The opening of Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn feels incredibly familiar; in fact, the whole film gives you a feeling a déjà vu because it –along with its companion film– is a recut of the first half of the series…
For the unaware, Made in Abyss is the adventure of Riko, a 12-year-old training to become a Cave Raider like her missing mother, Lyza the Annihilator, and Reg, an amnesiac robot who looks like a young boy. They meet when Riko and her partner Nat are attacked by a monster while exploring the upper layers of the titular Abyss — a giant pit consisting several layers that was discovered 1,900 years ago.
Reg chases the monster off with an Incinerator blast, but passes out after and is carried back to the surface by Riko and Nat. After some time, Riko receives a letter from her mother saying “I’m waiting for you” along with a picture of Reg. This leads to the pair deciding to attempt to make to the bottom of the Abyss; Riko wants to find her mother and Reg wants to know who or what he is.
SEEK & RUSH
The major difference between the series and the film is that pacing of the latter feels off, mostly due to Journey’s Dawn covering more than the typical half of a season. Because of this, the equivalent of two full episodes is missing. Nothing of actual plot relevance is gone, and someone who hasn’t watched the series may not realize it, but the movie is noticeably rushed once Riko and Reg start their descent into the Abyss.
Riko’s life and friends in Orth (the town bordering the edge of the Abyss) are fleshed out well and is one of the series strong points, but in the truncated version, it drags and feels unnecessary; the goodbye scene between Riko and Nat is still excellent, though, and made me cry. Even the Seeker Camp, home of Ozen the Immovable — the most important part of the first half of the series — seems rushed. We’re given hints about what may have happened to Riko’s mother and it seems glossed over. Even the revelation that Riko herself was stillborn and is, as Ozen put it “a walking corpse,” wasn’t given much time to sink in. After two hours, you’re left thinking, “That’s it?!”
Overall, Journey’s Dawn is a good jumping off point for Made in Abyss. Most of my issues with it are fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and a first-time viewer would never pick up on them. If it’s playing near you, go see it. 3.75-4/5 White Whistles.