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Made in Abyss Takes Inspiration from Dante's Inferno

CBR logo CBR 5/21/2022 Ben Bishop
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As more trailers drop and more information comes forward about Season 2 of the anime version of Akihito Tsukushi's Made in Abyss, fans will no doubt be looking out for similar media. The descent into the pit has many corollaries, from Over the Garden Wall to comics to video games. However, fans looking for an undiluted experience would do well to look much further back to find the original version of the descent into the pit: a classic Italian poem that's nearly 100 years old.

On the surface, Dante's Inferno has little in common with Made in Abyss. Certainly, there are layers and a hellish descent, but everything else appears radically different. However, taking everything together with the environments that the stories were written in and the purposes, both literary and metatextual, of the writings, Made in Abyss has far more direct links to the epic poem than may appear at first blush.

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Character Arcs Are Preserved in Broad Strokes

Dante's Inferno is one of a three-volume story wherein Dante pursues his love, Beatrice, through the nine circles of hell, purgatory and finally, heaven. Dante is accompanied most of the way by Virgil, a man who did much good in life but is damned because he was a pagan. As the two descend through hell, they take note of the horrors around them and how they prove the evils of those entrapped therein.

Made In Abyss takes similar characterizations to some extent. Riko and Reg are the closest to the narrator, Dante, and his guide, Virgil. Although their roles jump back and forth, their actions fall into the archetypes. Riko, for example, is pursuing a loved one. Reg serves as the muscle of the pair, ostensibly the guide à la Virgil. However, Riko serves as the intellectual guide for Reg. At lower levels, Nanachi and Faputa serve as more of the world guides. While there is less of a straightforward guide, the archetypes of the guide and the narrator exist, as does the person -- both beloved and female -- whom they pursue.

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Authorial Intent Is Largely Unchanged

Beyond the basics of characters and plot, the authorial intent of the two media is largely the same. Dante's Inferno, though it certainly carried heavy religious themes, was something of a poetic penny dreadful of its time. The objective was ostensibly to shock the reader with the horrors of hell, largely to the effect of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." While tame by today's standards, devout Italian Catholics in the 1300s would have been horrified by the terrors described.

Likewise, the intent of Made in Abyss is to disturb, disgust and horrify the reader and watcher. It's a meditation on just how far one is willing to go for the mere chance of saving the one they love. Although that is the basic idea, the further elements of horror serve in many ways -- chief among them, uniting the contemporary narrative with that of antiquity.

The defined levels in both narratives unite the structure, and the characters and themes do so to an even greater extent. Stories throughout history have inspired others, and Made in Abyss is no exception. In taking inspiration from Dante's Inferno, Made in Abyss is participating in a millennia-old artistic tradition. As fans' wishes for a second season come to fruition, so too shall another branch from the tree of this tradition continue in its growth.

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