Every once in a while, I would check out an anime series that’s outside of what I would normally watch, which is usually action shonen. Yes, I am that basic. I do this to expand my palette and not get bored of watching the same thing. That’s something I think every anime fan should do, whether they’re a casual or a hardcore fanatic. Today’s subject is an anime adaptation of a manga written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu. This is The Promised Neverland.
Three 11 year old kids named Emma, Norman, and Ray live in an orphanage with 35 other kids under the care of Isabella, who the kids call their Mom. But things aren’t what they appear to be on the surface as the orphanage is actually a farm where the kids are livestock and are food for demons. Now, the three kids must calculate a plan to escape the farm. I didn’t know what to expect from this anime. I’ve heard people say it was dark and while it isn’t exactly grimdark, it’s still a pretty intense thriller with its fair share of twists.
Those three you see above are our protagonists of our story. Emma is the bright, optimistic one who gets along with everyone. Ray (left) is more skeptical and isn’t as optimistic as Emma. Those two would clash over the number of kids they could save with Emma wanting to save everyone while Ray suggesting that only a few will survive. Norman is somewhere in the middle and is the smartest of the three. Hell, all three of these kids are geniuses beyond their years. The main antagonist of the season is their Mom Isabella. At first, she seems like the kindest lady in the world, but underneath that smile is a cunning, manipulative foe who’s two steps ahead of the kids. She finds out that the kids are planning to escape and assures them that there is no escape. Throughout most of the name, I disliked Isabella because of how two-faced she was, but she winds up being sympathetic by the final episode strangely enough.
Let’s talk about Sister Krone and a really big problem in the series. I’ve seen a few blogposts talk about this and I’ll add my two cents to the conversation. Sister Krone’s appearance looks like an overblown, borderline racist caricature of a black woman, more specifically, the mammy archetype: messy hair, huge nose and lips, and a bulky body shape compared to the more dainty Isabella. The anime toned things down a bit compared to the the manga, which…
I get what they were trying to do with this character, present someone who’s creepy and isn’t completely right in the head, but also more sympathetic, especially when she dies in episode 8. But did they really have to go to the bottom of the barrel for this where the only black character in the show is portrayed as beastly and inhuman? This is a problem because there’s VERY little black characters in anime and manga due to Japan’s homogenous population and the fact that the only knowledge of black people that they have comes from what’s portrayed in American media, which hasn’t done a great job at portraying black folks. This is why it’s important that we control our own narratives so that we get less shit like above and half of the black characters that do exist. There are still great black characters in anime/manga: Yoruichi from Bleach, Killer B from Naruto, Canary from Hunter x Hunter, Michiko from Michiko & Hatchin, Dutch from Black Lagoon, Avdol from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Afro Samurai, etc. At this point, with the Internet, there is no excuse for this shit.
Well, they always say that a first impression is everything and boy, does The Promised Neverland leave one hell of a first impression. For the most part, it seems all nice and cute with the kids’ daily routine. Then, one of them, Conny, is sent away for adoption. Emma and Norman realized that she left her stuffed toy behind, so they head out to the front gate where they find…
Like I said, one hell of a first impression. The rest of the series is our three protagonists coming up with a strategy to escape. This is not an action-heavy anime like most shonen. I’d compare this more to Death Note where it’s a battle of wits instead of an exchange of fists. Challenges include a traitor within their ranks (who’s revealed to be Ray), Isabella knowing about their plans, and a major setback in episode 8 involving Isabella breaking Emma’s leg and Norman being shipped out on the next day. Cut to the 12th and final episode and all of the kids ages five and up escape, deciding to let the younger ones stay behind. I do wish we could’ve learned more about the world outside of the orphanage, especially the demons part, but I have a feeling that they will address that in future seasons. One last thing, the opening song slaps. It was made by the same people behind Odd Future, which was used in My Hero Academia.
And that was The Promised Neverland. While it does drag a bit in the middle and there’s some problematic elements related to one character, I did like this anime. It has some nice animation, some great dialogue, it’s funny at times, it’s sad at times, and it definitely has you on the edge of your seat. I can’t wait to see more of this when the second season comes out next year. I do recommend checking this one out. It’s available on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu and it’s currently airing on Toonami. Next time, I’ll talk about what I consider to be the best anime of all time: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.