The Promised Neverland Series Review

The Promised Neverland Episode 4 Ray, Emma and Norman

The Slow Burn With The Satisfying Conclusion

Where do you even start with The Promised Neverland?

As a viewing experience it is an extraordinary roller coster of emotional highs and lows, of fearing for the safety of characters, of being annoyed at times by the distractions of minor characters or plot points, but ultimately it is a viewing experience that makes you glad that you gave this anime the time. While it isn’t flawless by any means and some scenes are obviously contrived simply to evoke particular emotions and aren’t as nuanced as they could be in doing so, there’s so much to genuinely like and enjoy about The Promised Neverland that it almost feels like you are being petty to point these out.

The Promised Neverland Episode 1 Emma and Norman

The Promised Neverland had a phenomenal first episode. It was tightly paced, beautifully directed, introduced the three main characters and their situation in a way that really hit all the right buttons, and opened up a lot of potential for the ongoing plot. In short, it did everything it needed to do as a first episode. When you combine all of that with a great opening song, Touch Off, as well as the likeable cast and you have something that is going to grab viewers.

And grab them it did.

For readers of the manga the viewing experience was a little different, but I went into this series cold. The genres listed for it included mystery and horror and while there is certainly a mystery and some elements are horrific, I think if you go in looking for this type of story you are more likely to be disappointed. The other genre tags of psychological and shounen fit the story much better and it does succeed admirably in these areas.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a lot of the hook of that first episode was the horror movie feeling in seemed to emulate in the final moments. That definitely grabbed my undivided attention and made me really excited for what was going to come next. While few scenes afterward reach the same levels in that regard, it doesn’t really matter. The story builds to a satisfying conclusion and there is a suitable level of darkness permeating the content to justify that first impression even if it isn’t the main goal.

Part of what helped develop the atmosphere of this anime was the direction. From early in the series we had some interesting angles and shots of characters constructing a slightly disconcerting and distorted view of the characters and world. While it isn’t every scene and many sequences are unremarkable, there were certainly enough sequences where we’d switch to point of view, or have various symbols such  as clocks or bars prominent within the scene, or use of light and shadow, to really make the viewing itself an experience.

That isn’t to say everything worked beautifully. One effect where the entire image swayed as if attached to the pendulum of the clock just kind of made me queasy and seemed all too much and other scenes felt a little on the nose or too blunt. However, when The Promised Neverland got it right, it was truly remarkable and memorable. The scene where Norman walked down the hall by himself to get some water was a wonderful display of direction to create atmosphere and to frame a character in a particular way. It gave the scene everything it needed to have it hit exactly the right emotional chord.

The Promised Neverland Episode 9 Norman

However, the real standout of this anime are the main characters. Emma, Ray and Norman are a fantastic trio who complement one another in a seemingly effortless manner. The interactions between them are always delightful and even if the characters seem older than their years in terms of their reasoning, they play their assigned role within the story well.

I’ve written a whole post about Emma as the beating heart of the story and she certainly deserved it. While the story is very much about the characters responding to circumstance, these characters, led by Emma, really elevate what essentially becomes a prison break story into something that is completing engrossing.

The Promised Neverland Episode 9

Each of these characters get their own development and story throughout this series and while there are some heavy question marks over the fate of one of them, it is an incredibly satisfying journey. There is a reveal for Ray that again, isn’t quite as well thought out as some of the other revelations, and potentially can lead to immersion breaking for the viewer, however it isn’t enough to take away from all of his excellent character moments prior to that so for me it wasn’t that big of a problem. Still, stepping back I might wish they’d just not included that (and I won’t say what it is because I’m trying to write this post as spoiler free as possible).

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Like the main trio, Isabella is an amazing character as the visual representation of the enemy in this story. She is the Mother of the house and she is smart and ruthless. While for the majority of the story she seems to be a passive observer, it is actually scarier how easily she seems to thwart the plans of the kids without even exerting much in the way of effort. I truly enjoyed her character during the Winter anime season and I wish we had more characters like her.

