As one of the most highly anticipated anime horror shows of the year, The Promised Neverland has been an experience brimming with tension. Now that the show has just hit its halfway point in the season, this month’s Anime Horrors will take a look at the progression of the anime so far and how it is shaping up.
The Promised Neverland takes place at an orphanage and follows three protagonists named Emma, Norman, and Ray. These three protagonists, all the age of 11, live at the orphanage with other children; their caretaker, who the children refer to as “Mom,” showers them with joy and care. Between warm cooked meals, time to play, and regularly scheduled tests they are scored on, the children live happy lives. The only major rule they must obey is that they are not allowed near the gate outside the orphanage; the gate is part of a giant wall that surrounds the land the orphanage is on.
During a scene where the children are taking a test, chatter among them provides insight to the skills of our three main characters; we learn that Norman is a genius, that Ray is also very intellectual, and that Emma is the athletic one with a strong ability to learn fast. We see Emma and Norman’s skills in the form of playing tag; while Emma can move quickly and jump high to evade Norman, he can outsmart and tag her when he’s “it.”
In episode one, a younger child named Conny is leaving the orphanage. After she says her goodbyes to everyone, her and Mom begin walking towards the gate, the latter humming a creepy tune. Cleaning the kitchen area, Emma finds Conny’s plush bunny; her and Norman decide to run after Conny and make sure she gets it. As they come upon the gate, they only find a truck, but no sign of Conny or Mom. Emma eventually discovers Conny’s dead body in the back of the truck, her eyes empty and her skin gray. They hear voices nearby and decide to hide underneath the truck. Demons appear before them, speaking about how the children are meant to be sold to the rich as food. It is revealed later on how children are picked and shipped out; based on a child’s age and test scores, a system is in place to determine the ripeness of a child’s brain (which is what the demons enjoy eating).
To add to their shock, they see Mom interacting with the demons; finding the opportunity to escape, the two return to the orphanage, confronting the fact that they are essentially livestock on a farm. Our main characters then begin working on a plan to leave the orphanage and take all the children with them.
The first episode does a great job setting up our cast, the personalities of the three main characters, and the narrative that is to play out. Emma, Norman, and Ray are sincerely likable, offering fun and quirky personalities. As each episode moves forward, the children develop their strategy and prepare everyone to escape the farm. They decide to use the game of tag as a means to train the younger children, teaching them to strengthen their bodies and how to evade being caught.
So far, The Promised Neverland hasn’t gone to extreme lengths to present anything “horrifying” (outside the discovery of Conny’s dead body). Upon first finding her corpse, as well as a nightmare Emma has, Conny is drawn in a ghastly manner; her limp body and gray tone are chilling in appearance. In the moments where the show does aim to portray an aura of creepiness, the animation displays darker shades of shadowing, along with ominous music.
One of the show’s best qualities is the emotional bond shared between the children; Emma’s determination to save everyone makes for a great driving point in rooting for them all to succeed. The other excellent element of the show is its suspense; like Death Note, The Promised Neverland plays more off the cat and mouse game between the three main characters and Mom. At the end of episode one, Emma and Norman accidentally leave Conny’s plush bunny under the truck (which Mom discovers). Coming into episode two, she begins to suspect that the older children are aware of the secret behind the farm. As Emma, Norman, and Ray plot out the details in escaping, they strive to remain normal in the eyes of Mom; even though they suspect that she is onto them, they cover their tracks for the most part. The plot thickens when our main characters learn that each child has been implanted with a tracking device for Mom to keep an eye on them. The latter eventually decides to hire an assistant (Sister Krone), who adds an extra layer of complexity to everyone’s problems; not only is Krone a threat to the children, but she also wants to betray “Mom” and claim her status.
The plotting can drag on at times, but thankfully, the show drops satisfying twists to revamp engagement. These twists come in the form of Emma and Norman discovering clues behind the farm, as well as the small discoveries they and viewers uncover regarding the outside world. The land outside the farm is unknown to our main cast; when Emma tries to look over the wall surrounding the farm, all she can see are trees. Norman hypothesizes that the world outside must be a demon’s world, which concerns him as to how the children will survive on the outside. Towards the latter end of the season’s first half, a hint reveals that the children may have an ally on the outside (but so far there are no greater details).
The Promised Neverland is off to a good start; my primary hope is that the game of cat and mouse intensifies and there is more creepy imagery. As one of the brand new shows of 2019, The Promised Neverland is full of intriguing possibilities. Thanks to likable characters, a mysterious world, and other unknown elements, it’ll be fascinating to see how season one concludes.
Expect a full review of The Promised Neverland once season one wraps up.