Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever
So before I delve into this week’s review, I want to step back a bit and address my tone for the one I put out last week. As a fan of the manga, I do think there’s value in highlighting some of the anime’s choices in adaptation, but I also feel like I spent a bit too much time focusing on that and not the material itself. While my feelings on how the anime adapts things are definitely going to affect how I feel about any given episode, I also want to make sure to judge the anime on its own merits, so going forward I plan to try a little harder in keeping those perspectives balanced. I can’t guarantee how effectively I’ll be able to do that, but hopefully I’ll be able to do better reviews. With that bit of rambling out of the way, let’s dig in.
So after finding out that they’re being raised to be demon food, Emma and Norman start to connect the dots on some of the abnormalities in their everyday life, and start working on a jailbreak plan. In the case of the former, the two speculate on why they have to take so many tests if they’re just going to end up dinner and end up coming to the conclusion that the demons want their brains, and the bigger the better. While the visual direction of the scene manages to make this bit of exposition feel terrifying, it is admittedly a little silly if taken purely at face value. However as a metaphor, it’s a pretty powerful statement, serving as a harsh criticism of Japan’s educational system and the way it grooms children in order to weed out the brightest and serve them up to corporations that will abuse and dehumanize them. That subtext is admittedly a little easier to read into in the manga thanks to some of its framing, but is presented well enough here that I’m pretty confident the coming episodes will double down on that message.
As far as the escape plan goes though, things run into a bit of an impasse when Emma and Norman attempt to recruit Ray into the fold. While he’s surprisingly quick to accept the truth about the orphanage, he also feels what the audience has likely been thinking: that the best way to escape is for the three of them to get rid of any deadweight and leave the rest of the kids behind. Having seen Conny’s death first hand, Emma is fiercely opposed to this, and she’s determined to make sure none of the other kids share the same fate, instead wanting to create a world they can all live in. Ray sees her way of thinking as far too reckless but is left with no other choice but to play along with it for the time being when Norman decides to side with Emma’s point of view, and vows to protect her in spite of the danger. This sets up an interesting dynamic between the trio as they already seem to have different priorities in spite of sharing the same goal, and those priorities are bound to have a big effect on whether or not their escape plan can even succeed.
Of course while a lot of the focus here is on the kids, it’s not as though Isabella is sitting idly by either, and mother dearest is already making moves to discover which of the kids has caught on to the truth. To that end, she subtly reveals to the kids that there are tracking devices on them to let them know she’s onto them, and directly confronts Emma on her change in demeanor in a tense staredown that manages to feel scarier than just about everything else the show’s thrown at us so far. While Emma manages to keep her cool, Isabella’s calm facade, even when talking about Conny, makes it clear that she truly is an enemy to the children, and one that’s already proving to be formidable. To make matters worse, she’s brought on some extra help in the form of another adult named Krone, and while we don’t yet know what she’ll bring going forward, her presence alone is going to make the kids’ escape a whole lot harder.
This a whole heck of a lot for just the show’s second episode, and that applies in more ways than one. While I expected that the anime would cut down on some of the manga’s back and forth exposition to save on time, and make for a more cinematic experience, they’ve already breezed through more material than I expected and outright skipped a chapter in order to end things on Krone’s introduction. It’s more a personal letdown than a serious complaint though, as the episode’s direction manages to make all the material here hit where it needs to, and flows well enough that I doubt anime-only viewers will notice anything’s been cut. For my part though, it makes predicting the pacing of future episodes a little harder, and while I enjoyed what we got here, I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping some of the material they took out makes its way into next week’s episode. Either way, this has proven to be a pretty ambitious adaption so far, and while I still have some apprehensions about said ambitions, I’m also very much excited to see how it’ll handle things in the coming weeks.