The Promised Neverland Episode 4 Mother and Sister Krone

That does though lead on to the character I liked the least, Sister Krone. She’s so over the top and all over the place as a character it is almost impossible to take any scene she is in seriously. Added to that her actions and interferences ultimately contribute to very little in terms of the overall plot and she just feels like a caricature that doesn’t fit within the narrative.

Even an episode devoted to a flash back o her life couldn’t make me all the sympathetic toward her or help me to really understand her overall motives in a way that would justify it. Of all the potential criticisms of The Promised Neverland, Krone would be the one that is most clearly an issue as she just doesn’t have enough anything to offset her ridiculousness at times.

The Promised Neverland Episode 3 Sister Krone

But, that is one character and one issue, and it isn’t enough to take the shine off the rest of this anime. You may have noticed I’m avoiding discussing the plot, and that’s mostly because it really is impossible to discuss without spoilers and it kind of is more fun going in without knowing. The kids need to escape from the house and Isabella is going to try to stop them. That’s the crux of the story developed this season and while there are larger events and world building that will lead on to events that I guess will be explored in the second season, it really isn’t needed in this story.

The Promised Neverland Episode 12 - Emma and Phil

If you want a nicely told story with a clear problem or hurdle to be overcome by the characters and you don’t mind a little bit of a slow burn to get there provided there’s some solid atmosphere, The Promised Neverland will deliver a very solid afternoon of entertainment and I highly recommend it.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 11

Tears and Tantrums Won’t Get The Job Done

Demon Slayer Episode 11

They aren’t going to let this broken leg thing go. In point of fact they are going to double down and deliberately bring it back up with Tanjiro explaining to Zenitsu that he won’t be able to fight at full strength because he has a broken leg. Points to Demon Slayer for having conviction but we’re going to have to deduct a few points for logic and common sense. Even in a fantasy about demon slaying I draw the line at seeing a character running around who claims to have a broken leg.

However, outside of the ongoing blunder that is the way this anime is choosing to deal with character injuries, the birds are utterly adorable. I kind of fell in love with Zenitsu’s sparrow, which is kind of a good thing given Zenitsu himself is an irritant on every level.

I don’t know. He’s one of those characters that from the minute they are introduced I loathe and just want him to die quickly and quietly off screen, but I kind of already know, given his presence in the OP and ED that he’s just not planning to go away. The crying and screaming, blubbering and instant turns to despair are all just hard to take and even if they are playing it for laughs it is missing the mark for me and just pushing me out of my comfortable enjoyment I was having with this show prior to now.

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But, so it isn’t all doom and gloom, Tanjiro and Zenitsu go on a mission together and find a house with a demon inside where a boy was apparently dragged in. The younger brother and sister waiting outside implore Tanjiro to rescue him and being a soft touch he agrees. However, even before we step foot inside the house we’re exposed to the horror within as a bleeding man leaps to his death from an upstairs window. It isn’t pretty but it is very effective at setting the tone for what is to come.

All and all this makes this episode very imbalanced as we swing between moments that are pretty awesome and then moments that threaten to break the immersion within the story. Hopefully Kimetsu no Yaiba can weather this rough patch and find its feet again because so far there’s been plenty to enjoy in this anime.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 10

Instant Protagonist Recovery

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 10 - Tanjiro
This is Demon Slayer’s version of victory.

Demon Slayer Episode 10

I just have to wonder how fast a broken leg and ribs can heal given Tanjiro goes from crawling on the ground unable to even grip his sword from exhaustion to walking down stairs and talking normally within the space of one demon dying. It really was the one thing that threw me right out of full immersion this episode but it left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth given the rest of the episode worked well enough at ending the fight.

Tanjiro was crawling on the ground just a minute ago and now, fine.

