Anime Review

Rolling Review – The Promised Neverland (01)

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Episode Synopsis:

At an orphanage known only as The House, 38 children live, grow, and play all under the watchful eye of their loving Mama. Every once in a while a child leaves the orphanage for a supposedly loving home and is never heard from again. Surrounding The House is a large fenced off gate and there are other smaller fences that seem to keep the children penned within their confines.
When a six year old named Conny is adopted, two other children, Emma and Norman venture beyond the gate and discover the horrifying truth of what it means to be “adopted”.

Review:

Um…guys….
We are so not in Irozuku Kansas anymore.

The Promised Neverland Episode 1 is EXACTLY how a show should kick things off. Not since Erased have I been this “edge of my seat” engaged.

If you’ve been a media consumer for quite some time, the synopsis above should have made your stomach twist up even before you got to the last line. Nothing good ever begins with children in a subtle prison being watched over by a supposedly loving caretaker. The Promised Neverland knows this and makes no bones about ripping the cover clean off the shiny veneer of the setting. The ending of this episode is terrifying.

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If only it were this lovey-dovey…

Episode 1 starts strong by giving us a likable set of three protagonists. Emma, Norman and Ray each have a strong suit that’s distinct yet complimentary. You meet all three of them for an innocent game of tag and, without knowing why this is important, come out realizing they are vital to each other’s existence. No one child outshines the other and I was surprised how immediately protective I was of the three of them.

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The animation, camera work and sound direction in this episode are top notch. Each child looks distinct and the details that go into facial expressions makes the horror later in the episode really pop. The human characters are round and soft, but CloverWorks pulls out some grotesque art later for the antagonists which showcases impressive overall art chops.

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Oh…you know that can’t be good…

When the show reveals the main horror event it does so slowly, as the camera follows one of the main characters around a corner and then freezes on the main event. When the main antagonists are revealed it’s all shot from a place of vulnerability, so for those precious moments you are holding your breath along with Emma and Norman.

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This whole sequence is scary as hell and I held my breath for a good portion of it.

There’s a sequence where a soft lullaby plays over Emma and Norman having a grim discussion and you are given the impression of hope surrounded by adversity. This is then contrasted with a hard discord sound playing over a still shot sequence that makes your blood stop, mid flow. Don’t even get me started on how catchy that OP is. DAAAAAAAYYYYYYM, that saxophone! The ED theme is just as good but for a different reason. It’s creepy and pseudo frantic and really wraps in the idea of horror and desperation. I love it.

I’m being purposely vague here, and have been light on pictures because I think everyone should watch this for themselves and get the full impact of it. The lead-up to the reveal of what’s happening in The House, the appearance of the antagonists and the soon to be ensuing prison break is a masterwork in storytelling.

If you can stomach the content (ugh…that pun…I swear I didn’t mean it this time), this is definitely going to be the show of the season.

Summary:

Whooooo damn. We are in for a tense ride here. The Promised Neverland starts off strong and leaves you with a fear factor cliffhanger. It presents the strongest first episode to a show I’ve seen in a long time with equal parts brilliant story, art, tension building, camera, and sound. I am rooting for these kids, but terrified by their primary antagonist. What’s gonna happen next?!


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3 comments on “Rolling Review – The Promised Neverland (01)

  1. Some Guy Named Gabbo

    I’m going to approach this episode in a very analytical way. Let the rambling begin.
    The problem with approaching such a well established story-telling device, in this case the creepy orphanage, is execution. Which the creators nailed. No effort is made in hiding the fact there is something wonky going on from the beginning (they have numbers on their necks for crying out loud), but is handled in a way that doesn’t beat the viewers over the head with the fact. This allows the viewers to still look for the loose thread that will unravel the facade. This presents another problem as the viewers know there is a mystery even if they don’t know what it is. Prolonging the mystery of the mystery could frustrate viewers and cause them to lose interest. Promised Neverland, however, does not do this. Episode 1 gives the viewer the thread in the form of throwing the entire ball of yarn at them as a fastball into the stomach. The creators just don’t hold back.
    What really sells it is the cinematography and the emotion of the reveal. Since you already mentioned the camera work, I’ll talk about the emotion. The entire scene was designed in such a way that no action could be overly dramatic, creating a limit as to how much the characters could emote. And oh man did the creators keep the characters’ reactions at that limit. From the initial shock, to the muted horror, and finally the denial and acceptance of what happened. Kudos to both the animators and VAs for such amazing work.
    To sum it up, Promised Neverland threw out a hook that had no illusions about not being a hook, but was done so skillfully that I couldn’t help but fervently grab it anyway. All I can do now is keep watching in a state of morbid fascination.

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    • It’s true Gabbo. I am really excited to see how this show plays out. Episode 2 threw out a new curve ball so I’m interested as to who is on who’s side in all this. It should be a great season.

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  2. Pingback: Rolling Review – The Promised Neverland (02) – The Con Artists

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