Ohh…boy. So if you recall, I said in last week’s review that I felt like my initial approach to covering this came off as a little too biased in my mind, and I vowed that I’d try and do a better job of balancing my thoughts between the anime as an adaption, and the anime as a piece of standalone entertainment. While I’d like to think I was pretty successful with that last time, this week it’s gonna be a bit more challenging. A lot episode 3’s choices have helped to give me a clearer view of what exactly the anime is aiming for, and for better or worse, the execution has made it kind of impossible for me to separate those two things. Long story short: you’re probably gonna see a lot of my bias here.
Before I talk about my exact feelings here though, I should rundown the episode itself, which compared to last week’s affair, is pretty straightforward. The spotlight here belongs to Sister Krone as we’re properly introduced the character and her agenda. While she was brought on board to assist Isabella in keeping a watchful eye over the kids, she instead plots to find out which kids know the secret and to use that as leverage to steal Isabella’s position as “Mom”. Aside from adding another wrench into the show’s character dynamics, this bit of scheming also suggests that Grace Field isn’t the only one of these meat farms out there, and it’s confirmed when Isabella speaks with her superior known as “Grandma”, who wants to ensure that our trio gets shipped out as scheduled for a special demon feast. Meanwhile, Emma, Ray and Norman work to discover where the tracking devices are located, and thanks to the arrival of their newest sibling Carol, soon discover that the devices were implanted in their ears as infants.
With that bit of extra information acquired, the three of them then move on to discreetly training the other kids for the big escape by playing tag with them and using it to teach them about tracking, and hiding their own movements. However the difficulty level of this training session gets ramped up when Krone decides to join in their game, and she proves to be far more than most of them can handle as she hunts them down with glee. However while Krone manages to outwit most of the kids, she has a much harder time pinning down our main trio and this leads her to deduce that they’re more than likely the kids she’s looking for, along with another orphan named Gilda, who is slowly starting to suspect that Emma might be hiding something. Our three amigos have bigger things to worry about though, as Isabella’s behavior leads them to suspect that there might be another set of eyes on them, and they suspect that one of the other kids might be a snitch.
So in stark contrast to…basically everything about the relatively grounded tone we’ve seen from the show thus far, Krone comes off as cartoonishly menacing in introduction, and everything from her mannerism to the jazzy music that accompanies her during the tag scene, presents her as over-the-top as possible. On paper that seems like it would make for some serious tonal whiplash, but actually it manages to work out pretty well. This is mostly thanks to a solid combination of great visual direction to make a lot of her facial expressions feel downright terrifying, and the fact that she’s just plain entertaining to watch. Out of everything I was anticipating from this adaption, Krone’s depiction was probably the one I was the most concerned about because while I enjoy her character, her design could get a bit…problematic at times and I could imagine that turning some of the show’s potential audience away. I’m happy to say though that the anime seems to have handled that much better so far, as her expressions feel menacing without leaning into caricature stereotypes of black people, and I’m hoping that balance will just as effectively with her overall characterization as we learn more about her.
However while I was pretty happy with Krone’s general depiction here, I’m a bit more divided on other parts of the episode’s execution. While I suspected this was going to be the case, going by the first two episodes, the layout of the material this week has pretty much cemented that the anime is opting to remove any and all of the characters’ internal monologues. Instead, it seems to be aiming to have the characters convey their intentions purely through dialogue and character animation, and there’s a bit of give and take to that approach. Aesthetically speaking, I can understand why the anime would opt for this as this is a horror series, and conveying things this way helps in making the general atmosphere of the story more unsettling. At the same time though, TPN is also a thriller series, and while the “mind games” between the characters aren’t exactly the manga’s bread and butter, they are effective in helping to ramp up the tension, and help in directly conveying key plot details to the audience. In removing the characters’ ability to think to themselves, some of that tension is lost, and it makes a couple of scenes, such as Krone failing to catch Ray and Norman during their round of tag, feel clunkier than it otherwise might have been had that stuff been left in.
Under the same vein, while I can appreciate cutting down a lot of the exposition to double down on the horror aesthetic, some of the world building has been trimmed down as well, and while there’s plenty of time for the anime to correct that in future episodes, it makes a few bits of the overall mystery feel a bit more convoluted then where the manga was by this point. None of this is particularly deal-breaking on its own and aside from some of the details I just mentioned, the overall presentation here is still strong, and some of these nitpicks went away when I combed over this episode a second time (boy I really hope I don’t have to make a regular habit of watching episodes twice for these). Still, it does make me a bit more concerned about the outlook of the anime beyond this initial story arc, and while it hasn’t exactly killed my enthusiasm, it seems like I’m gonna have a rougher time adapting to this adaption than I had originally expected.