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
We’re back at it again with the Great Grace Field Escape and there’s quite a bit to run through this week. As our trio of heroes continues to scheme their way through a jailbreak, the consequences of trying to keep the other kids in the dark are finally starting to catch up with them, and it’s finally time to see some of the fallout. This gives the episode some heavier emotional stakes than what we’ve gotten thus far, but as has generally been the case with this adaption so far, my feelings on how this all actually plays out are fairly mixed.
So right off the bat let’s address the elephant in the room: last week’s cliffhanger regarding Don and Gilda being found out when searching Isabella’s secret room. I was honestly really confused with how that was handled last time because the timing and context of the scene was rearranged in a way that felt like a pretty clear divergence from the manga, and one that had me curious if the anime was going to go for a major shakeup in the story. Turns out though, it was pretty much just a fakeout and the version of that scene as it happens in the manga is done later on the episode without much extra consequence. Given my high level of attachment to the manga, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat relieved the anime didn’t follow through on splitting off from the manga in any major ways, it does feel pretty anti-climactic. Frankly I kind of feel like the time spent here could have been used to cover some of the material the anime glossed over, but that’s neither here nor there and it is what it is at this point.
With that out of the way let’s get to the major points of the episode because both are pretty significant for the story going forward. Emma, Norman, and Ray decide to shift gears towards learning more about the outside world, and to that end, Emma tells Norman and Ray about a mysterious man named William Minerva who seems to be leaving clues in his books that hint at the true nature of the farms. This gives the kids their first clue towards the possibility that humanity is thriving outside of the farms, but also hints that there may be something larger at work here as the word “promise” comes up in one of Minerva’s books, and seems to carry some kind of significant meaning. Meanwhile, Don steals the key to the secret room from Isabella, and he and Gilda go to investigate and learn the truth of what’s happening themselves.
While I haven’t had as many moments where I felt like the anime improved on the manga’s material as I would have preferred so far, the execution here is one of the moments where I have to give the anime’s direction some serious chops. In the manga these two scenes directly followed each other, but here they play out simultaneously, with the show cutting back and forth between the two of them. This really works to the anime’s benefit, as the contrast between the main trio believing that they’ve discovered some newfound hope for everyone, while Don and Gilda are pushed further into despair as the reality of Isabella’s deception fully sinks in on them, is incredibly effective. It helps to make the latter portion feel a lot more haunting than it did in the manga, and makes the build up to Don and Gilda confronting the trio on lying to them about the details of their situation feel more rewarding.
Unfortunately I can’t say I was quite as happy with how said confrontation played out here in the anime. While Don’s outburst over having been lied to and his subsequent feeling of powerlessness over not being strong enough to be a reliable asset both hit hard enough to work for the anime’s sensibilities, the overall fallout doesn’t have quite the same level of emotion as it did in the manga. A lot of the dialogue and panel composition for this part in particular used intense facial expressions to convey Don’s torrent of emotions in a way that gave the scene a surprising amount of sincerity, but the anime’s cleaner artstyle can’t quite capture that same level of raw emotion. The widespan camera work used for both scenes doesn’t help things either, and they end up coming across as less important towards the show’s goals than they should be. This downgrade also extends to some key character moments, as there was a little more build-up to Emma’s realization that she didn’t have enough faith in Don and Gilda, which makes the scene where Emma tells Norman her escape idea feel slightly less earned (although that one can be chalked up to the anime needing to save time). It also ends up harming what was a key moment for Ray’s characterization, as part of his apology to Don everything that happened, was also for having attempted to frame him as a spy. The anime’s decision to cut out character’s thoughts, including cuts to earlier scenes, makes the context of his last line significantly more vague than it needed to be, and it’s a shame since this ties into some later revelations about his character.
Grumpy as I am over how the anime’s handled some of the emotional beats so far, it’s certainly excelling when it comes to the horror angle and that pays off for the episode’s climax. As all of the episodes events play out, the camera occasionally shifts in a way that gives the impression that someone is watching what the kids are doing in every scene, and that ends up resulting in the frightening revelation that Krone was the one keeping an eye on them and now knows for certain that Emma and co are aware of the farm. The manga was a lot more explicit about Krone’s game here, so I really appreciate the way the anime managed to build up to that ending, and while it admittedly might have been a little more effective had the episode cut out right before Krone offered to form an alliance with the kids, I was still pretty satisfied with the results here. All in all, I’d say this episode was a pretty important victory for the anime’s continued drive towards leaning into the horror aesthetic of the series as much as possible since this had by far the best execution of that, but as someone who cares a lot about the feelings behind the scares, I still wish the anime would take that part of the story into consideration more.