KANTA ON MANGA / Into a dark hole of mystery

© Akihito Tsukushi 2013/Takeshobo

By Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterThe manga this week

Made in Abyss

By Akihito Tsukushi (Takeshobo)

Rebellious archangel Lucifer fell from heaven to Earth and made an enormous hole in the ground, which became hell. Dante, who gets lost in the dark woods, is guided by poet Virgil to travel deep down to the center of the Earth.

This famous opening of Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy: Inferno” came to mind when I started reading “Made in Abyss,” the manga this week.

However, the manga’s protagonists — an active, cheerful girl named Riko and a humanoid boy named Reg — are totally different from Dante and Virgil, and the hellish hole featured in this work is the stage for an adventure full of wonder and mystery.

The story revolves around the enormous deep hole, which is called Abyss and was discovered 1,900 years ago on an island in the southern sea. It is rumored that there is an untrodden El Dorado at the bottom of this hole. Ambitious hole explorers are blocked by strange and violent monsters inhabiting the hole, and also by a “curse” of Abyss. The deeper the explorers go down the hole, the more harmful the curse becomes.

Riko lives in a town at the edge of Abyss, and she sets off on a journey down Abyss in search of her missing mother, a hole explorer. It seems that Riko’s partner, Reg, was “made in Abyss” where he came from, but has lost his memory since he arrived at the rim of Earth. Hand-in-hand, Riko and Reg dive into the depths of the hole, heading straight for an unknown and unearthly world beyond imagination.

Among the many adventure-fantasy manga, “Made in Abyss” stands out with its meticulously designed world. This in itself is worth attention. Its cover illustration has a fairy-tale atmosphere, but as you read on, you will probably be shocked with the contrasting intensity of the story.

The atmosphere is relatively light when the two protagonists set out on their journey. But as they dive deeper and deeper into the hole, the story unfolds to become formidably dark and eerie because of the curse of Abyss, which causes humans to lose their shape and even humanity. Conversely, their hidden greed and true nature are revealed.

The author Akihito Tsukushi is originally an illustrator who has participated in creating games and anime. This is his first full-scale manga. I’ve been amazed at how he’s been able to create such a beautiful world that is also grotesque at the same time. I am eagerly following this drama, in which the characters struggle in the face of a haphazard and brutal fate.

In the finale of “The Divine Comedy,” Dante ascends to heaven with his ideal woman. On the other hand, Riko and Reg have no way of returning — and they are about to reach the very bottom of Abyss. I sincerely hope I’ll see them smile when their exploration reaches its conclusion.

Ishida is a Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer whose areas of expertise include manga and anime.Speech

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