The Promised Neverland Anime – Season 1 Thoughts and Reflections
My wife and I just finished binge-watching the second half of The Promised Neverland‘s first season of the anime. It was an incredible show with an expertly designed pace that kept you engaged and hooked in until the final moments and revelations.
***Here lies a spoiler warning. If you have not watched The Promised Neverland season 1, DO NOT KEEP READING. PLEASE GO WATCH IT NOW. DON’T SPOIL YOURSELF, IT IS TOO GOOD.***
Alright. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.
Prepare for lots of unorganized rambling.
The series had been recommended to me multiple times by a few different friends. I had seen a bit of artwork for it a few months back and I’ve been distantly interested ever since. Finally, having finished Attack on Titan season 3 (part 1) a few days earlier, I decided one late night that it was time to start The Promised Neverland.
*Sidebar: I am writing this at 5:46 in the morning, having not slept at all yet. My sleeping habit features far too many “late nights”…
…And I seem to have passed on those awesome features to my children. So, of course, my daughter Ellie was watching with me. The three main characters — Emma, Norman, and Ray — are incredibly easy to fall in love with. Emma’s bright orange hair reflects her bursting personality and her loving, shonen-style eccentricity. Norman’s snow-white hair symbolizes his purity and goodness, as well as the fact that he is quite special. Ray, in stark contrast, has dark black hair that hangs down to cover half his face, foreshadowing the secrets he holds close, specifically two secrets that are revealed at midway through and then at the end of the season.
But, back to episode one. Everything is going perfectly fine at the orphanage, a ball of childish anime-sunshine, until the cutest little girl, Conny, is adopted by a foster family. She says a tearful goodbye and Mom walks her out of the house to her new life. When it is discovered that she has left her stuffed animal, her most prized possession, Norman and Emma chase after her and discover the secret of the orphanage.
It is not an orphanage at all. It is a human-farm, raising prime meat for demons in a world controlled by those monsters.
Norman, being the genius that he is, knows that they need to act normal and plan meticulously in order to escape. They set about making preparations, investigating, recruiting other children and maneuvering through mental showdowns that rival, or perhaps even exceed, scenes from the first half (the better half) of Death Note.
They love to give the viewer just enough information to know something is up, but they save the reveal until after the moment of its importance has come. It succeeds without a hitch every time. With each twist and turn, especially as the season progressed toward its end, I sat with my eyes glued to the TV and my mouth hanging open.
Ray being the traitor was the first moment that reeeeally sucked me in.
The show had been very interesting and pretty cool up to that point, but that was a big deal. Ray was the traitor all along? But he really did it to save Norman and Emma? Could he even really be trusted at this point? My wife still thought something was off with Ray until late in the season.
Emma was an open book and Norman was at least reliably righteous, even if he did hide his plans at times. Ray was a very pivotal character, and it really added to the tension of the story.
Of course, Emma is your traditional shonen main character with unbreakable and irrational optimism, the type that you can’t help but love. If only we could all be people like Emma, right? I loved and rooted for her, sure, but the real interesting sauce to this series was the dynamic of the minds.
Ray vs. Norman
Norman vs. Mom
Mom vs. Sister Krone
Sister Krone vs. Ray
Ray vs. Mom
And they all intertwined as each player made their moves, and the consequences unfolded.
The children would eventually succeed, at least for the time being, but not without paying a heavy cost.
Norman, in a Jesus-like show of grace and peace in the midst of death, sacrificed himself so that the rest of them could have the time they needed to carry out their plan to escape successfully. And actually, they carry out his plan. With his last moments in the farm, he writes down how everything should go down, even predicting Ray’s similar suicide-attempt the night before he is to be shipped out to the demons. Norman, the only one lost since Conny, still was able to outmaneuver Mom in the end and allow many of the children to escape.
Now, Norman’s death.
Do I think he’s really dead? No. I don’t.
They never showed him with a flower growing from his heart. They never showed him dead. I cannot believe that a show so meticulously planned would leave that out to give us false hope, especially when they try so hard to diminish our hope in other ways: Emma and Ray’s reactions, Norman’s “ghost” or “spiritual influence” — they are trying so hard to say, “Look, Norman is gone, stop looking for him to come back,” that I think they are almost certainly setting up for his return in the future.
That all being said, him dying really, really sucked. Not seeing him for the last couple episodes sucked. Seeing everyone so sad — seeing Emma so depressed and horrified when he left — reeeeally sucked. It’s been one of the only narrative experiences to rival Ned Stark’s death in Game of Thrones for me, where I kept saying, “No way! He’s coming back! He’s the main character!!”
But he never did.
But, I think The Promised Neverland will give me both sides of the coin. The dread when he still hasn’t shown up and season 1 has come to its end, and the joy and relief when he finally returns.
Maybe I’m setting myself up for failure. But, I hope not.
My last big thoughts are on Ray being Mom’s actual son. That is crazy. It was one of the many moments of the show where I thought to myself, “What kind of psychotic, awesome, demon-possessed, super-creative person thought of this mess?” The song that played, the animation, the composition of it all — it was all a beautiful
How horrible. Mom, having her spirits crushed as a child on the farm herself, to see her own son going through the same kind of torture, and having the cognitive dissonance to put it all to the side and really believe she was loving the children. How horrible, for Mom and Ray and Emma and seemingly every human on the planet.
Except, not every human.
Which is where we look at when the show briefly touched on its namesake: the Promised Neverland.
They find the vaguest of clues hidden in books in their library, an owl mark on books formerly owned by someone now known as Minerva. Emma, Norman, and Ray view them as a potential safe-haven for humans in a demon-controlled world.
Hopefully, for all of their sakes, they are right.
Anyways that is about it.
I LOVED the show and would highly recommend it to everyone! It gave me tons of Death Note vibes, which is a SUPREME compliment, with an awesome jazzy soundtrack, and a story with your typical shonen optimism set in a world that really made you question said optimism.
This is the perfect way to showcase that shonen bravado, by actually convincing the viewer that the heroes could lose.
I hated it. But I LOVED it.
Please, if you haven’t, go watch the show now. Also, I shame you with the shame of a thousand wagging fingers for reading this far having not watched.
Still, go watch it.
You won’t regret it.