Episode 6 has finally aired and now I’m taking a look at how the second season has measured up to season 1.
There will be no real surprise for my regular readers when I say I really enjoyed season 1 of The Promised Neverland. I found the tension and pacing nicely done even if there was an over reliance on cliff-hangers, found some of the direction to be interesting and added to the overall atmosphere, and the tight narrative arc of the kids realising the situation they were in and then struggling to overcome the obstacles and escape to just be really satisfying to watch. I finished my season 1 review of The Promised Neverland with the statement that I highly recommended it.
So as we pass the halfway mark of season 2, am I feeling the same way?
Not so much.
Now I want to be clear that my issues with season 2 do not stem from the variation from the source material. Hunting around online it seems like a lot of people are finding the adaptation a little on the lacking side. However, I deliberately did not read past where season 1 ended so for me whether the anime follows the events in the manga isn’t the most important thing.
What I am more concerned about is that visually The Promised Neverland seems to have lost its identity and so far season 2 hasn’t really had much in the way of focus to drive the plot forward and with that overall the series has lost any sense of tension. Throw in a time-skip and multiple setting changes and it is generally hard to say that at this point I’m particularly invested in anything that is happening despite being interested and genuinely wanting to learn more about the demon world and to see how the kids ultimately either save (or don’t save) the other kids on the farm.
And that’s a weird position to be in. To be interested but not invested.
When I started really thinking about it, I realised that almost all of my interest, is left over from the season one finale when the kids took their first steps out of Grace Field and into an unknown world. There was a real sense of mystery and excitement with a little trepidation because if children were being farmed it really didn’t bode well for what would be beyond the wall.
While the first couple of episodes of season 2 seemed to be wanting to fulfil that sense of curiosity as the kids traversed the forest being pursued by demons, we quickly moved on. First by meeting a pair of intelligent demons who didn’t seem to want to eat them, then to the promised shelter left by the plot device ‘Minerva’.
This is before being chased out of the shelter and back to the forest where one of the monsters conveniently attacked the pursuers but not the pursued, before we had several months skipped over and the kids are now living in a run-down temple, before we drop the presumed dead Norman back into the plot for episode 6 – which suffered generally from having almost no animation.
Characters stood or sat around chatting and the camera angles bounced around but it couldn’t disguise the fact that most of the characters barely moved throughout the entire episode.
When we compare this with season ones generally narrow story line of Emma, Ray and Norman observing their surroundings, identifying the obstacles, and training and recruiting the kids to help in their plans, season 2 has so far felt incredibly unfocused. In season one, I found the arrival and subsequent disruption caused by Sister Krone to be largely unnecessary, other than it showed that even the humans who worked for the demons weren’t exactly getting a smooth run.
Outside of that it felt like every line of dialogue, every interaction, every weird close up from the camera seemed to have some kind of purpose and fed into the narrative.
Season 2 of The Promised Neverland has some great scenes. The kids training to hunt, their first night in the shelter, even Emma’s interaction with the blind demon in the temple were nicely put together sequences. However there’s no thread holding it all together other than the kids are trying to survive and may eventually get back to save the other kids.
And perhaps it is deliberate. Where season one used darker colours (when the kids weren’t outside playing) and strange POV’s to create a near claustrophobic setting at times as the kid’s world closed in around them, season two seems to be opening things up creating many choices and possibilities but leaving the kids adrift. They’ve accomplished what was thought to be impossible but now they aren’t sure what their next steps are. Perhaps all this aimless wandering is designed to help the audience feel how lost the characters are.
Does a different tone and feeling, the story moving into a new space and the kids not as certain of their path, make this second season of The Promised Neverland weaker?
Honestly, each viewer is going to decide for themselves. For me, I know that if this wasn’t a second season of an anime I was already attached to, season 2 has been decidedly on the average side. Whether or not it ends up being worth it will depend on what the second half of the season intends to do now that Norman is back in the mix. However, as so much of what I loved about season one seems to be missing in season 2, and even Emma (one of my favourite characters from 2019) seems a little lacklustre in this season, my view is that The Promised Neverland season 2 has so far been a significantly weaker entry than season 1.
It isn’t yet at the point where the story cannot recover and find its feet. I mean, I went through a similar situation with Attack on Titan where the first half of season one was this amazing roller-coaster ride that I just loved and then the second half and most of season 2 really left me feeling pretty meh about the entire franchise before season 3 hooked me back in.
Still, I am curious as to how my readers feel about season 2 of The Promised Neverland. I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave us a comment.
Images used for review from:
- The Promised Neverland Season 2. Dir. M Kanbe. Cloverworks. 2021.
- The Promised Neverland Season 1. Dir. M. Kanbe. Cloverworks. 2019
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