What’s the show? The Promised Neverland.
And what’s it about? A group of orphans live in a massive orphanage in the middle of a forest and are looked after by a woman known as “mama”, while there’s the occasional mandatory intelligence test the majority of their days are spent having fun and playing together. Every few months one child leaves the house under the pretence of adoption and is never seen from or heard again. (Spoilers for episode 1 incoming) One particular “adoption” takes place with a young girl Conny leaving the house, accidentally she leaves one of her favourite toys so Emma and Norman–two of our protagonists hurry to bring it to her before she leaves. There they are confronted by a terrifying truth, as they witness the dead body of Conny in a wagon and a monster-like creature seemingly responsible. They hurry back to the orphanage, shaken by what they have seen but resolved to break out and take all the kids with them.
Sounds interesting. Sure, it’s an interesting concept one that has a lot of potential but I feel like its potential that’s squandered by leaps in logic and plotting, tonal issues and an overall inconsistent execution.
So that’s the one-sentence spoiler-free version, I take it you’re going to elaborate and get into spoiler territory from here on out? Yes. Firstly, I was willing to suspend my disbelief that our main characters were capable of such elaborate planning— their geniuses after all so that much I could reconcile. But by episode 12 it’s revealed that some of the younger kids, including Phil who is 4 years old were not only participating in an elaborate escape plan, managing to keep it secret and be trusted with keeping it a secret with little to no evidence that their beloved “mama” was the evil manipulator they sold her as. Credit to the final episode, they surrounded this revelation with plenty of other reveals that it was easy to gloss over it on a single viewing but thinking about it after the fact shows just how many holes this plot point has.
But that’s just one part of one episode (albeit a pivotal one) what about the “inconsistent execution” you spoke of? I’d argue that there was enough material for ~maybe~ 6 episodes tops. Whereas it’s stretched out to 12 here, maybe manga readers will argue that everything we saw was necessary for things later on but every episode felt it was 5 minutes of interesting stuff at the start and 5 minutes of interesting stuff at the end with 10 minutes of padding between.
And the “tonal issues”? The show made an impact with its “powerful” first episode but ever since felt like it was tip-toeing around returning to the dark promise it first offered. And a part of that comes from the lack of scenes exploring the world outside the orphanage. Yes that’s certainly to come now that the kids have escaped but that’s too little, too late for me as I won’t be watching the second season. They had ample opportunity to give more of a glimpse of the outside world but instead wasted literal hours of run time on long winded, unimportant scenes inside the orphanage.
Well that’s certainly a lot of complaints. What did you actually ~enjoy~ about the series? Visually the series is attention grabbing, and all the voice actors are expectedly high quality—especially Emma who wrings a lot of emotion out of her scenes. And as I said at the top of the review, the idea is compelling I just think it’s not well executed.
Right then, so final review and recommendation for ‘The Promised Neverland’? I’m probably the last person you should be looking for a recommendation from because the majority of people really loved this series from beginning to end—and chances are you will too. For me though there were too many things I had issue with to say I “enjoyed” the experience. Promises undelivered: 65 out of 100.
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