The Promised Neverland is a 2019 anime based on the manga of the same name (2015-2020) . Anime, like the original source, quickly became popular due to its unusual story, high-quality directing and interesting storytelling. The cartoon tells about the life of children under 12 years old, first in an orphanage, and then in a cruel world infested with demons. The anime series begins with the characters of The Promised Neverland learning the truth about the orphanage: they are raised to feed the demons, and the orphanage is just a farm to grow them as a commodity. They decide to run away.
The story of creation
The Promised Neverland manga is written by Shirai Kaiyu and illustrated by Posuka Demizdo. It was published in the magazine “Wickly Shounen Jump” in 2015-2020, quickly won the sympathy of the audience and received many awards, so the anime adaptation was only a matter of time. A film adaptation was announced in 2018 under Clover Works , also known as A 1 Pictures .
The studio coped with its task with high quality – although the drawing is not very expensive, but the directing and character design is done at the proper level. For example, Emma is drawn as a red-haired fidget, familiar to fans, with the usual anime curl on the top of her head. That is why she contrasts even more strongly with her mother Isabella, collected and, it seems, ideal. Until a certain time.
Anime has gained such popularity not least because of its direction – where in the manga you need to show a mother’s assistant watching the children from around the corner, in the anime it is enough to show only a second frame from her face.
It is also noticeable that the authors were inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock – for example, the effect of vertigo (dizziness).
The soundtrack is of very high quality. When the dead girl Connie is shown in the first episode, the horror is not so much the picture as the sound effect. The music for the anime was written by Takahiro Obata, and here he clearly did his best. The main theme of the first season called “Isabella’s Lullaby” plays on the strings of the viewer’s soul, breaking him into tears at least in the finale of the first season.
We will talk more about the symbolism of this song and its meaning for the heroine herself, for the children and for the viewer, below in the review.
Speaking of music, one cannot fail to mention the so-called openings and endings – songs from the opening and closing credits. The opening of the first season was written by the group UVERworld and makes us viewers not skip it, but after watching the anime, continue to hum the theme from this song. The endings are sung by another singer, and you won’t want to miss any of them after hearing at least once.
It is impossible not to mention the context of the release of this anime. By the spring of 2019 (and that’s when the title began to come out), the anime industry was overwhelmed with low-quality assembly line works, consisting mainly of isekai (literally “another world”) or, in English, hitmen. Then Neverland became like a breath of fresh air for the audience.
How many seasons and episodes
The Promised Neverland has two seasons. There are 12 episodes in the first season, 11 are planned in the second. By March 2021, the entire first season and 9 episodes of the second were released.
The third season has not been announced, most likely the second season will be the last.
The main characters of the animated series The Promised Neverland are three – Emma, Norman and Ray. They live in an orphanage called Grace Field, or the Blessed House. Among them, Emma takes on the role of the protagonist. All of them are the eldest children in the orphanage, individuals who are the smartest among their brothers and sisters. The age of the characters is first 11, then 12 years. Three lines on the logo symbolize them.
Emma is the main character, the leader not only among the trio, but also among all the children of the orphanage. She is strong physically. Guided by emotion rather than logic. But her mind helped bring the escape plan to life. Emma is an altruist and pacifist, which is revealed in the second season. She was the initiator of the escape of all the children of the orphanage, but life is not so simple. It turns out that there are other plantations for raising children to feed the demons, and saving all their young inhabitants is problematic and dangerous. The girl grows as a character and as a person, and in the end decides to run only with children from five years old and older.
Ray is one of the three main characters of the series. He is logical and acts according to a certain tactic. From the very beginning, Ray insisted that only the three older children escaped from the orphanage, even made a deal with Norman for this. By nature, he is secretive and reserved.
As seen in his dossier in the anime itself, he gives up easily halfway through, however, at the end of the first season, he still runs away with everyone, which shows his height. He’s good at predicting mom’s moves, but it’s not for nothing – he worked for her for years as a double agent among children, and yet he was always on their side. So he assembled a device to disable tracking devices from improvised means. It was he who persuaded Norman and Emma at the beginning of the series to run to the gate and find out the truth, because he knew everything from the very beginning.
Norman is another of the main characters. The smartest of the whole trio, and by all accounts, of all the orphanage kids. Acts according to a certain strategy, decisively. From the beginning, he feared most for his life, but later sacrifices his life for other children to escape. He likes Emma.
