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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!