There are plenty of anime series that make us want to spend the entire day binge-watching episodes. Sometimes, however, there are lulls where it’s hard to find the right genre or series we’re looking for. If it’s been a while since you sat on the edge of your seat in suspense, watch The Promised Neverland.
**Review contains major spoilers for the first episode of The Promised Neverland**
The idyllic paradise of The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland is a dark fantasy story about orphans living in an idyllic paradise at the Grace Field House. They learn, play, eat, sleep well, and have fun with their brothers, sisters, and their “Mama”, Isabella. They live in a warm, comfortable home until the ages of 6 to 12, when they’re “adopted” and leave. The kids are told to never go beyond the gates surrounding their home because danger awaits them out there. They say “goodbye” to their brothers and sisters on their moving days and never see or hear from them again. They figure it’s because they’re happy with their new families, but the reality is much more horrifying.
One day, a six-year-old Conny is “adopted” and leaves the House. But, she accidentally left behind her favorite stuffed bunny. So two of the protagonists, Norman and Emma, ignore the rules just this once to bring Conny her bunny. Once they get where they think Conny will find the bunny, they behold the gruesome fate that awaits them all. A sight that haunts them to their cores. A limp, lifeless Conny ready for demons to devour her.
They learn that the House is a farm harvesting “high-quality food” for the demons, who rule the outside world. From that moment on, eleven-year-olds Emma, Norman, and Ray vowed to save all the orphans. The Promised Neverland is about their escape from suffering the same fate as Conny and all those who died before her. The clock is ticking until the next “adoption” day, so they have to be quick, careful, and precise.
Gripping, unnerving, and extremely intense
The Promised Neverland is gripping, unnerving, and extremely intense. There are twists and turns around every corner, creating gasp-inducing moments of surprise. The story is develops well, and the characters are either unique, cute kids that you’ll love to root for or eerie villains who will send chills down your spine.
Other than the engrossing plot, other aspects also make this anime so successful. From its the well-crafted art, to its atmosphere and visuals. The animators did a great job creating these in ways that give us the emotional reactions they intended for us. Sometimes we’re shown the art in a virtual-reality style, seeing what the character is sees as they sneak down a hallway or up the stairs, bringing us closer into their reality. This makes these moments even creepier because we feel ourselves there inside the House.
We fear and our hearts break in all the right places
Another example is the character art. We fear the people we’re supposed to, and our hearts break for the ones we’re supposed to. For example, the perfectly portrayed demons. Aside from the fact that we know they eat kids, their appearances and mannerisms will make anyone’s skin crawl, and they move in a way that will make you glad you’re not eating. On the other side of things, the animators made Conny even more adorable than many of the other kids, likely to increase the horror of her grisly death. Each character, good or bad, has been carefully created.
More often than not in anime, complicated villains are more morally gray rather than completely evil. The Promised Neverland gives us a character whose heart and soul are hard to understand– the big bad mom herself: Isabella. We see this ambiguity a little with the troubling Sister Krone, but we see it most with Isabella. She raises of all these children and shows love to them like they are her own, but she knows she is readying them for slaughter. The entire time we are wondering how someone could be so cruel and psychotic. In one of the final episodes, we get a peek into her stone-cold soul and see that maybe things are more complicated than they seem. Very well done.
The Promised Neverland, winner of “Best Fantasy Series” award
If you are looking for a suspenseful, dark fantasy anime series to watch, get ready to binge the show that won “Best Fantasy Series” and “Best Antagonist” at Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards. The Promised Neverland is also “one of the best anime of the 2010s” according to Polygon, IGN, and Crunchyroll. This chart-topping anime is well worth a watch. It has suspense, intrigue, and horror, all wrapped up in an intricate storyline. Watch it all unfold, piece by piece, and ready yourself for another suspenseful season starting January 2021.