Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn dazzles the viewer with beautiful, world class animation that wouldn’t be out of place in an old-school Disney movie.
To say Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn is a pretty film would be an understatement, its visuals are downright hypnotizing. There’s no force more powerful than eyes, the gateway to the soul, and Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn understands this concept like Disney’s Bambi before it. Whether its Riko’s mother Lyza and her sparkly blues or the orphaned leads Reg & Riko whose expressive large eyes effortlessly translate emotional state.
The film’s narrative about an orphan and her newly discovered secret robot-relic of the abyss Reg descending into the unknown (the Abyss) against all odds to search for answers captivates. Particularly for video game fans, descending into the ‘levels’ of the Abyss, combined with Reg’s ‘Incinerator’ shot (Mega Man like shot cannoned from his palm), ability to lengthen arms to grab a hold of objects or enemies, and even Riko’s crystal lens glasses (needed because Abyss curse rather than to see) will appeal.
* It’s explained in the film that the Abyss curse gave Riko headaches before she wore her crystal lens glasses.
Without giving away spoilers, Reg’s ultra powerful ‘Incinerator’ shot also cannot be used consecutively for a reason. It comes with a price. Much like in old-school fighting game beat-em-ups where using a special move simultaneously detracted from your character’s life bar, something similar happens here. It vastly adds a layer to Reg as a character and relatiablity to the gaming community. The dangers of utilizing the “Incinerator” shot make its impact that much more pivotal and grand when it is.
The film plays out very much as you’d expect in a traditional gaming experience. Including introductions chapter by chapter to each level of the Abyss with more difficult, threatening enemies as the descent continues. It’s one of the Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’s exceptional hooks for modern audiences. Any video game fan will love how Reg manages to conceal himself when Jiruo is suspicious of what Riko is up to.
For newcomers though, there’s no doubt the abrupt ending and lengthy running time will remind them it’s a compilation of episodes rather than a standalone movie. There’s pros and cons to this fact, two-folded in nature. On one hand, those who never watched the Made in Abyss anime series prior or read the original Manga are not left behind. Viewers all start off from the same page and are not left with the feeling they should have read or seen a prior work. Meaning, no missed ‘homework’ feeling.
However, as a film standalone and condensed episode compilation are crafted differently, the movie’s narrative progression is a bit inorganic cinematically. It feels more like an episode binge than a classical two hour beginning, middle, and end structure. Dependent on a returning viewer for a sequel or trilogy. “On the next episode of Dragon Ball Z” but with credits rolling in its place.
Made In Abyss: Journey’s Dawn appears strongly metaphorical about what the bottom of the Abyss is, and creation itself. The Abyss is said to be forbidden to visit for the orphanage’s cave raiders leaving a certain mystique around it. One that’s further amplified by the beautiful scenic aesthetic visuals of it when the Abyss is shown on screen. Returning to the franchise’s gaming inspiration, there’s even different colored whistles to indicate your level when traveling downwards as a cave raider.
* Partial Spoilers Warning Ahead:
There’s two standout scenes in Made In Abyss: Journey’s Dawn, both involving a sheer sense of panic and desperation. One is when Riko is taken by a half-bird, half-dragon like creature as Reg is helpless to save her. Surrounded by the rest of the flock as he imagines Riko being fed to the nest.
His arm extender is unable to reach Riko in the sky and he recalls all the people who told him to protect Riko, the promise he would. It’s the first time Reg ever uses the ‘Incinerator’ as aptly coined by Riko as an accidental response to the chaos. Reg later realizes if he had been just a bit off, Riko too would have been gone.
Later on, Ozen “The Immovable” leads the two naive cave raiders on a stairwell back home, informing Riko her darkest fear is ‘true.’ Reg attempts to stop Ozen’s cruel words towards Riou only to be put down effortlessly. Even his ‘Incinerator’ shot does not faze her in the least, being redirected toward the ceiling.
It’s a moment of pure cynicism by Ozen and though it ends up being a test, it leaves a lasting mark on the protagonist heroes. A battle meant to be lost. Similar to the boss in the first stage of Mega Man X before Zero leaps into the rescue for Capcom fans. No longer would Riko and Reg ever feel invincible in the Abyss ever again.
Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn top level animation is more than extra frosting on a cake, it’s stunning. The film’s intriguing mystery and gaming inspired elements make it stand out. Definite watch!
Check out the film’s english dub cinema premiere tonight (at 7 p.m. in most locations) courtesy of Fathom Events! Simply enter your zip code at the Made In Abyss: Journey’s Dawn Fathom Events page to see which local movie theaters are showing the film.
Watch the Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn extended English dubbed trailer and discover information about the Fathom Events two night debut in-partnership with Sentati Filmworks.