“Over the span of many years, with a spirit of adventure for the unknown and countless legends luring them in, the world’s only remaining unexplored chasm has swallowed up a great many people. It is known as the Abyss.”
(“The City of the Great Pit.” Made in Abyss.)
From setting to character, story to music, this season’s Made in Abyss is all anyone is talking about lately. The show, a manga original, stunned viewers right from the beginning with its visuals and Kevin Penkin’s haunting melody, “Underground River.” That overwhelming feeling still persists more than halfway through the series, and now that we’ve made it to the third level of the Abyss, the danger seems more present than ever before. Our moments for respite are far and few in between. One thing about them obviously stands out to me: many of those quiet moments are spent around food.
Made in Abyss’ Prefix Menu (I wish!)
- Riko Soup (demonfish head soup with Eternal Fortunes and seasonal greens)
- Smoked demonfish innards
- Riko Bomb (extra-large rice ball wrapped with seaweed)
- Riko Hodgepodge Stew (wild hippo stew with seasonal greens)
- Steamed mustard buns
- Fried corpse-weeper
- Grilled neritantan
- Fresh baracocha
Despite much of the show running from one tense situation to the next, almost every episode features to some small degree a quick meal, typically prepared by Riko. Other than her fish head soup, which I tried to cook myself in a previous post, we have also experienced Riko bombs, Riko Hodgepodge Stew, and cooked variations of monsters encountered in the Abyss. These meals serve to mainly sustain the body. They not only provide energy, but also give our adventurers a reason to rest not just physically, but also mentally. The concentration to focus surviving one moment to the next wears out the mind and can lead to poor decision-making. We see this most recently in episode nine, “The Great Fault,” when Riko follows her hunger straight into an obvious trap shortly after escaping from another life-threatening situation.
But food represents more than just sustenance. It also points towards a hunger that pervades every aspect of the Abyss. The hunger to explore. The hunger to discover. The hunger to exceed those who came before you. Then there’s the Abyss itself, with its maw open wide and ready to swallow any who dare enter. Descending into the lower levels means passing through the esophagus towards the belly where few trespass, much less return from. For most, the journey is a one-way trip, an outcome that Riko and Reg accepted from the beginning.
All of this imagery and time spent on cooking seemingly underlines the humanity of our characters, and even those almost without it. We cook our food, unlike creatures like the crimson splitjaw and the corpse-weeper that devour their meals raw. Even Reg, a very human-like robot, can survive on either electricity or food. When given the opportunity for either, he seems to always choose the latter.
The most disturbing fact of survival is that the meat eaten by cave raiders comes from monsters who eat not only each other, but also humans. The circle of life can be easily overlooked when safe at home surrounded by your loved ones, but is much more difficult to avoid in the wild. Riko and Reg stumble across a corpse-weeper feeding off of another cave raider, and not too much later eat that same monster. Despite Reg being the machine, it’s he who points out the unsettling history of their meal. Riko, the human, has to explain the reality of their cycle.
“It’s sad when they [people] die, but they become the flesh and blood of those creatures, and then once again become our strength. That is how we—all us cave raiders—have grown strong.” (“Incinerator.”)
When it’s just as easy to become the prey rather than the predator, this kind of mindset becomes necessary for survival and sanity.
As our duo plunges deeper into the gullet, the more taxing the journey becomes. Their lives can be snuffed out within minutes, even seconds, if the two are ill-prepared for the next encounter. Right now it’s not so much a question if they’ll reach Riko’s mother, Lyza the Annihilator, but what they will do once they reach their goal. There is typically only one way out after being eaten, and in Abyss terms, this usually means dying or becoming something else entirely. I’m hoping our adventurers will find a way to cut their way out amakagame-style of this ending.
“The City of the Great Pit.” Made in Abyss, written by Akihito Tsukushi, directed by Masayuki Kojima, Amazon Anime Strike, 07 Jul. 2017.
“The Great Fault.” Made in Abyss, written by Akihito Tsukushi, directed by Masayuki Kojima, Amazon Anime Strike, 01 Sep. 2017.
“Incinerator.” Made in Abyss, written by Akihito Tsukushi, directed by Masayuki Kojima, Amazon Anime Strike, 04 Aug. 2017.