Why I'm Not Watching Made In Abyss Season 2
Welcome to a post that will probably be as difficult to read and process as it was to write. I watched Made in Abyss when it aired in 2017. It became an instant favorite and I rated it 9/10 on my usual anime rating scale. Although the movie Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul continued the story in 2020, I didn't see the movie until earlier this year. So I've essentially been waiting for the continued story for 5 years. Given that season two finally started last month, I should be thrilled, right? But I'm not. Actually, I've decided not to watch it at all, at least for now. Let me explain why.
It's not exactly a secret that Made in Abyss has a strange way of dealing with its (almost exclusively) underage characters. Some may downplay it or outright deny it, but it's as clear as day. Made in Abyss features "fanservice" of the loli and shouta variety. That's the anime code for pandering to pedophilic audiences. I used to be able to overlook that, but now it makes me uncomfortable. That's only half the reason I am quitting watching the anime, but it may take up the bulk of the discussion. In case you aren't convinced of this unpleasant truth, allow me to demonstrate with examples.
First there are the indirect but not innocuous examples, like the punishment at the orphanage for serious misbehavior. The punishment is to have an adult tie up the child naked and suspend them from the ceiling. Besides just being cruel, this punishment is sexual in nature. One can argue, as I did, that the anime only mentions this punishment to demonstrate the harsh environment in which Riko grew up. But if you look at how it's presented, you'll see it isn't treated as a serious thing. It's like they're making it comical.
The above example might be the kind of thing one can overlook or dismiss. But the bulk of the problem isn't in small issues like that. The main problematic element is the way the anime focuses on the sexuality of Reg the boy/robot hybrid. There are many examples. Made in Abyss is weirdly invested in making sure viewers know for certain that Reg has a functional penis. Not only does Riko document the presence of Reg's penis, she also remarks that it stands erect when the two are bathing together near the end. Additionally, Halbog picks up Reg while he struggles and looks down his trousers to remark that his balls are flesh and not robotic. Don't forget the part where Reg looks at Riko without her shirt on, or the part where Riko pees her pants from pain and Reg has to wash them.
Just mentioning body functions is fine. But this thorough exploration of a character who is roughly the equivalent of a 12-year-old is neither necessary nor appropriate. This should be obvious to anybody who isn't afraid of the truth. Even something like showing Riko without a shirt once might be ok if it wasn't framed as being a sensual sight for Reg. We don't need that. The problem with Made in Abyss is clear now: the sexualization of child characters.
Please note I'm not saying that this anime has no value at all or that everyone should boycott it ( but if you want to, that's your choice). After all, there's a lot of wonderful aspects to Made in Abyss, like the beautiful music and art, the themes of adventure and longing, the creativity of the fictional world and all its creatures, and the anime's ability to evoke intense emotions. It's my personal choice to stop watching Made in Abyss because now, for the first time, the discomfort of the sexualization outweighs my fascination with the mystery and adventure elements. This won't be the same for everyone, and it doesn't have to be. I think the important thing is for people to acknowledge the problems and not make excuses. If you can acknowledge the problem and still enjoy the anime, then continue watching.
Now I'd like to leave you with one other thing to consider. When I was in the darkest place in my mental health problems, it helped me to watch animated violence and pain. It was a release that I needed, and I don't regret it, since it didn't hurt anyone. However, now that I no longer need that kind of thing, I think it's time for me to move on. Even if I wanted to, I can no longer enjoy intense suffering the same way I used to. So what does this have to do with Made in Abyss? Earlier, I mentioned that the sexuality of the underage characters is only half the problem for me. What's the other half? This anime showcases far more violence and suffering than sexuality. Western audiences in particular are used to it. I certainly am.
The unfortunate truth is that Made in Abyss also appeals to those with sadistic tastes or morbid fascination with trauma, like myself not too long ago. I don't like to feel so pandered to anymore. I don't like watching cute characters suffer just for the sake of creating some kind of twisted misery porn. I will always love the beautiful music and art of this anime, and I'll probably always wonder about the mysteries and appreciate the adventurer spirit. But, I'm sorry. I'm done. For the time being, I will not be watching Made in Abyss.
Thanks for reading and have a good day.