Some stories just end up being so much darker than anticipated. These stories are often all the richer for the surprise. We don’t see the twists coming until it is too late, and then, suddenly, you are on the edge of your seat.
The Promised Neverland (dir. Mamoru Kanbe) is one such anime. The story is simply amazing. There are twists on twists: layers of deception for the viewer to uncover over time. I started The Promised Neverland knowing nothing of the story and so I shall do my best not to spoil it for you.
The first book of the manga series was released in December of 2016. The books struck a chord with fans who needed to know what would happen next. Author Kaiu Shirai found a real balance with a story idea that could easily have become too dark. The series was so successful that a series of spin-off novels were released. The manga also inspired an anime that was released in 2019.
Emma, Ray and Norman are three of the oldest and brightest children in their isolated orphanage. They seem to have an idyllic life. Good food, a nice place to sleep, clean clothing and a nice bit of land to play on. So long as they obey their “mom” and do not go past the gates. The children also get an education and are praised for doing well with their studies. This is only an in-between place for the children, however. They can be adopted and sent to a foster home at any birthday past five years old. It all seems perfect — until it doesn’t. Forbidden knowledge brings the imperfections to light.
The Promised Neverland is an interesting anime. The characters are multilayered and deep. Their light and dark sides are shown, both through their actions and the art style in which they are depicted. Every character has their “moments,” which is, honestly, refreshing to watch. The animation and movement evoke anxiety as the story becomes more and more dark. The music is perfect.
A live action version of The Promised Neverland was released on December 18, 2020 (dir. Yūichirō Hirakawa). The news is exciting, but I, personally, do have some issue with at least one casting choice. It will be fascinating to see how the discussion around the casting and the story itself progresses. The live-action adaptation raises the ages of the characters who are children in the manga and anime. I haven’t been able to watch it yet, so I won’t be commenting further on the movie.
Overall The Promised Neverland is a dark but well-written story. The anime will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Fans of the series highly recommend it.