Season 1 of The Promised Neverland comes to an end: let’s analyze the delicate story from the blockbuster manga on Shonen Jump.
The dawn rises in front of the dream face of Emma and a small group of children, illuminating the path that the little ones of Grace Field House will have to travel from here on. It is the final scene of The Promised Neverland, an animated adaptation of the manga by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu. It is the end of a journey which, in reality, represents only the beginning of an even greater epic. And it is the mirror reflection of this first season, consisting of 12 episodes and created by the staff of CloverWorks.
Waiting to know more details on what awaits us in Season 2 of The Promised Neverland, we just have to examine what – like the original manga – has presented itself as one of the most delicate and original animation products of recent years.
The lost children
When Emma and Norman attempt to bring her favorite stuffed animal back to Conny the night she left the Grace Field House orphanage to join the newly adopted family, they make a terrifying discovery.
They are cattle, nothing but meat for slaughter destined for the evil mouths of monstrosities never seen before. Emma is resolute, determined; Norman is intelligent, thoughtful; Ray, the third member of the group, is extremely smart and calculating. All three make a decision: they will flee from the walls of that hell disguised as a loving place, they will prevent the cryptic “mother” Isabella – the head of the institution – from putting children between the ages of 6 and 12 to death. ‘suddenly, every single moment experienced in their almost 12 years of life takes on a meaning: the physical and mental tests, the loving and comforting care of their beloved mother, the absence of news of the siblings who, in the past, had found a family with the promise not to forget them. Yet there seems to be no way out: hunted, within the walls of the orphanage, by the suffocating and anxious presence of hungry adults, threatened by the looming of ferocious creatures outside the walls of their home.
But, despite everything, the prospect of a Promised Land stands out on the horizon that will lead them to freedom and salvation. Emma cannot give up the idea of fighting: if not for herself, she must at least do it for her little brothers. For her loved ones, for her family.
She must, in turn, be a mother for those orphans destined for a tragic ending, leading them through a breathtaking race towards the dangers of the outside world. This is an awareness that we assume almost immediately, in the very first episodes of The Promised Neverland. In the following ones, the anime sets up a story whose rhythm is marked by pitfalls, doubts, twists and turns and betrayals.
The great escape
In a script, very often, it happens that the originality of a story takes a back seat compared to the quality of the writing. In The Promised Neverland what really matters is not the ending, but how slowly you get there. This is a philosophy that permeates the original work in its entirety and which, obviously, has been transposed by the staff of CloverWorks with great intelligence in the television adaptation.
It matters little, for example, to understand what the fate of a character will be in the face of the depth with which the authors have worked on the psyche of the protagonists. The figures of the three children reflect different archetypes built on the classical mythology of the typical shonen hero: Emma embodies the innocent courage of those who want to take on the pain of others without thinking about themselves, Norman represents the awareness of sacrifice, Ray the anti-hero in the shadow that acts as a counterpoint to the light emanating from the protagonist.
From this triptych stands out, in the background, a mosaic of now charismatic characters – such as Don and Gilda, who acquire an ever greater weight as the episodes progress – now incredibly tender and innocent. But it is on the other side of the fence that perhaps the most interesting actors dominate: Krone‘s schizophrenia is the daughter of a compulsive ambition and a psyche that gives life to some of the most artistically intense and disturbing moments of the whole anime. , but it is in the character of Isabella that the main swing of emotions and controversies is played out.
At first unfathomable and austere predator, it transforms over time into an ambiguous but profound creature, constantly traveling on the edge of a villain who from apathetic becomes more and more human. An evolution that is not exactly linear and organic, but rather the ability of the script to slowly shift the focus of introspection from the torment of children to the complicated psychology of the mother.
These are all elements that blend in a discontinuous rhythm, of course, but equally intense and perhaps more unique than the pages of the manga.
The Promised Neverland anime fully transposes the first narrative arc of the paper work, dedicated to the escape operation from Grace Field House. The adaptation work was good and faithful to the original counterpart, but the feeling you get from watching the television series is that the long sequences dedicated to dialogues, reasoning and flows of consciousness have been streamlined to make the use of the concepts much more fluid.
On the other hand, the anime builds a good staging, especially in the most dramatic or memorable moments of the production, even if the artistic element perhaps loses some length compared to the manga by Shirai and Demizu. The direction of Demizu, punctuated by a fast and frenetic vignette, returns a sense of deep anxiety and cruel agitation that the transposition into anime only replicates at times. The Promised Neverland is a work in which a myriad of sub-genres (from fantasy to thriller, also passing through some light shades of horror) amalgamate in the cauldron of an atypical and courageous shonen. In the face of a peculiar character design and extremely close to the trait of the sensei in the manga, the shots of the anime do not always return the sensations of the original drawings. It must be said, however, that on the artistic front the CloverWorks staff has packaged a solid product, free from any smudging and even capable of experimenting in some timid situation, amalgamating the direction and room movements with a minimally invasive use of digital.
Delicate, intense, and dramatic, the first season of The Promised Neverland leaves us with a solemn oath: what we saw in the first 12 episodes is only the beginning of a profound coming-of-age story, ready to catapult us into a vortex of colors halfway between fantasy and sci-fi. The CloverWorks anime perhaps loses something compared to the paperwork, baroque and superfine on the artistic side, but it also makes writing more usable thanks to a solid and convincing staging.