By King Ether | @_kingether | 5:30 PM EST, Tues., April 9, 2019
“Surrounded by a forest and a gated entrance, the Grace Field House is inhabited by orphans happily living together as one big family, looked after by their “Mama,” Isabella. Although they are required to take tests daily, the children are free to spend their time as they see fit, usually playing outside, as long as they do not venture too far from the orphanage—a rule they are expected to follow no matter what. However, all good times must come to an end, as every few months, a child is adopted and sent to live with their new family… never to be heard from again. However, the three oldest siblings have their suspicions about what is actually happening at the orphanage, and they are about to discover the cruel fate that awaits the children living at Grace Field, including the twisted nature of their beloved Mama.” –Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland) Synopsis (Written by My Anime List)
The idea of a place where you don’t grow up into an adult world sounds like heaven to most children. That’s why Disney’s Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland became so popular to both kids and adults who enjoyed the fictional story of the hero Peter Pan, as well as the other protagonist, Wendy Darling, and her brothers. CloverWorks’ Japanese manga turned anime series “The Promised Neverland” took this concept and put their own dark twist on it. The Promised Land television series adaptation premiered this past January to March of 2019.
The Promised Neverland started great and got better as the debut season premiered. While not going into too much detail, every piece of the show from the visual artistry to the audio production did a good job working together to add more weight in each second of run time. The show opens with what you would expect in a show that has “Neverland” in the title: Happiness. There seems to be nothing, but good times in this orphanage house with a surprising amount of land. That illusion is quickly short-lived as the main characters Emma, the typical happy shonen protagonist, and Norman, an intelligent and caring child, find out that all is not what it seems. The show does a fantastic job of giving just enough information to keep you interested while still remaining a total mystery. It’s very parallel to show gruesome violence. The fact that you only see what the kids see and it doesn’t build much on the world around them gives you enough clues that make you want to learn more. By the end, the show didn’t bother to give viewers answers to many of the questions one might have had asked. The show’s intentions I believe wasn’t to answer lingering questions, but in turn, was something I didn’t find myself bothered by. With it all said and done, I felt satisfied with how the season ended.
The art in the series is very unique. With it being different, not everyone will have the same opinion on this I’m sure. For me, the slightly, deformed look of the characters threw me off at first, but after a while, I found myself enjoying the art style of the original character designer, Posuka Demizu. Her art really helped emphasize the moods of the characters…whether that be from happiness to pure terror. The visuals also really helped immerse me into their world. I was on the edge of my seat when the characters themselves were figuratively on the edge of their seat.
Since the animation was unique to the series, it made scenes with a lot of fast moment, such as running through the forest, look really good. Another observation was that every character all looked very different from one another. The main characters look really fit them all in terms of presentation. From Emma’s bright, orange hair, which fit her happy personality, to Ray’s Black hair matching his Sasuke-like demeanor. While the computer-generated imagery (CGI) looked good, it showed up in the last seconds of the show. This didn’t make much sense to me since that was the scene that would take the least amount of effort to draw out animation-wise.
CloverWorks studio hit it out of the park with their voice acting selections. I didn’t feel myself being taken out of the immersion of the story by bad voice acting. Mariya Ise, who has worked in shows such as Fairy Tail and Code Geass, was slightly better than her peers for her portrayal of Ray, as I felt that it was a match made in heaven. I enjoyed the selection of “Touch Off” by UVERworld, as it helped set the mood for the show and was overall a good song in general. Especially in the tense moments, the background songs helped enrich the mood of the scenes. In particular, I found myself sweating with my heart beating fast along with the characters in those tight situations.
Every character that had a decent amount of screen time felt alive. The three main characters, Ray, Norman and, Emma, besides being drastically different in terms of looks, all were different in personality. Norman stands out as the character I enjoyed the most because of the way he logically thought and definitely cemented himself as a character that I won’t easily forget. While the main characters had their personal strengths and weakness, the character that shined the brightest was the caretaker of the kids: The Mom. Their humanization was something that by the end of the 12th episode, I found myself empathizing with them.
The Promised Neverland is a show I think everyone can enjoy. This show has replay-ability based on the characters alone and being able to see their growth was fantastic. The show could be easily compared to the abstract strategy game of “Go” with both sides attacking and counter-attacking. I think this show might even make into other peoples’ top 10 animes of all-time. As of right now, it is one of the top shows from this past winter season.
The Promised Neverland hits every point just right. I felt fully immersed in the story. I was in that house with the kids trying to make sure we worked towards solving the problem. This show told its story very well and made it enjoyable to watch. Every single episode was fantastic and got better as time went on.
King Ether is your everyday nerd just trying to write about the things he loves in life. You can find him streaming on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/king_ether.