close. This isn’t Harry Potter or the Hunger games. There is graphic violence that makes even horror fans uncomfortable already in the show, and it is only going to get worse in the next 3 Episodes. Your refusing to remove or edit the article is saddening and shows that the bar to becoming a writer here must be mighty low.

    This article has shattered any illusions I may have had that Anime-now was a reputable news source.

    • I don’t really feel like it’s fair to assume that the entire site is untrustworthy due to one journalists mistake but I do agree I this is hurting their reputation, don’t know if it’s possible to edit or take down articles after placing them up, but I do hope the author corrects their mistake to some extent in the future, and if not then I at least hope they don’t make this type of mistake again.

  8. Best article for made in abyss, really.
    Gotta teach em the horrors of humanity when they are younger

  9. Big fan of this series. I don’t have kids, and whether or not I would watch it with them if I did would be dependent on too many potential hypothetical factors for me to take a real stand one way or the other. I can say that I really like your persistence in sticking to your (wholly valid,) position and logical standpoint in a rational way, unswayed by the screeching, overemotional masses.

  10. There is a significant difference between the level of violence in series like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and the level of violence and body horror shown in Made in Abyss. Even Harry Potter only really got more violent in the later books which are aimed at more of a teenage audience, as is the Hunger Games, and in those books the consequences of that violence are never really elaborated on like we saw in Episode 10 of Made in Abyss. There probably are elementary-school children who would be fine with this but there will be a lot who won’t be, and in my opinion the level of gore and body horror shown in this episode (and as somebody who has read the manga, it gets much worse) is beyond what I would consider to be appropriate for elementary-school children.

    I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing that you didn’t research the manga the show is based on beforehand and decided to reserve judgement until you actually saw the more disturbing scenes, but I think that refusing to at least revisit your earlier statement hurts your credibility.

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