Crow and I are back for another collab this season. Yup I managed to strongarm him again. I think part of my success is simply due to the fact that Zombieland Saga was such a fun show that it made our collab seem that much more fun as well. I’m not sure if “fun” is the right word to describe The Promised Neverland. Wish us luck guys! For this post, Crow will be in bold purple!

Promised Neverland ep 1 (12)
why do you seem dubious!?!

Like apparently every single person in the universe, I have been waiting for The Promised Neverland ever since it became public that the adaptation rights have been sold. At the time, I had already read the first volume and decided to stop despite how much I wanted to know what would happen because I didn’t want to be reading the manga as the anime progressed.

All of this is simply to say that episode wasn’t all that shocking or surprising to me, but I don’t know where the story goes in the long run.

As someone who hadn’t read the manga, I can say that it was both shocking and surprising to me! I’m assuming I’ll recover, but the jury’s still out…

In case there’s still someone out there that didn’t see this episode, let me quickly recap: Go watch the episode! Recap over!

She’s not kidding. You do not want to read this before you see the episode!

Promised Neverland ep 1 (9)
you’re back? ok let’s go!

This is a visually sumptuous show. Traditional enough but at the same time unique looking. For me, it was those colors that drew me in. Granted they were not that vibrant and a fairly conventional palette but that dimension though!!! Not a pixel of flat color anywhere! Beautiful gradients and contrasts everywhere you look. It makes the entire world feel tangible and 3 dimensional.

 It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a complete lack of sexualization in character design. Refreshing.

You know what one of the greatest assets of animation is? Limitless access to brilliant child actors! This will never translate to live action!

Also saves kids from being traumatized by the material!

Promised Neverland ep 1 (20)
whatever could you mean?

It’s funny how little is needed to throw us off balance. The bulk of this episode takes place on warm days, awash in sunlight with cheerful children playing and learning together. Sure, it’s not ideal. They seem to be in some sort of group orphanage, so resources are limited. Everyone sleeps in one big room. Food is rationed out but plentiful and tasty. Everyone is happy. And yet, from the very first second, you can just tell something is wrong.

Yes, they are barred from going out into the world but, the oldest children there are 11, of course they can’t just go wandering around on their own. Objectively, there isn’t a single clear indicator of things to come. Yet, even before I knew anything about this story, I was uneasy the entire time. Something deep inside me has taught me never to trust institutions. Especially the ones that seem nice….

You got a sense that something was off in the very first scene. The bars were wide enough that even though Emma’s skull wouldn’t easily fit, plenty of the other smaller kids could have walked right through. That sent a clear message: The fence was not there for their safety. It’d be kid-proof otherwise.

I had not considered bar spacing…I should not be in charge of children….

Then we get the scene where the kids are looking at this waist-high fence, again with wide spacing between the bars. Norman knows something’s up. He’s looking so intently at what’s beyond the fence that he’s forgotten all about the game he was playing. The sudden quite, the subtle music… I had no idea what was going on, but I knew something was up! Ray pointing out that he didn’t see anything threatening was, far from being reassuring, was proof all was not well!

Promised Neverland ep 1 (4)
but but…they were soooo happy!

The tension build up in this episode was wonderful. I was getting physical chills when Emma and Normand were slowly creeping beyond the gate. This was masterfully done suspense. And just as Emma let out that chilling yell, my phone rang! It was one of those fake Microsoft phishing scams. I was quite curt!!!

Not cool, scammers! Not cool!

Did you see the Emma and Norman’s expressions when they saw what was going on? That was some seriously good animation there. Not seeing what they saw, only seeing their expressions, was powerful.

The animation in general was fantastic. I was wondering if they would leave it at an unseen horror…It would have been frustrating but effective. Then again, everyone who’s read the manga would know anyways..

Promised Neverland ep 1 (17)
from Microsoft you say?…

I’ve mentioned this before but one of my favorite books is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I love that book. Although The Promised Neverland is clearly more action based, it nevertheless is very reminiscent in themes and tone to the novel. And this fills me with anticipation for what’s to come.

I feel like I should explain my post title here. One of the background moral dilemmas posed by The Promised Neverland is the objective value of life. There are a few ways to approach the question and it is as fascinating as it is uncomfortable. The most basic and superficial way is this. I recently read an article estimating the current value of a human body (if we assume we can sell all the parts – i.e. organs, marrow, blood, DNA, etc.…) to be approximately $45,000,000 US. That’s one expensive burger, then again, if no one needs human parts or if we can just farm them….

Reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon where a shady character was talking to the butcher. We don’t what he asked, but the butcher replies something like “Never thought of it before. I suppose I could let the kid go for $1.29 a pound…”

This is a deep dark rabbit hole and I hope you want to fall down it with us!

Promised Neverland ep 1 (6)
rabbit hole..the white rabbit…pocket watch… you get it!

I actually made a conscious decision to keep the screencaps at a reasonable number for this episode. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. The Promised Neverland is visually impressive and I was itching to bury you in dozens o screencaps again! No promises for the future…

39 thoughts

  1. While I agree that the art is excellent, I don’t like the “camera” in this show. The characters often feel as if they’re standing before the scenery rather than in it, and sometimes the combination of slow panning and rotation triggers my motion sickness.

    I’m also a little disappointed at how unsubtle the direction is: there’s this moment where Emma lies on her bed, and her neck tilts just at the right angle so that we can see her number tatoo. That’s an excellent shot. But then, a few scenes later, we focus on the tatoos during a dinner scene; not only is it unnecessary at that time, it’s also distracting from what’s going on.

    Little things like this keep piling up, and I never really lose myself in the show. It’s a pity, because literally everything else is top notch. I especially like the characters. Very well individuated.

  2. I was very impressed by this first episode and this is probably the anime I’m most excited about from the new season now that I’ve seen most of the first episodes. Fingers crossed it maintains this kind of quality.

  3. And therein lies the dilemma for me. . .while I dislike–ok, abhor–horror as a genre, I’m very much about glorious artwork. (I even made a conscious, concentrated effort to watch the trash anime Orange just to look at all the pretty pictures. I ultimately failed, but I gave a valiant effort that lasted through several muted episodes.) I’m not interested in this story, nor do I really wish to watch this anime–but everybody keeps talking about how beautiful it is. . .

    1. I personally never saw it as horror. It’s an extension of the difficult discussion of medical ethics or industrial farming morality, but there is death and blood. Not sure if that helps at all

      1. OK, maybe I missed something in the synopsis–I read roughly: “children get fed to aliens/monsters to keep them happy,” which sounds nothing like a question of medical ethics. Suspense does interest me, so I guess I’ll give this a watch. . .

          1. And that thought is horrifying! As discomfiting as it is to see human organs grown via grafting onto lab animals, that pales in comparison to the idea of creating a human life for the sole purpose of harvesting it! If I may, I’d like to suggest that you read (or now, watch) Jodi Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper. . .

            1. I have both read and watched it. I have also taken years of actual medical ethics classes. It is horrific.

    2. I’d agree with Irina: it isn’t really horror. It’s suspense, more like, after the you know what moment.

  4. I’ve been reading this manga for quite some time, and I’m so happy that the anime adaptation is doing it justice. The art is spot on and — I agree on this — so pretty! I’m hoping this goes through the entire story and doesn’t just stop on one season. We were making bets on how far this season will go story wise. Super worth it to keep watching. 🙂

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