Again, we do have the extended flashback of the end of the last episode to start this episode. I’m just accepting that this anime is going to keep doing that and move on at this point. It is wasted screen time and will be worse when trying to binge watch given you will have literally just finished the last episode and be stuck rewatching, but whatever.

After that we swiftly move into the arrow demon having his last revenge against Tanjiro even as his body is disintegrating and it essentially becomes a battle of attrition. The question is whether or not Tanjiro can hold out and keep using his moves long enough or whether he will become exhausted and the demon’s attacks will smash him to pieces before the demon is gone.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - Demon head

It is one of those overly long and flashy fight sequences you get in shounen where you already know the outcome but the animation looks interesting enough and they are showing off lots of the sword forms so we’ll just kind of go with it.

The second demon, engages in a ball fight with Nezuko which also seems fairly pointless but is again fun enough to watch, before Tamayo casts one of her spells. Now the spell itself is pretty tame but it does loosen the demon’s lips enough that she actually says Kibutsuji’s name, at which point she freaks out and Tamayo points out that it is going to activate a curse. The more we learn about Kibutsuji the nastier he seems.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - Nezuko pats Yushiro

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This sequence does teach us a few things though. Firstly, the two demons weren’t part of the 12 whatevers, so the question becomes whether they were lying or whether they were deceived. We also learn that Kibutsuji has taken some fairly solid measures to protect himself against the demons he creates, which only makes sense really.

They almost made me feel sorry for the demon here.

This episode works well enough but essentially it is just wrapping up this encounter before sending Tanjiro on his way to the next one and I guess we’ll find out more about the cowardly demon slayer next week given Tanjiro is about to run into him.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 9

He’s Got Some Moves

Demon Slayer - Tanjiro attacks

Demon Slayer Episode 9

We may have slipped into even more standard shounen territory this week on Demon Slayer as the battle with the two demons extends the length of the episode and we end with the battle as yet unresolved. Not that it was bad. In fact, the fight has been pretty interesting so far and some of Tanjiro’s attacks are bordering on spectacular even if they’ve yet to actually do significant damage.

One criticism I will make of the episode is the amount of reused sequences. We get a flashback to them discussing collecting demon blood and a replay of a sequence within the same episode. Not to mention the opening sequence is essentially a replay of the end of the previous episode. While the new material we got looked great, there was definitely some padding in this episode that just didn’t sit right and definitely felt like a cost cutting measure.

However, petty criticisms aside, it was difficult not to get swept up in the fight this week. As Tanjiro, Nezuko, and the demon doctor and her body guard go from cowering from attacks and getting beaten down to moving onto the attack. Even knowing three out of the four of them are demons and can regenerate, there’s still substantial weight behind the situation as characters lose heads and limbs alike (though they are going to have to explain why losing his whole head didn’t kill him).

As for Tanjiro, he’s being pushed harder than ever before (not that previous battles have been easy). He’s pulling out all the moves he’s got and for once his sense of smell showing him the winning move didn’t decisively and more or less instantly end the battle. Equally, he hasn’t pulled out some new secret move or gotten a mysterious power up. He’s combining the skills he’s shown the audience he has in new ways to fight a foe more powerful than any he has faced and while he’s taken a battering he isn’t down yet.

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I do love the water effects when he’s fighting though. Early on it seemed a little odd and slightly intrusive, but honestly it is beautiful and makes his attacks so much more dynamic and interesting to watch. Plus they continue to change up how he uses these attacks allowing for a variety of appealing visuals.

Nezuko and Tanjiro - Demon Slayer

The fight goes on and while I am still hoping this doesn’t end up being the kind of show that drags on fights for episodes at a time, there’s very little to complain about in this episode other than the fact that the fight is yet to resolve and a little too much repetition in between spectacular attacks.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 8

Not All Demons Are Created Equal

Episode 8

After the dramatic conclusion to the last episode this episode hit the brakes pretty hard but that actually works out well. Rather than forcing a confrontation between Kibutsuji and Tanjiro 8 episodes in Tanjiro is held up holding down the newly turned demon and Kibutsuji walks away with his family. However, both know that isn’t the end of things.

