Promised Neverland, The

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2019-2021). Original title Yakusoku no Neverland. Based on the Manga by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu. CloverWorks. Directed by Mamoru Kanbe. Written by Toshiya Ono and Kaiu Shirai. Voice cast includes Nao Fujita, Mariya Ise, Yuko Kaida, Shin'ichirō Kamio, Hiyori Kono, Sumire Morohoshi, Ari Ozawa, Atsumi Tanezaki and Maaya Uchida. 23 23-minute episodes. Colour.

In 2045 (see Near Future) at an idyllic Pastoral orphanage, the children are raised by Isabella (Kaida), their loving "Mama". The orphans regularly sit exams, with three eleven year olds, boisterous but caring Emma (Morohoshi), cool headed Norman (Uchida) and cynical Ray (Ise), being the smartest – save perhaps for Phil (Kono), aged four. The children will leave by the time they are twelve, though none ever write after leaving: distracted because they are "having so much fun", suggests one orphan. Each child (and Isabella) has a number tattooed on their neck.

When six-year-old Conny (Ozawa) leaves, taken to the orphanage gate by Isabella, Emma and Norman notice she has left her toy bunny behind and rush to take it to her. At the gates they find a truck: Emma looks in the back and discovers Conny's dead body. The drivers and Isabella return, the pair hide and watch two Monsters put Conny in a glass jar, complaining how such expensive food is only affordable to the rich.

Realizing their world is not as it seemed (see Conceptual Breakthrough) Norman and Emma, with Ray, plan an escape. Isabella, suspecting the truth is known, brings in a helper, Sister Krone (Fujita), who sees the situation as a way to advance herself. However, Isabella has her fed to a monster – though not before Krone has passed important information to the trio. It seems Isabella has won: Norman is taken away, presumed killed, whilst Emma and Ray appear broken. But by the end of Season One the house is aflame and Emma, Ray and those children over four have escaped; though, like us, they know virtually nothing of the world into which they have fled.

The monsters are called "Demons" by the children; Krone refers to them as "they". Their origins are as yet vague. Flashbacks to Isabella and Krone's early lives earns them some audience sympathy: their Intelligence offered them a cut-throat opportunity for survival, employed as farmers of children. Isabella is a scarily efficient antagonist: "This is the first time talking to you without the acting. Nice to meet you Emma. Nice to meet you Norman."

Though Krone's depiction has some problematic elements and the children are remarkably capable for their age, the first season of The Promised Neverland was one of the strongest Anime of recent years, permeated with dread and foreboding (see Horror in SF) and focusing more on character than action. The anime reworking of the Manga storyline leaves out some interesting material, such as its Satire of the Japanese educational system, particularly for girls. A second season is to be broadcast in 2020.

The second season has the escapees meeting Mujika (Tanezaki) and Sonju (Kamio), a pair of demons who refuse to eat humans for religious reasons. They explain the world was once bigger, with demons and humans hunting each other: then a thousand years ago the world was divided in two, one part for demons – who were allowed to retain some humans as livestock – and the other for humans. At the Orphanage the group had found a piece of Technology they now discover can locate a door to this human world.

They are eventually reunited with Norman, who was taken to an experimental laboratory where he organized an escape. Here he had learnt that a demon's form depends on its diet, thus explaining the similarity of most of them, including their society, to humans; furthermore, using the laboratory's resources, he had developed a Drug that causes demons to degenerate and plans to use it on them all. However Emma, who has developed some empathy for demons, wants to find a peaceful resolution: this is achieved, as Emma and Ray remember Mujika and Sonju do not eat people, yet are very human. It turns out Mujika is several centuries old and her blood prevents degeneration: the demon nobles considered this a threat to their power, so she went into hiding.

The first season covered chapters 1-37 of the manga; the second 38-181. The consequences of this uneven division shape the fans' response to the second season – to generalize, those who had read the manga usually disliked it, complaining of important chapters unused and rearrangements to the story; those who had not were more likely to have enjoyed it. Certainly it lacks the weight of foreboding that hung over the first season and helped make it a minor classic – though, taken on its own merits, the second season is still good, despite relying on a couple of unconvincing plot points and being less memorable. [SP]

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