In the second season, it turns out that he was not sent to death, but to another shelter – experimental Lambda 7214. There he is given drugs that shorten his life. Thanks to his brilliant mind, he gathers a group of other Lambda test subjects around him, blows up the laboratory building and escapes with new associates. Now he wants to destroy the entire race of demons and has developed a drug, but in the end Emma convinces him, helping him remember who he really is. All its depth and conflict, unfortunately, disappear.
Isabella is the nanny, the only adult in the orphanage. Children call her mother for her kind, affectionate, moderately strict nature. Even when Emma and Norman find out the truth about the orphanage and about her, they still love her. Now for them, she reveals herself with a smart, prudent side, Isabella is always a few steps ahead of the children.
With each episode, she shows herself more and more cruel. She breaks Emma’s leg to stop her escape, and then, just before Norman leaves, she threatens to kill her if she makes another scene. The attitude of the viewer towards her changes radically in the last episode, when we learn her backstory. More on this below.
A huge plus of the Promised Neverland is that the characters here actively interact with each other, develop and grow. Every conflict is important for every character, and nothing goes unnoticed.
What is the anime about
Summary of The Promised Neverland.
Terrible truth (1 episode)
The anime begins by showing the life of orphanage children. Clean white clothes, delicious food, testing for brain activity in the morning and yard games in the evening – such is the life of the local inhabitants. However, we, the viewers, are made to understand from the very beginning that something is wrong here: the camera zooming in on the tattoo numbers on the children’s necks, the huge concrete fence around the perimeter and the ten-meter gate – all this resembles a model prison.
While playing catch-up, the children notice that none of the children who left with their parents wrote letters, and the six-year-old girl Connie, who is being taken away today, promises that she will. When it’s time for her to leave, Emma and Norman notice that Connie has forgotten her favorite stuffed bunny and Ray tells them to catch up with her. However, approaching the gate, the children discover the terrible truth – Connie is dead.
From an overheard conversation between the demons and Isabella, they learn the truth about the orphanage as well. Barely overcoming the shock, the guys decide to run away with all the children. True, they forgot a stuffed rabbit at the gate, so now Isabella knows that one of the children saw demons.
Escape plan (episode 2)
The next day, Norman and Emma begin to plan their escape. However, during the usual games, one girl is lost in the forest, and her mother goes to look for her. She returns very quickly, which makes the children think: this is not a watch, this is a device for tracking the movements of children.
Norman assumes that the transmitters are sewn into their bodies. Later, Isabella stops Emma and asks her why she doesn’t look good. The scene creates the right atmosphere of a detective thriller with the help of music and camera angles.
While Norman and Emma are preparing the ropes for the escape, the idea comes to them to tell Ray everything, but then, for a reason unknown to the children, he comes himself. When the guys reveal to him the truth about the Blessed House, Ray surprisingly quickly believes in it. He also offers to run away together. Emma refuses, and Norman replies that he is on Emma’s side anyway. However, plans to prepare an escape change dramatically, because a new warden, Sister Krona, arrives at the shelter along with one-year-old Carol.
Preparation (3-4 episodes)
Both newcomers become a source of information – the ability of children to get a plus in any situation only reinforces their interest in watching. With the help of Carol, Emma manages to find out which part of the body the transmitters are located, and with the help of Krona, she finds out the capabilities of adults.
Isabella tells her sister that the children found out the secret, and Krona decides to frame the mother of the Holy House and take her place with the help of this situation.
The main trio decides that the children need to be prepared for the escape with the help of familiar yard games, such as tag or hide and seek. In such scenes, the characters and ways of thinking of the characters are revealed. Here Krona blurts out to the children about the incident at the gate. So the children understand that there is an informer among them.
Who is the informer? (4-5 episodes)
Despite the informer, the children continue to prepare to escape. The guys dedicate other older children, Don and Gilda, to the course of the case, but Norman lies to them that they do not know about the fate of Connie.
The agent among the children is not revealed, and the authors of the anime gradually build up the atmosphere, creating the effect of an unreliable narrator. As a result, unexpectedly for everyone, Ray turns out to be a traitor. He worked for Isabella for years and knew about demons. Norman and Ray make a deal for a successful escape.
Farewell to Norman (Episode 10)
Don and Gilda find out the truth. Krona overheard their conversation with the rest of the children, and this is how the children learn that adults cannot be killed and cannot be sent beyond the walls – the implanted electric chip will work.
Norman and Emma decide to go reconnaissance on the walls while Ray distracts her mother, but everything goes wrong: Krona is killed, Ray loses Isabella’s trust, as a result, to prevent her from escaping, her mother breaks Emma’s leg. This scene is shocking from the first to the last frame. The date of dispatch of Norman is reported: tomorrow.
