(The pun in the title was intended.) The Promised Neverland was released on 11 January 2019. Directed by Mamoru Kanbe who has famous works like Elfen Lied and Denpa-Teki na Kanojo. CloverWorks Studio, who are an offshoot of a larger studio A-1 Pictures are the producers of the anime. They are a relatively new studio that have produced Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, Darling in the franxx and Persona 5: The Animation.
It’s written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu. ‘The Promised Neverland Manga’ is nowadays considered as one of the most acclaimed titles published by Shonen Jump. It was featured in the covers of ‘Shonen Jump’ alongside other popular manga like ‘Boku no Hero Academia’.
One of the reasons why this anime became a success was the mixture of the three genres it meddled in. Shonen, Drama, and Horror. The Dark Horror contrasting with the light heart Shonen elements make it unique and entertaining. There are really less or none at all like this mixture of the genre. The only other anime which comes to mind with a similar cocktail of genres is Death Note. But even that dealt with more thriller than horror.
Now not saying that it was the greatest anime the winter has seen yet, it had its flaws too, Sakuga, Soundtracks, Plot, Characters, we’ll get in the nitty-gritty of the whole show in this review.
PLOT OF The Promised NeverLand
The major spoiler to The Promised Neverland takes place in the first chapter/episode of the manga/anime. So a spoiler-free review is impossible. The Promised Neverland takes place in a not so distant dystopian future where humans are food to the so-called ‘Demons’. The world in the manga is divided between humans and demons. They make a pact that they will supply the demons with human meat on the condition that they will leave the humans alone. Hence came forward the idea of ‘farms’ to rear human cattle.
‘GraceField’ is one such farm where children grow without the awareness of the world so that their brains won’t be affected as it is a high-quality part of human meat. For the kids, GraceField is an orphanage they grow up in and have to leave when they become twelve-years-old.
Emma, Norman, and Ray are our protagonists. They grew up in this place and are the oldest in the family at 11 years old. Emma, (the main protagonist) is a naive, energetic girl who puts her family before her. She loves and cares for the caretaker of the place, the mom, Isabella.
One day one of the kids, Connie had to leave. Unaware of the fact where she is actually going and thinking she had been adopted, everyone bids her farewell. After her send-off, Emma and Norman find Connie’s dear bunny and decides to give her that back. So, they reach the gate which separates the outside world from the farm. The gate is restricted for the kids and only Mom is able to access it. Upon reaching the gate, they search for Connie.
Emma eventually finds her in the back of the truck. The only catch is that she was dead with all the blood drained from her body. Now in shock, both Emma and Norman hear a sound and hide under the truck, only to find gigantic talking monsters storing Connie in a preservative container. One of them gets their hand on the toy and asks the caretaker to take care of it, the caretaker, of course, being a mom. Emma and Norman make it out of there in time and inform Ray about what they saw.
They hatch a plan to outsmart Isabella, who was the youngest of all moms and get out of the farm. Isabella though gets help from outside too. Emma faces the problem of taking every child out of the place and risk of dying.
Season 1 deals with the escape of the children of GraceField to the outside world. The ending of the season is absolutely fascinating. It is a bit different from how the Escape arc is in the manga. Though, the differences are not that major. Overall, it has a great plot. It teaches us how everyone tries their best to survive in this world no matter if it’s the kids or the demons themselves.
ANIMATION AND SOUNDTRACK Promised Neverland
Now, I would be lying if I say I was not worried about this adaptation. CloverWorks are fairly new and knowing how good Posuka Demizu’s art-style is I did not want it to get ruined. But there are some scenes with amazing animation. The dark atmosphere nicely blends with the light-hearted environment of the children playing around.
The Character Designs may take some episodes to adjust too, though, they are not entirely bad. I liked Krone’s Design, to be honest. She had a strong scary build-up and friendly behavior with a hint of suspicion. Isabella, on the other hand, has a very sleek, smart look to her which kind of is in contrast with the manga design. Isabella, in the first chapter of the manga, is a warm, gentle, kind mother who loves her children. Now I don’t know if it is because I have read the manga prior to the adaptation. But, the character design itself makes her look suspicious in the first episode. Nonetheless, her animation is absolutely beautiful. However, there are some designs that I loved better in the anime such as, Baby ray in the last episode.
The Anime has done an overall good job in animating but there are some scenes where they could have done better.
One thing manga has an upper hand than an anime is the page-turning effect. In manga when you turn a page, especially in a horror genre, everything happens in a second. Without even knowing you witness a horrifying scene in front of you where as in the anime it takes a while to build up the sequence. For example, take any Junji Ito manga or for TPN:
When in the first episode of the anime, Emma takes a good 10 seconds of backing away from the truck while Norman comes to the back of it and checks out what was so terrifying. While, in the manga, the whole scene takes place in two panels, not giving you a time to register what just happened, just like Emma.
Although, there are some scenes which are better than the ones in the manga. Like in the last episode, where [SPOILERS] Isabella waves off to the children while she reminisces the past, clothes flying as the kids run to their freedom and the orphanage is up in the flames.
The soundtrack of the anime is a blast too. The opening “Touch Off” by UVERworld is a banger. It has an outstanding combination of rock and electrical music which enhances the shonen vibe to the show. The ending, however, has the horrific dark aura to it. “Zettai Zetsumei” by Cö shu Nie who has also done the opening to Tokyo Ghoul Re: “Asphyxia”. The second ending to the anime, “Lamp” by Cö Shu Nie again gives off the same vibe. Both the endings suit the show perfectly.
