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 to say that I’ve been highly anticipating the anime adaption of The Promised Neverland would probably be a bit of an understatement. Ever since the manga debuted way back in August 2016, I’ve been enamored with it’s stellar art and equally impressive storytelling, and it’s quickly grown into my favorite thing to ever come from Shonen Jump. With that in mind, it kind of goes without saying that I had some pretty high expectations for this show, and the same can probably be said of the people making it, as the manga’s become a smash hit in Japan, and this has generally been seen as something with the potential to become the next big thing in anime. So the question here is, does the premiere live up to the hype?
My answer here would be a yes, and a “kinda”. Given how long I’ve been a fan of this series, and the amount of times I’ve re-read chapter 1 of the manga specifically, my feelings are pretty biased, but before we get into that let’s talk about what actually happens in this premiere. We’re introduced to Grace Field House, an orphanage raising gifted children, as well as our primary trio of characters, Emma, Ray, and Norman, who are considered to be the brightest among their peers. On the day a girl named Connie is set to be adopted, Emma and Norman end up stumbling upon a horrifying truth about the orphanage: that it’s actually a meat farm where the kids are being raised in order to be fed to demons. It’s a pretty shocking twist to be sure, and as far as attention grabbing premises go, it’s very effective, and I have little doubt it will get people talking.
The part where my own issues lie however, is in some of the execution, and specifically in the build up to the show’s big twist. In the manga, much of the events here are narrated from Emma’s perspective, and having that anchor-point helps in building up a creeping sense of dread regarding moments like the kids going through daily exams, or Emma finding herself by the gate that separates the orphanage from the rest of the forest. Instead the episode opts to present these moments a bit more naturally which still works for the most part, but doesn’t quite give off the same sense of atmosphere that made the sudden appearance of the demons so terrifying in the manga for me.
Speaking of the atmosphere here, I’ll also admit that one of my biggest worries concerning this adaption would how well it could capture the twisted fairy-tale aesthetic of it’s source material. Unfortunately the producers’ decision to opt for having the backgrounds done by the studio ATELIER MUSA, who specializes in realistic looking set pieces, as opposed to going for hand painted backgrounds. means that some of that fairy-tale like charm is lost in this anime adaption and that dulls a bit of it’s impact as a piece of horror-fantasy. Fortunately the anime is able to compensate for this deficiency through its solid visual direction, and some really stellar character animation, which certainly help a lot in ramping up the emotional delivery once Emma realizes her peaceful world has been shattered. While it’s tough to say if the show’s production will hold steady enough to be able to expect this level of animation quality for the remaining episodes of the season, what we got here was enough to make me feel hopefully about some this adaption’s prospects going forward on that end.
Despite the somewhat negative tone I’ve been putting on here though, all in all, this was a pretty solid premiere. I’d be lying if I said the execution here was exactly what I wanted, but I’m also willing to admit I’m extremely biased here, and enough of the manga’s strengths were conveyed here that I have no doubt this show will be a hit. I’m probably gonna need a second viewing to completely sort out my feelings on this first episode, but for everyone who’s not as neurotic as me: strap yourselves in because this is gonna be one heck of a ride
Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation, and HiDive