Young Riko has spent her entire childhood dreaming of exploring the Abyss, an enormous pit and series of caves filled with wonders and terrors that only the staunchest Cave Raiders have survived to bring back ancient artifacts from its depths. No one knows just how deep the pit is, but Riko's own mother disappeared into it years ago, leaving her daughter behind with a powerful urge to follow after her and learn the Abyss's mysteries for herself. One day Riko discovers a boy who seems to have originated from the Abyss and appears to be a sort of robot. Can he aid the little girl in her quest to find her missing mother? Or will the children become the Abyss's next victims?
The artwork is beautiful. It has aspects which look like they're taken out of a travel sketchbook. It's cutesy and detailed. Grayscale and with a smeared shading style which makes everything look like it was drawn with pencil. Sometimes I just stare in admiration at the beautiful flora and fauna. It reminds me of Delicious in Dungeon, with how cooking monsters into delicious dishes is a recurring activity on their way down the pit. But this story is obviously much darker and creepier. They have multiple storylines involving experimentation and cruelty, with people crossing taboos in the name of survival or progress. The story involving Prushka and the cartridges was especially disturbing. The biggest problem cave raiders have to deal with (and what the experimentation largely stems from) is the Curse of the Abyss--where the further down you go, the more intense the damage from trying to re-ascend. To the point, that if you cross a certain depth, re-ascension becomes an impossibility. Both Riko and Reg have excuses for why they want to descend into the pit, though (for Riko) it's obviously less about feir mother and more about fem just wanting to go on an adventure. And I should mention that it might be the unrelatability of that motive which makes some of the plotlines less than captivating for me. I think the author even realizes that feir drive isn't normal, since fe suggests that it's a biological yearning caused by the strange circumstances of feir birth. A sensible course would be to study the composition of the forcefield before even attempting to descend, but that wouldn't create for an exciting story. After all, an adventure is only truly an adventure if you aren't worrying about mitigating risks, am I right? A central hook of the story is seeing all the odd ecology. There are nobulous and alien monsters as well as a variety of cute and cuddly critters. There is strange plantlife, and intense and awesome landscapes. It's probably a good thing that they descend pretty quickly since that allows the scenery to remain fresh. The plot itself primarily takes place during pit-stops as they interact with people who've made homes in the pit: with Ozen (ch. 12-17), with Nanachi (ch. 20-26), with Bondrewd (ch. 28-38), and with the village (ch. 40-present). I think fe's done a good job with unpacking mysteries and backstories as their journey progresses. We get some answers early on, but additional nuance and clarification is added as we go (with some additional mysteries being introduced along the way, of course). But I'm not sure if I like how fe's dealt with the villains and major confrontations in the story. They all seem to end with the villain sorta empathizing with them, or not really caring. I guess the best way to explain it is that the antagonists aren't so much actually trying to stop their progress as just being shitty, creepy people, ya know? Obviously, this is more referring to people like Ozen and Bondrewd, and not to the various monsters they fight along the way. But the fights themselves are intense and cool-looking. I also found the current village arc to be a bit too alien, to the point that the disorientation of common sense could distract from the engaging parts of the story. [Reviewed at chapter 55]
Okay, before we begin this, I've read all 8 volumes (minus the 9th one that came our recently) and I have some sort of love/hate relationship with this series it is, by no means at all, a bad manga, it's just not my type of manga. I keep complaining about how much I hate it to everyone who I talk to about it, but I must always admit, that there is something that makes me come back every time a new volume drops. Is it the story/plot that progressively gets darker and weirder with every chapter and gives bad bad vibes that draw me back, because I wanna know what happens? Is it the misleadingly cute artstyle? I don't know. Let's just say it's good enough for me to keep coming back but to such a weird degree that I hate yet love every second of reading it.
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