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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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- The Promised Neverland Series Review
- Episode 1: The Promised Neverland’s First Episode Promises Much, Will It Deliver?
- Episode 2: Why Emma’s Lack of Compromise is Both Foolish and Brilliant
- Episode 3: How a Simple game Can Become Ominous
- Episode 4: The Best Way To Catch A Liar…
- Episode 5: The Friend of My Enemy Is… Maybe a Useful Information Source
- Episode 6: The Promise of a Traitor Times 2
- Episode 7: Playing With Fire (Or Trying to Deal With Sister Krone)
- Episode 8: After Making Us Wait, The Promised Neverland Is Going To Deliver
- Episode 9: The Promised Neverland Promises Yet More Pain
- Episode 10: Where to Without The Promise of Tomorrow?
- Episode 11: Someone Tell Ray That Self-Immolation Is Not A Plan
- Episode 12: The Great Escape
- Images from: The Promised Neverland. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2019.