“Isabella’s Lullaby” the song composed by Leslie, Isabella’s childhood friend, is one of the most important ost in the show. From the first episode to the last it has played an important role in the show. I loved how it played in the last episode of the anime.
THE CHARACTERS in Promised Neverland
What is important to a story after its plot-line, animation and pacing is the characters. The characters in TPN are both playful and intelligent at the same time. The three protagonists are the most intelligent of the bunch after all. The quick planning and the development of the characters leaves one in awe. The villains themselves show different sides of their story, why they are bad and why they are good. To me all the characters were just trying to survive, making the whole show not just about escaping the demons but to acknowledge the fact that everywhere, it is the survival of the fittest, and the one who stays strong lives. It is okay to be selfish at times and also to be considerate towards others.
Now let’s talk about some of my favorite characters and scenes.
Best Boy. Ray is one of the main protagonists of the series. He is a quick-witted, smart, calm, quiet and cool kid. Not only does he competes with Norman in intelligence he is also coming for that popularity prize. He has been friends with both the protagonists from when he was a kid and prioritizes his goals before anything else. He has one of the major development in the series ever. Ray prefers studying more than playing which he reveals later that he did it because of his plans to escape. He really cares for both Emma and Norman as well as for the kids in the orphanage. He is good at strategies hence the brain of the trio. [SPOILERS] Ray is the son of Isabella as shown in the last episode and the traitor among the kids. Yet he has a good reason to do it. The Scene of him explaining his plan to Emma on the night, just a day before his birthday, is an absolute masterpiece. I am a little disappointed with how his value in the manga diminishes after the Escape arc.
This is a character that appears in the manga and hopefully in the second season of the anime. He is a grown-up adult who was once a cattle like the children in GraceField. The children encounter this man after their escape in the hiding spot William Minerva has set up for them. They mistook him for Minerva. He comes off like an irresponsible, bad person who only thinks about himself and does not care for the children at first. But all that changes after the goldy pond arc. At first, he refuses to learn any names or tell him either. But he quickly becomes an important person in the manga and a guide to Emma and Ray. Teaching the kids the laws and truth about the world they’re new to.
She is the sister sent to assist Isabella. A Scary looking yet friendly adult who gets close to the kids making it harder for Emma and the others to convince the other kids to believe the truth. She wants to overthrow Isabella as a mom and finds ways to snitch her out. In the end, joins an alliance with the children. She finds a note given by Ray, but what was in the note is not yet revealed by the author. The scene of her playing hide and seek with the kids is terrifying, to say the least. Her playing with the kids with an ulterior motive to judge their capabilities while playful music plays in the background is jaw-dropping. She adds to the horror of what The Promised Neverland actually is.
Musica or Mujika is another manga character that has yet to show up in the anime. She has a catch to herself though, she is a demon. A cursed one at that. Musica is a kind demon who changes the whole overlook of the demon society. Her protector, Sonju, often accompanies her. It is said that her blood is enough for the demons to keep their human structure. She is the one who helps the kids to escape from the demons sent by the royals to catch them. She heals Emma and the others who were wounded. Musica is the first demon who shows us the other outlook towards the demons and that they too are a part of the game of survival of the fittest.
Phil is the cutest kid in the entire series. He is only 4. He stays by Emma and is smart and intelligent too. When Emma falls in the dilemma of whether to take all or leave some, Phil proposes that they will be safe and that he trusts Emma that she’ll make things right and save them after two years as shipping doesn’t start until one becomes 6 years old. For a 4-year-old, that was a pretty smart and brave thing to say. Not to mention, he figured it out himself that there was more to this place than what meets the eye. I absolutely adore Phil and will worship him. He has the potential of becoming a Shonen Protagonist.
There are other characters that I would love to write about as well but it is a better finding of them in the anime itself like Gilda, Norman, Isabella, Thoma, and Lanny. And characters which are yet to come like Lucas, Gillian, Sonju, Oscar and most importantly the demon we are waiting for the most, Lewis.
A great Anime with its own flaws. I have loved the manga which now is in its final arc. The development of the characters to the art style, it has been quite a journey. Posuka Demizu is great at drawing and illustrating the whole show. Kaiu Shirai, on the other hand, has done an amazing job at writing and progressing the story. Shirai has a way of foreshadowing the future through the covers and illustrations.
The Promised Neverland is, without a doubt, an anime that will be remembered in decades. The fandom is one of the few which has absolutely zero toxicity in it. Yes, there might be a lot of ships in the show, but to me, it is more horror than romance. And I don’t think the kids in the midst of life and death have time to think about it. (Well- Noremma is an exception).
The show is a wonderful masterpiece with clever writing. It has an unnecessarily quick pace in the final arc but other than that from the character development to the stunning details, it has been quite a journey. Shirai knows how to make the watcher/readers invest in the show by ending each episode/chapter in a cliff-hanger. The sheer want-to-know-more-method keeps the readers/watchers invested in this show and look forward to the new release. Showing both sides of the card, the anime gives us the right to choose between the demons and the kids.
Because of the huge profit and success of the first season, The promised Neverland will be back with Season 2 in 2020 and it will be quite the promising one. (again pun intended).