The Promised Neverland – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: The one adored as the mother is not the real parent. The people living here together are not actual siblings. The Gracefield House is where orphaned children live. An irreplaceable home where 38 siblings and Mom live happy lives, even with no blood relations. However, their everyday life suddenly came to an abrupt end one day… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: The Promised Neverland’s anime adaptation continues to move fast, cutting out content from the original manga or even re-framing a large chunk of it. The good news is unless you’ve read the manga, it isn’t extremely obvious and the benefit to such a fast paced adaptation is that the show is constantly delivering plenty of action and plot. However, on the other hand, this means a more observant viewer, even if unfamiliar with the manga, might notice how compacted the story feels. Fans of the original series wanting a meatier or more faithful adaptation will find there’s a lot to be disappointed over.
Tom: As Linny said first time viewers will struggle to notice what was cut (outside of a potentially confusing sequence in Episode 6) making most of Neverland’s cuts and adjustments something only manga fans will raise an eyebrow at. That said, what’s been changed isn’t always for the better. At times Neverland’s anime adjustments feel like change for the sake of change, or remove intriguing elements that really added to the battle of wits between Mother and our trio of heroes.
Linny: As the series continues we get more familiar with Emma, Norman and Ray, our conspiring trio. Emma represents the ever optimistic and pure hearted classic Shonen lead. Norman is the level headed one who can observe most things with a calm demeanor and recognize the pros and cons. Lastly, Ray is extremely cold and calculating, whose desire to survive seems more self centered and narrow. While together they offer a nice array of personalities to grow attached to, one will notice they each fall into tropes and cliches, making them difficult for a more weathered viewer to become enthralled by. Other members feel problematic, such as Sister Krone. Sister Krone, the series’ second caretaker called in to help Mother subdue plans for escape, is over the top, conversing with a raggedy doll, flying into fits of maniacal whimsy and often talks to the kids in an openly creepy manner. All of this feels extremely out of place since near everyone else acts far more subdued, making her presence feel uniquely off key. It also feels tired and lazy to anyone who has seen this exact sort of ‘maniacal’ villain character before. Not to mention there’s a tinge of ‘black caricature’ to this portrayal, especially since her persona is so at odds with everything else in the series.
Tom: Sister Krone is another baffling change. In the manga she’s portrayed as imposing, menacing and a bit creepy. But the anime turns up the creepy factor and replaces imposing/menacing for straight up manic. At times it almost feels like she’s been repurposed as some form of comic relief (which would fit with the feelings of ‘black caricature’), giving her scenes this weird, disjointed feeling to the rest of the production. (I will say however I always felt Sister Krone was a poor menace for the kids, even in the manga, often bordering on buffoonish rather than a true threat.) There’s also a tendency to remove voice over for the anime. The Promised Neverland’s manga is rife with inner thoughts, near half the manga’s written content coming from the inner workings of our character’s minds. For the anime there are very few places, if any, where we hear the character’s thoughts. While Voice Over isn’t necessarily required to get whatever points across, particularly if good direction is used to make up for it, it does kill much of the mind games and second guessing that gave Neverland a Death Note like feel.
Linny: As someone who isn’t that familiar with the manga, I will admit that the show keeps me entertained. It has a solid plot that keeps the twists and turns coming one after the other, constantly keeping the viewer on their toes. It’s not the most amazing show but it definitely feels like a solid enough watch for first timers to the story, especially those seeking out a suspense filled thriller. Yes, it has some flaws but not so much to hinder the entire series, though only for those unfamiliar with the manga. While the series has a dark twist to start off, the rest of it remains relatively light, focusing mainly on the children’s efforts to stay one step ahead and trying to come up with a solid plan of escape so this should make the show approachable even for those who want thrills but not a lot of gore or violence. All in all, The Promised Neverland feels like one of the better series that debuted this season and while not perfect, definitely entertaining enough for the average viewer.
Tom: The Promised Neverland’s anime is good. It keeps the story moving, and outside of my problems with Krone and some of the changes, it generally gets the major moments across, with plenty of atmosphere and tension thanks to the music and animation. But what it removes sometimes feels arbitrary, like its making change for the sake of change, rather than to improve the story. What’s here becomes this uneven adaptation that doesn’t entirely justify the adjustments it’s been making. I’d probably still recommend the series if I didn’t feel like the manga remains the best way to experience the story. Without the inner thoughts of characters, the second guessing and mind games Neverland feels thinner, less meaty and ultimately less engaging. I think the best experience remains through those original pages, rather than an anime adaptation that sees change for the sake of change as somehow worthwhile. Maybe things will change in the next six episodes, but for now I feel like the anime is detracting more from the story than it’s been adding.