The Promised Neverland: “Tasteful” Horror

Today I finished watching Yakusoku no Neverland or The Promised Neverland. I found it fun, suspenseful, and moving, with any unoriginal elements overshadowed by the thoroughly refreshing ones. I could (and probably will) write 20+ pages about this series, but today, let’s stick to a brief review.

General info on The Promised Neverland:
Aired: Winter 2019. Studio: Clover Works. Genres: Demons, Horror, Psychological, Thriller.
Audience: Shounen/Shoujo. Episodes: 12. Possiblity of a second season: confirmed (for 2020).

The story concept isn’t that original to someone who tends to love dark, psychological and horror shows, including some about societies where demons can harvest a quota of humans. No anime has a truly “original” plot concept, though, and that’s alright. The important thing is that Yakusoku no Neverland handled its story in a unique way. At times, it can be painfully predictable, but the twists and turns of the plot surprised me at least three times, especially the reveals about characters.

The pacing is break-neck, but in a good way. There’s no confusing cramming together of overly abundant information, yet the excitement never lets up. That’s what’s needed for a good thriller. This show didn’t elicit any feelings in me of being scared or even feeling creeped out, but there were moments I thought were emotionally disturbing. There was also a f*** ton of suspense in every single episode. This is why people are calling Promised Neverland a “tasteful” horror. Sometimes subtlety works even better than gore and melodramatic despair for the psychological or horror genres.

As with the story elements, I might say the characters weren’t anything novel, but they were handled and developed in innovative ways. All cast members were well-written, and several of them had great character growth. Rei/Ray never gave me a moment to breathe with all the reveals and secrets about his past and his intentions. “Mama” or Isabella was both psychologically fascinating and utterly repulsive– easily a “demon” herself. I loved Sister Kurone and I always doubted that she could be a real villain.

Now, Emma has an overused character type– the earnest, brave, and peppy Shounen Protagonist who never gives up– except for one key difference. She is a Shoujo, lol! It’s refreshing to see this common “boy” character type in a girl for once! We could use more anime girls like Emma.

I don’t know much about this subject, but from my amatuer perspective, the art and animation in Yakusoku no Neverland was fairly good. I don’t think it was anything outstanding, though. I’m aware the art style is “different,” but I like it. The character designs were very simple, but to make up for it, their expressions were so realistic, and not quite as over-the-top as expressions tend to be in other horror shows. The few scenes with dramatic movement looked well-done to me, like when Norman scaled the wall with the rope-sheets. There were some really interesing shot effects that made it seem like the camera was moving, or the walls were moving, or both.

The opening song was pretty good, and much like the show, it felt full of hope and gravity at the same time. I’m crazy about the ending song. I don’t know the singer’s name, but I believe I’ve heard her do a song for Tokyo Ghoul, and maybe Kakegurui? The instrumental soundtrack was appropriate for building a story of determination, hope, childhood disillusionment, suspense, loss, and fear. It was quite moving.

As usual, the Japanese voice acting was astounding. Maaya Uchida played Norman just about perfectly. Sumire Morohoshi seems a bit new to acting on some lines, but in big moments, or whenever it really counts, her talent blew me away. It was great to hear Mariya Ise again (voice of Rei/Ray, and of Killua from Hunter x Hunter). My only little complaint is that her age is beginning to show. She sounds less like a 12-year-old boy now compared to ten years ago, and more like a 30-some-year-old woman.

I consider personal enjoyment one of the aspects required to make a well-rounded rating of a series. For Promised Neverland, I enjoyed every last little thing! Here are just a few elements I loved. 1) The character of Rei/Ray. 2) The concept of Demons keeping humans as livestock. 3) The way that Kurone and Isabella have to play politics with the Demons and with “Grandmother.” 4) The way that things aren’t always shown in order, increasing the suspense, and keeping your mind at work. 5) Various themes, including loss, disillusionment, growing up, determination, effort, hope, how humans are “demons” too, and how you can’t always save everyone.

I like to rate my anime on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being utterly appalling and 10 being a perfect masterpiece. So, where does this review leave us? I say story is 8/10, characters are 9/10, art is 7/10, sound is 8/10, and enjoyment was 10/10. Add those up and divide by five, and my rating for Yakusoku no Neverland is 8.4/10, just between “Excellent” and “Outstanding.” I highly recommend it.


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