I do find his family man act to be more chilling than when he is actually being a vicious demon and killing people.

The majority of the rest of the episode is Tanjiro collecting Nezuko from the udon shop and then sitting down for a talk with a demon who is apparently also a doctor and discussing the possibility of finding a cure provided Tanjiro is willing to help her collect demon blood. That could have been pretty dull except for the fact that prior to this we saw Kibutsuji losing his cool and slaughtering three humans who just happened to be walking along in an alley before he sends two demons after Tanjiro.

Also, the conversation was kept fairly interesting because of Nezuko. And no, she didn’t join in the conversation at all but throughout it she was lying on her back and kicking her legs in the air or holding tightly to Tanjiro’s hand. She was so adorable it was almost easy to forget she’s a demon who may have been brainwashed.

Cutest demon ever.

There were a few questions that I ended up with though. For instance, how does the demon doctor know that Nezuko slept for two years? It wasn’t really raised in the conversation and she didn’t indicate that she had any other information source so her pointing out Nezuko’s unique traits as a demon didn’t make a lot of sense prior to having a chance to actually examine her.

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That one might just end up being a hole in the story but the other question I had was about Kibutsuji’s flashback to an exorcist wearing the same earrings as Tanjiro. We hadn’t been given any indication prior that his earrings were anything significant but it now seems like maybe there’s some history. In which case, wouldn’t Tanjiro have known more about demons? Or maybe there’s a bunch of stuff we’re missing at the moment.

Oh yes, these two.

Anyway, the episode ends again on a cliff-hanger which is pretty standard for Demon Slayer at this point and fairly standard for shounen in general so I guess we’ll see what happens next week with the demons who’ve shown up to attack. Then again, if the doctor lady wants demon blood it looks like two donors have literally just dropped in to her house.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 7

The Face of a Villain

I think I could do almost anything for that smile.

Episode 7

That was a beautiful escalation at the end of episode 7 of Demon Slayer. This anime is definitely racing but that is more to the benefit as I am constantly caught up in what is happening and never have time to get bored or even feel things are just kind of meandering.

The majority of this episode is finishing off the fight from last week but even that has a few key parts. Tanjiro decides to have Nezuko protect the boy and the rescued girl while he goes into the swamp to fight the demon. The underwater fight is interesting though over fairly abruptly. Realistically, eventually we’re going to have to see Tanjiro not be able to use a move or a demon will have to avoid it otherwise this is going to get a little tedious.

 Meanwhile, Nezuko has a much more dynamic fight with the one remaining demon on the surface. Considering she doesn’t eat people she’s putting up one excellent fight but eventually the demon gets the upper hand. This fight is a lot more thrilling even if Tanjiro’s return and intervention is a foregone conclusion.

Once again though, Tanjiro doesn’t finish the kill straight away. He’s pretty determined to get answers and now he’s got the name of the demon he’s supposed to be finding, Muzan Kibutsuji. However, the demon he’s interrogating first turns to putty at the mention of the name and then does a kamikaze attack and its all over.

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This fight sequence is solid, progresses the story while showing us how Tanjiro is going to go dealing with demons, as well as how Nezuko is going to factor in, and it is just fun with no part really lingering too long. The farewell to the boy gets a little sappy and then we’re off to the next mission, straight away.

I loved seeing Tanjiro’s reaction to the city.

And then we get to the end of the episode where Tanjiro catches the scent of a demon and I was very surprised by how quickly this all happened and yet I absolutely loved how this episode ended. Really looking forward to seeing what happens at the start of the next episode.

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What Demon Slayer Has Been Getting Right, and What It Has Gotten Wrong

Friday's Feature

I’ve had a bit of a rocky history with typical shounen anime. While I am most definitely a fan of Bleach, and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood worked a treat, most of the other big names never struck a chord with me and a lot of the standard protagonists make me wince (or in the case of Asta from Black Clover they make me hurriedly reach for the mute button before finally walking away). In that sense, it is no wonder that I originally approached Demon Slayer or Kimetsu no Yaiba with a little bit of wariness.

