The Promised Neverland Review

This is review number four hundred and forty seven. This anime is part of the Winter 2019 lineup, and it’s called The Promised Neverland. It’s a twelve episode anime about kids killing each other with baseball bats. I kid. Let’s just read on.

Story

The anime follows Emma, Norman and Ray as they try to escape an orphanage after learning of its dark truth. This is easier said than done though when they don’t even know who they are up against it. One thing is clear though, no one else would have to endure this nightmare and they’ll make sure of it.

Taking the Pants Off

Alright. How do we do this again? I’ll do the mushy details and updates later. Let’s do this review of a show about young kids trying to escape a house. I kinda randomly had a craving for anime so I popped this one, and I finished the entire thing in one sitting. It’s really good, and I am now obligated to do this review. The Promised Neverland is not a hard sell, and I’m sure it’s one of the hyped shows people were watching when it was airing. Firstly, it’s a Shounen Jump series. That’s automatically good. Don’t even question it. If it graced that titan publication then it jumped hurdles and strict quality assurance to be greenlit. Secondly, it aired on noitaminA. This time block had its clunkers, but a lot of its shows are really good. This anime basically had two good stamps of approval from the get go, and I’m sure you’ll be hooked by it too once you see its strong first episode.

Established Normalcy

I think there’s a proper term for this, but established normalcy is basically the show establishing its bar. This is where we are starting and the story will jump over it at some point. The first episode pretty much set the groundwork for the entire series. It featured its young protagonists, a calendar with “Conny” circled on it, a foreboding atmosphere, neck tattoos, and this unsettling feeling that something just doesn’t feel right. My first impression likened it to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. It had cute characters eventually beating each other to death with a baseball bat. In this anime, the characters are apparently in an orphanage and Conny will be leaving soon to a happy family. Of course, that’s not really the case. I mean, from the cold open of cute kids talking about giraffes behind an iron gate, the entire setup already has a darker promise to it. We eventually find out what really happened Conny, and we soon established the anime’s normalcy. This is the bar of expectations, and the show promises to go above and beyond it. As the first episode end, the premise of the show is established. This orphanage is bad and the characters will plan an escape soon. It’s honestly an unremarkable plot, but the main draw of the anime isn’t its promise of characters beating each other to death with a baseball bat. It’s something a lot more interesting.

A Battle of Isms

One thing I hate about this anime is how it dumps exposition in a clunky manner. In the first episode supporting characters clumsily blurted out that Norman is smart, Ray is cunning and Emma is not quite as good but she is perceptive. The show then proceeded to display these traits with a casual game of tag. I soon realized the clunky exposition is done on purpose, because the characters all represent different ideals. Emma is, annoyingly, an idealist. Norman is a realist, and Ray is a pragmatist. Look at that, my stupid teaching background is being used to review an anime. Let’s break this sh*t down. What is an idealist? Idealism is the unrealistic belief of perfection. In Emma’s case, she wants everyone to escape the orphanage. She believes everyone is good and she trusts everyone. Escaping by herself is never an option. Either all of them leaves or none of them does. It’s stupid, since she is gambling with everyone’s life. I can only help but smile though, because I’ve been accused of being an idealist myself in the past. Oh boy. Once you take a stand you believe in, there is really no going back. Unfortunately for Emma, the rest of her crew doesn’t think like her. Norman, specifically, is a realist.

fires up google “1. a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.” Norman looks at a situation and figures out a way to solve it. This is made clearer when he had to stare into an abyss and just smiled back at it. He rarely gets rattled, because he knows getting caught up in his emotions won’t really help. Instead, he takes a step back and figures out a way to solve the problem. This is apparent in the first episode when Emma was the one to let out a blood curdling scream and Norma was there to calm her down. As the anime progresses, Norman and his delicious brain would device the plan integral to the characters escaping. You have to feel for the guy though, because aiming for success gets a lot more difficult when an idealist wants a hundred percent despite eighty or seventy being successes as well. It’s like the realist knows making an omelet requires breaking the egg but the idealist insists you can have your omelet without hurting the egg. The pragmatist thinks differently though. You either break the egg and eat, or not break it and starve.

Pragmatism is basically understanding that sacrifices have to be made at some point. After understanding the situation in every angle and realizing the most effective solution, they’ll carry it out in the most efficient manner. This ultimately clashes with an idealist’s perspective. The plan to escape the orphanage is a lot more complicated now, because we have a battle of ISMs in front of us. It’s such a wonderful display of clashing ideals too. Ray knows the three of them alone can escape, but Emma insists that no one should end up like Conny ever again. Ray would frustrating turn to Norman and insist his point, but Norman would just smile knowing everything will work out. The idealist insists on a hundred percent, the pragmatist knows fifty percent is still a passing score, and the realist looks up trying to find a suitable score for everyone involved. Whose ISMs will prevail though? Or will their clashing ideals eventually lead them to their downfall?

Dialogue Pudding

Now, the first episode gave us the established normalcy. People will die. That’s a spoiler that doesn’t need to be hidden. Kids will die and that’s the bar the show promised to jump over. It doesn’t really happen though. Conny’s fate felt like a onetime thing, and this honestly felt like a deal breaker for me. Call me sick, but I wanted to see kids die. It’s the cicada crying inside of me. We don’t really see a significant event until episode eight. That’s a huge time without any body count. What did the show do during the six episodes between then? Characters just talk.

This show is extremely dialogue heavy. As the situation changes constantly, we just follow the characters try adjust to them. We follow every character important in the story. From the three protagonists to the antagonists and even the two supporting characters, everyone is explored as a sprinkle of world building is also established. Honestly, the show hits its climax at the last episode and the sign of the bar being jumped over happened at the tenth episode. There is a long stretch of just characters talking, and this may be a difficult thing for some people to sit through. Why is the show structured like this though?

