Akihito Tsukushi's Made in Abyss made its big anime debut back in 2017, and the franchise has amassed a cult following due to the major impact made by the anime series. What fans experienced was a gorgeously crafted world full of meticulous details, but it's been quite a while since we got new stories. The franchise briefly made its return with two films recapping the experience of that first season for new fans last year, and it turns out this was all done in preparation for a true sequel following after, Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul.
Taking place after the events of the original Made in Abyss TV anime series, Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul is the follow-up fans have been waiting and hoping to see. An intense, yet at times serene experience that somehow packs the feelings of an entire season into a feature film. It may not be the most welcoming to non-fans curious about the franchise, but it makes the reward for those with prior knowledge all the more powerful.
Set shortly after the final scene of the original anime series where Riko and Reg recruit Nanachi to their journey, the three head down into the fifth floor of the Abyss, known as the "Sea of Corpses." But as the trio try and figure out a way to the next floor, they find themselves in need of help from the mysterious Bondrewd, a White Whistle who has some dark ties to Nanachi's past. While Bondrewd seems to have their best interests at heart, especially when the trio is introduced to his daughter, Prushka, it's quickly apparent to them that things are not what they seem.
While the original TV series was known for how great it looks, Dawn of the Deep Soul continues to surprise in that same way the anime first. The new locales in the film are much more dour and dark than the first few floors, but the film shows that there's an inherent beauty to even these, quite literally, darker areas. It continues the original draw of the Abyss as the trek further into the underworld continues to reveal wildly different locations with their own personalities and ecosystems. A new score from returning composer Kevin Penkin also serves as the icing on top for that blend of nostalgia and creepier new elements.
Even in this condensed feature, there are still a ton of mysteries unfolding at a strong pace with a new addition to the lore or reveal about Bondrewd to keep up the momentum throughout. Bondrewd himself is not a disappointment either, as, while we got to see some of his work in the original series during Nanachi's origin, Dawn of the Deep Soul fleshes out his motivations, psyche, and some other neat quirks that further the mystery of the franchise as a whole. With Bondrewd's introduction, the franchise also has its first true antagonist and that evolves the franchise in unexpected ways.
While this has also been a gorgeous series, Dawn of the Deep Soul breaks through to absolute beauty at times. Without feeling like it, the film packs in an entire season's worth of character development and world expansion. Couple this with some really hard-hitting lows, as patented for this franchise, and the film manages to encapsulate what's so special about this anime franchise overall. Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul is gorgeous, soul-crushing, harrowing, yet can still take moments to highlight joy in the journey. Full of heartbreak, incredible action, and the melancholic underbelly of adventure, it's the follow-up Made in Abyss have been hoping for.
Rating: 5 out of 5