Seven episodes in to the anime, even if my review of episode 7 has yet to be published, and I’m really happy with my choice to watch it. That doesn’t mean the story won’t go off the rails, become bogged down in side-missions or character developments that make no sense, or generally leave me wanting to walk away further down the track. Nor does it mean that Demon Slayer has nailed every aspect of its story and characters. To be honest, there’s plenty that’s pretty easy to criticise without getting into the nitty-gritty.

However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Demon Slayer has been a lot of fun to watch.

So before the story decides to tie itself in convoluted knots or the protagonist decides to become so overpowered that the story lacks any tension, or so whiny that I can’t handle them anymore, I decided to look at these first seven episodes a little more closely and really think about what Demon Slayer has gotten right. Largely because I am really enjoying watching it. But likewise I want to think about those aspects of the story and characters that are less admirable because for some this anime is another swing and a miss and there’s reasons why it won’t work for everyone.

That said, clearly there are spoilers for the first seven episodes here if you haven’t watched them. However as I have no knowledge of this series outside of the anime, please refrain from throwing any thing that hasn’t been revealed in the anime into the comments.

Starting with the pacing of the anime, viewers will immediately divide on whether or not Demon Slayer has good pacing. I’ll be clear, I love it. In seven episodes we’ve had the angsty back-story and the initial crisis that has spurred our hero into action, gained a mentor, completed a gruelling training sequence, taken on a test, achieved the goal of becoming an actual demon slayer and completed the first mission as a demon slayer. Plus, we’ve already met a character who has kind of been set-up as the ‘big bad’ or potential nemesis, though perhaps this is just a red-herring (though given the artwork for this series I kind of doubt it).

Demon Slayer - Kimetsu no Yaiba - artwork
Yeah, we’ve got the dark and creepy figure looming behind the heroes – seems like he’d be the villain.

That’s a huge amount of ground to cover and if we compared this to Bleach it is incredibly fast paced. I mean, the ‘big bad’ wasn’t even in our field of view until season two in Bleach and the reveal didn’t come until near the end of season three and the whole getting a mentor and training took a long, long time. Full Metal Alchemist wasn’t as drawn out but even there it didn’t cover this much ground so quickly.

Now, if we were just being catapulted forward without any way of orientating ourselves or without any kind of decent character work in a rush to cover plot this pace would be a huge negative. But, this is where being reasonably generic and treading a well known path helps. The plot isn’t confusing or baffling in any way. We know this story. Everyone knows this story. These opening events have been presented to us in a thousand different ways right from the earliest of children’s stories. The audience can follow this, even at this pace, and it means long exposition isn’t needed as we move through each sequence because we mostly have known what the next step is going to be.

In amongst the events Demon Slayer has sprinkled sufficient character development for Tanjiro, our protagonist. He isn’t growing in leaps and bounds, but we’ve learned of his quiet determination, his compassion, and resolve. We see his love for his sister, his desire to get stronger, and the weird quirk with his sense of smell which I’ll get back to soon.

Outside of Tanjiro and his sister Nezuko, very few characters have gained any real screen time or exploration, but that’s fine. We’re setting up this hero and this pair right now and with events driving forward as they are I’m not sure I wanted to spend ten episodes getting to know the wizened mentor for him to simply see them on their way again. The time he got was enough to set up his relationship with the pair.

So for me the pacing has been spot on. It is moving quickly enough that I’m not even slightly bored or wanting things to move along. I don’t feel like any fight or conversation has lingered too long. The few points I’d like to know more about I’m confident enough will eventually get their time so for now I’m happy to wait. I really feel this story has found the right speed for what it has tried to accomplish.