Ray and Emma talk Norman into faking the escape today, but he returns home soon after. Behind the wall is a cliff. Emma and Ray don’t know what to do, and Norman is sent to certain death. This is preceded by a farewell scene between Emma and Norman, and that is when their relationship reaches its limit. They are not just friends or cohabitants, they are family, and no one is abandoned in the family. The final shot of the episode makes it clear that Norman’s death is far from clear.
Isabella’s story (episode 11-12)
Ray and Emma are crushed. Isabella approaches the latter and offers her to become a mother – such an opportunity is given only once for the most gifted girls of the orphanage. Emma refuses, and the children are under increased control.
On the last day before his birthday and Ray’s departure, Ray decides to set fire to the orphanage so that other children can escape. And so that his mother does not chase them, he decides to set himself on fire. Emma grabs a match and with a cunning plan, the kids escape.
The story of Isabella and the origin of the melody from her theme are revealed. It was written by a boy with whom Isabella was in love at the age of 11. But he was taken away, and depressed, just like Emma, she decides to run away.
Her warden plays on the feelings of Isabella and she decides to become a mother in order to survive. She has to give birth to a child, it turns out to be Ray. At the end, Isabella wishes the runaway children a happy life.
After the escape (episode 1-4)
From this moment begins the second season. The children are hunted by the orphanage’s guards, but they encounter wild demons. They are rescued by Sungju and Mujika, demons who don’t need human flesh to live. They don’t eat people for religious reasons. Demons teach children to survive in the wild – to hunt, cook food, make medicine. In the pen they found with Sister Krona, the children find a message from a certain William Minerva, to whose headquarters they are sent. Soon, some military men attack the headquarters, from whom they have to flee.
Encounter with Norman (Episode 5)
From this moment on, the anime is officially declared as original, that is, it will not be connected with the plot of the manga. This should have been done from the very beginning of the second season, since it is all about surviving in a cruel world, and not about trying to escape. The tone of the series changed dramatically, which did not do him any good.
A year has passed. The children settled in an abandoned demon temple near the demon village. There is not enough food for everyone, so the children go undercover to the village to buy food at the market. Passing-by demons accidentally learn about their essence, a chase takes place, at the end of which the demons are killed. This is done by some of Lambda’s test subjects, but most importantly, Emma and Ray meet Norman.
Sabotage Among Demons (Episode 5-9)
A demon grandfather comes to an abandoned temple, and the children learn that if the demons don’t eat people, they will run wild.
Norman decides to sabotage the demons by spraying a drug among them that causes inevitable savagery. Emma is against this, although she understands that this is the only way for them, people, to live in peace. She, Ray, Don and Gilda go looking for Sungju and Mujika because their blood can save these demons. Norman decides to attack before they return.
It turns out that that demon grandfather is one of those like Mujika. He saves his granddaughter, also Emma, from running wild, and Emma talks Norman out of killing. At this point, the anime followed in the footsteps of the manga and frankly fell into a puddle, giving the role of a traitor to Vincent, Norman’s comrade-in-arms, an experimental subject from Lambda.
We are shown Isabella luring the children with a radio message: little children from the Holy House are going to be sent to be slaughtered. This concludes the last released episode.
Anime touches on complex philosophical topics on many different levels. Is it humane for demons to eat people, the same thinking creatures, if their lives depend on it? Should people be like them? Are demons hostages of their own nature?
Each viewer will give himself these questions. This is the genius of this work – it forces the viewer to think and ask themselves complex questions without a single correct answer.
In essence, the plot of the Promised Neverland is about the struggle between man and the system. A non-trivial struggle, because the main characters are children who are just getting to know this world, and who will have to change this world. What measures is a person willing to take for this? The answer is different for everyone, but Norman’s answer is for any. This is an animated series about the importance of maintaining empathy and altruism. And best of all, perhaps, the character of Isabella reveals this.
The whole life of the heroine is built on difficult moral choices: live happily for 12 years, not knowing grief and worries, or survive in a cruel world, risking your life every day? Agree to become a slave for life for demons, raising children and leading them to slaughter with your own hands, or doom yourself to certain death, but try to save the life of your family with a small share?
Emma had the strength and courage to make the second choice, Isabella did not. She sees that Emma’s love for her family is stronger than Isabella’s, and this destroys the latter from within.
The meaning of the name
The last word, oddly enough, about the name of the anime: ” The Promised Neverland ” contains a play on words. First: ” The Promised Land ” means paradise – how children live before they are sent to the slaughter. Second: Neverland , or Neverland – the country of eternal childhood. Never also has the meaning of negation, as a result, the name literally means “Unpromised Land”. A very symbolic name.