This is a no brainer. The anime is being faithful to the manga.

I do not envy the series composer, because he had to structure the show in a way that it covers the dialogue pudding of the manga while also ensuring the episodes aren’t boring. Make no mistake. Toshiya Ono did an incredible job adapting the story. One of the reasons why I finished the entire anime in one sitting is because I would often be so engrossed in the characters that I’d be surprised I consumed an entire episode of them just talking. We can also attribute this to the mangaka making really strong characters, but it’s Ono that made sure this was translated in the anime as well. This is tough to execute, because the anime offered very little action. It also only had one setting, seven to eight characters to work with, and one simple goal to reach. I’ve seen original anime spend twenty four episodes reaching nothing, so the manga clearly had to be a supreme title to be so dialogue dense and still be featured in Shounen Jump. Yknow, the manga that mostly featured nonstop action. It’s blowing my mind, because even Death Note had a huge body count to be in Shounen Jump. It’s all the more impressive though that the anime somehow captured the strongest appeal of the manga and it’s glaring weakness with absolute ease. It’s exciting thinking that this is the standard for adaptations now. No more rushed adaptations, retarded forced anime endings, and butchered interpretations. I sincerely hope this is the established normalcy for manga adaptations moving forward.

Kanbe, Ono and Cloverworks

I think I stopped at 2014 with my reviews, so it’s a shock how things are done in 2019 now. I’m cautiously hopeful, because I know bad anime still exists. This is my first Cloverworks anime, and I think they’re a pretty good studio. They’re apparently a subsidiary of A-1 Pictures, so that kinda ensures their standard is high. It’s like Wit Studio being under Production IG. I don’t think studios like these can fail. Mamoru Kande directed Elfen Lied. Good gawd, how long is he in the industry? He seem to have done storyboard for most of his career, and he did some directing for time to time. He clearly had a good idea where to take the anime adaptation and I think his directing really made the experience intense. Combined with Ono’s tight writing, I think this duo did wonders with the adaptation. I heard there’s another season, and that makes sense since we don’t know what “the promised Neverland” is alluding to. Given how great this first season is, I might end up consuming the second season in one sitting as well.

Sight and Sound

Character design is pretty much how it is in the manga. Posuka Demizu’s design is a lot more mature though, but I think the nuances are kept intact in the adaptation. The manga puts incredible detail in the weirdest places though. I only checked the first chapter, and it is paced like the anime, but the design is a lot more chaotic in certain panels. The pipes in the gate has a lot of lines and details, and the dining scene as well. It kinda hints that something is bubbling under the surface, and I guess it creates a bit of unease when you read the manga. As far as design, the anime captured it to a tee though. I often wonder if more detail would’ve benefitted the show, but I do think the unremarkableness of the characters are intentional. The only thing worth noting to them is their numbered tattoo, and that’s kinda a brilliant touch considering its dark implications. I do love the design of the people at the gate though. I’m intentionally avoiding spoilers, but even in the manga, they scream out in their design. The chaotic style of Posuka becomes unsettling when applied to those guards. I love it.

Animation is both unremarkable and brilliant at the same time. This show is dialogue pudding, so the animation doesn’t really mean much. Kanbe did something ingenious though. He would do extreme close up of characters to capture the unsettling intention of Posuka’s illustrations. They don’t do much close-ups in the manga, and most panels even have full bodied designs. The anime rarely does this. Instead, it focuses on the eyes and how it twists on any given notice. Honestly, I didn’t notice the red flower in Conny because her gaze caught my attention more. It’s the same visuals in the manga, but Kanbe fixed the shot on her dead gaze. The close-ups does wonder in the storytelling of the anime, because it often indicates something wild is about to happen. It’s hard to explain without exploring spoilers, but let’s just say the eyes tells a lot about a character and Kanbe knows how to utilize it to its fullest.

The anime’s OP is “Touch Off” by UVERworld. It’s a decent song that’ll get you hyped up to see the show. It also has lines about positivism and fighting back, and it feels like a song that fits Emma perfectly. I don’t know how I review this portion of my old reviews, but I’ll just say the song is a decent fit for the anime. The OP sequence is really great though. It had the Higurashi vibe to it, and it’s the main reason why I got engaged in the show in the first place. It introduces the characters perfectly, hints the narrative smartly and gives you an idea where the anime is headed. It does promise a lot more action though than the dialogue pudding the actual show turned out to be but it’s harmless in its intention.

The anime’s ED is “Lamp” by Cö shu Nie. I love that band name. I thought it was a Chinese singer at first. I do love the singer’s vocals and the goth aesthetic of the song. The lyrics are nothing remarkable, but it does eventually represent the characters and their plight as you progress with the story. The ED sequence is just a bunch of images, but it does lend to the goth aura the song alludes to. It also focuses on those red flowers that isn’t really explored in the anime. I think it has a deeper significance in the story, but it’s not covered in the first season.

Overall Score

8/10 “The strong characters alone makes this a worthwhile watch, despite the heavy exposition.”

This show is an incredible ride from start to finish. It’s unremarkable when you describe it. It’s a prison break story about twelve year olds trying to checkmate a bunch of adults, but the way it’s presented is gripping, exciting and so engaging that simply watching the characters talking is enough to keep you glued in. I recommend it.

5 thoughts on “The Promised Neverland Review

  1. I think you meant by “you wanted kids to die” you wanted real consequences to happen to show the story was dealing with adult concepts. 😉

    The story sadly doesn’t do this, and thus you were disappointed that the beginning plot was more of a marketing strategy than one driven by the story.

    But well done and Welcome back.

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