Anime Review: The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland, or TPN as I’ll call it here so I have to type less, is an anime based on the manga series of the same name. The manga started in August of 2016, and just recently finished in June of 2020. The anime series started in January of 2019, and is still ongoing, with the second season rumored to be available to American audiences in April of 2021. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, it’s unclear whether or not the series will need to be delayed, as has happened with many other series lately.
TPN is hard to define with one genre. It has elements of drama and mystery, but plays almost like a slice of life. The show is set in the future, at the Grace Field House, an orphanage in the middle of nowhere, home to 38 orphans, three of which are 11 years old. These three, Emma, Ray, and Norman, are our main characters, though the story is mostly told from Emma’s point of view. A major plot point introduced right away is that the characters are all waiting to be adopted so they can leave. Despite this, it’s made clear that the orphans are all well taken care of. The house is large and beautiful, with a huge plot of land. The orphans all have clean clothes, soft beds, and are loved by their “Mom,” the caretaker named Isabella.
(First episode spoilers ahead) In the first episode, one of the characters, Conny, is announced to have been adopted. She packs her things and says her goodbyes, then goes with Isabella to the gate that surrounds the property, and leaves. Emma and Norman realize that she left her prized stuffed animal at the house, and they hurry to the gate to catch her. What they discover changes the entire story. Conny is dead, soon to be eaten by a race of terrifying demon-like creatures, whom Isabella is working for. Grace Field House isn’t an orphanage, but is rather a meat farm, raising children for consumption by these demons.
After this point, Emma, Norman, and Ray realize that they need to escape, and save what other children they can from eventual death. The show revolves around them attempting to figure out a way to escape. There is a supernatural tinge to the story, and it’s implied that Isabella, as well as the second “Mom” who is brought in later, are unnaturally strong, fast, and cunning. Writing this now, I’m not sure if the supernatural elements were actually meant to imply that these women have powers, or if it’s to signify the physical and mental differences between two grown women and a group of children all age 11 and under. Either way, we’re shown that escaping will not be an easy feat – and the penalty for failure is the ultimate price: death.
I won’t give away the ending here, for one reason. I want anyone reading this to go watch this show. It has the perfect blend of mystery and drama, and had me literally on the edge of my seat. I’m a busy person, so I don’t normally have time to keep up with an anime as it’s released week-by-week. This show was the first one ever, in my 15 years of anime watching, that I kept up with and watched the new episode every single Saturday. It was genuinely the highlight of my week every time to find out if the characters would overcome the struggle of last week’s episode, or if they would get caught. It’s such a nail-biter.
This show reminds me a lot of how Death Note told its story, with what I consider “reverse dramatic irony,” where all of the characters in the show know what’s going on, but you don’t – unless you manage to unravel the mystery yourself before it’s explained. This gives an element of personality to the story, letting you come to your own conclusions first. Overall, this is a great show, full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end – and even then, I’m still on the edge of my seat waiting for season 2!