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That does bring me to the next point though and that is Tanjiro as the protagonist. Honestly, while we’ve learned enough about him that he serves the plot well enough, to call him a strong protagonist would be a lie. He’s largely being swept along by one event to the next and while he is determined to achieve his goals it doesn’t really feel like he’s driving this story.

When his family are killed he coincidentally runs into a demon slayer who sends him to a mentor. The mentor trains him but sets him an impossible task to avoid him taking the final test. The test has him encounter a demon that knows his mentor who targets him. The demon slayers send him on the mission that has him encounter a demon before sending him to the city where we end episode 7. While at no point does Tanjiro give up or surrender, other than the decision to hunt demons the vast majority of events have kind of happened to him and he’s had to react or deal.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 1

He also doesn’t have a particularly strong presence. I’ll admit, his compassion toward others, including demons, is probably a defining trait of his and one I quite appreciate in this kind of story, but outside of that I’d be reaching to really note any other traits. He’s protective of family and a hard worker but really we know little of Tanjiro as a person and only real know Tanjiro the guy the plot keeps pushing around. While there’s plenty of time to develop him, when you think about Ichigo, Edward, Gon, or so many other shounen protagonists they have so much more presence and features that really stand out.

Tanjiro has a sense of smell.

You know this because we’ve been told, again and again and the plot has found various ways, some more contrived than others, to bring Tanjiro’s sense of smell into relevance. I’ll admit, his use of it while fighting the demon in episode 6 was quite effective and visually kind of awesome, but at other times, like when choosing the ore, you just have to wonder what the point was and whether there’s something missing from the anime or whether they intend to fill in the details later.

That and his smelling the winning blow in a fight is just plain ridiculous no matter how you want to slice it.

But while we’re looking at things the anime is telling rather than showing, or shoving into the story rather than letting naturally develop, the introduction of Muzan Kibutsuji needs to be mentioned as a counter point.

Muzan Kibutsuji - Demon Slayer

There are very few anime that could claim such a solid introduction to a character and regardless of what mis-steps the anime has made and may make, episode 7’s end has bought Demon Slayer a lot of goodwill from me.

First we were given a name by the mentor. A name of a demon that can make other demons that Tanjiro will clearly have to eventually track down and deal with in his quest to save his sister. It is a little trite and fairly standard for this sort of story and yet it sets the scene for what happens next.

Tanjiro fights his first demon as a demon slayer and instead of delivering the killing blow interrogates him about the location of the demon Muzan Kibutsuji.

The demon responds by refusing to speak and completely freaking out before blindly attack Tanjiro and getting cut down. The demon knew it would be killed at that moment but it gave the audience the impression that being sliced and killed by a demon slayer was preferable to what Muzan Kibutsuji would do if the demon betrayed him. That’s a powerful first impression and it is the first thing that audience really know of this demon outside of his name. It is simple and yet very affective.

Buffy - I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about.

What surprised me was that Tanjiro then ran into said demon on his next mission. Despite the fast pace of events I honestly didn’t expect it so soon but it was a really brilliant introduction.

Everything about Muzan Kibutsuji is menacing and off-putting, including the presence of a human daughter and wife (maybe).

With only one line Muzan sends chills down our spines, and it isn’t even a threat, yet.

With a simple action Muzan proves exactly what he is capable of doing and leaves Tanjiro mostly open mouthed in shock and frozen as he does not know how to respond to the developing situation.

In this sense, Tanjiro really reflects the audience as this came so quick and hit so hard we’ve hardly had time to get our feet underneath us.

Sure, things may go south from here, but watching episode 7 was a delight. The standard demon fight conclusion that began it was entertaining, even if there are some questionable choices about Tanjiro entering the swamp going on. The progress from the end of that fight to the end of the episode was spot on and really made me sit up and pay attention.

Demon Slayer isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. But it is getting a lot right and at the very least it is finding a way to enter an already crowded field and make its presence felt. Whether it ends up staying the distance and leaving a lasting impression will remain to be seen but this opening salvo is nothing to sneeze at.

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