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Netflix Anime Review: The Promised Neverland

Sitting at home during this Circuit Breaker gives me ample time to explore more of Netflix (who are we kidding, my life outside CB isn't much different). One of the better animes out there is The Promised Neverland, another gem brought to us by Netflix. The first season has 12 episodes, I thought like meh if I don't like it then I won't have to suffer too long (like certain other animes.. ahem..). I have to say, I was quite sceptical about The Promised Neverland. Do I start all of my blogs like this nowadays? Have I become a bitter old lady already? Should I get a couple of cats and defend Carole Baskin online (hah, the last one will never happen)? Anyway, I think I am trying not to have high expectations before I start a new anime lately, as I have been disappointed because they were too childish for me (I'm looking at you, Demon Slayer). I guess I HAVE become an old lady, bitter at times!

The Promised Neverland though, really delivered (SPOILERS BELOW).  We are introduced to this idyllic world, European ish Heidi Yodeli landscape with seemingly Western kids. It seems to have 4 seasons, with a sunny summer and cold winter with snow. I haven't read the manga, so I'm just imagining it to be like a setting similar to England. Oh wait no it didn't rain all the time scrap that (yes, I'm throwing shade. England, your weather SUCKS). Maybe somewhere Switzerland-y or France, or Germany. AKA I have no clue. Episode 1 immediately starts off with three young kids in a forest with in front of a gate they are not allowed to go out of. Emma, Ray and Norman, three besties, wonder what's out there. Of course we are going to want to see what happens there, right? WILL THEY GO THERE?

Young Emma, Ray and Norman asking the existential life questions. We've never been outside. Why am I alive. Who am I. No? Just me? Alrighty. CB is getting to me. 

These are some skeptical 11 year olds, not believing that there is something 'dangerous' out there. When I was 11 years old I was definitely not this smart. 

The story continues with Emma, Ray and Norman at an older age. They are all 11 years old and living in an orphanage with other children, waiting to be adopted or going to their 'forever homes'. The children are all sweet and cute. They all get along well, the older kids take care of the younger ones and they have one "Mama" or Mom, a caregiver that is the mother figure to all the children. Their days consist out of taking a mysterious test every day, doing chores, eating dinner together and playing hide-and-seek outside.

 They all have this mysterious tattoo in their neck.

Kakichan the Oyster

Time for 'school', kiddos! 

 Nooo pressure.

They called this game 'tag', it feels more like hide-and-seek. One person stays behind and counts down. After that he/she will go find the other kids. Not my idea of tag.

One of the younger ones, the 6 year old Conny, is going to a foster home. They're all sad to see her leave but also happy she has found a family. It's kind of a bittersweet moment, a joyous occasion but also sad as they will be separated. All these young innocent kids all cute, fluffy and adorable. Now mind you, I had no idea what was going to happen. I went into this anime a blank slate. The pessimist in me already feels it coming, when will everything go awry? Is everyone gonna die?  These young, happy, excited kids remind me of one anime the most: Narutaru. And for those of you who have seen it, we know how that ended..

 Cute little Conny with her fluffy little bunny. Ahwwww... nothing can happen to a character THIS cute, right? RIGHT? (wrong, very very wrong.)

 Saying goodbye to the other kids. A bittersweet moment.

Off you go Conny, to your forever home...

Well, it didn't take long. Immediately in episode 1 we have the scene that will set the tone for the rest of the anime. Conny is taken outside the gate, but has 'forgotten' her teddybear. Ray tells Norman and Emma that they can still catch up if they hurry, which they do. Then, outside the gate, Emma and Norman discover Conny's dead body, and see 'oni' or 'demons'.

Ugh, another 6 year old? I guess they're not tasty enough.

Well, we see that the serial numbers are connected to their age and their test scores. So everything on the farm is just a ruse to fool the children. The kids are all getting kept as livestock to be shipped off to some high-end restaurant.

Woops, better hope you're one of the dumb ones. 

They hide under the car and hear them talk about human flesh, children being merchandise, and shipments. Then they hear Isabella, aka Mom, taking orders from them. Soooo, goodbye innocence. Norman and Emma realise that they are livestock living on a farm. Talk about a harsh reality! After half digesting their reality, they decide they will run away together.

Find a strategy to get outta there!!! RUN FORREST RUNNN!!

The first episode sets the tone, the world they live in and gives us a goal. It gives me the same vibes as several other shows/animes/movies such as Maze Runner; a bunch of kids trying to escape to another unknown world, Dark Angel; kids that were genetically engineered and raised to be soldiers (and also were 'branded' with a barcode) that escape from a facility, and even the Matrix; they took the red pill and have to live with the appalling truth of their world. While I was expecting a Battle Royale type of development, have all the kids fight to the death and even each other to survive, it turned out to be more of a Death Note/Code Geass kind of situation where a few young brilliant minds strategise in a way to get out of their predicaments. However, their opponents are just as smart and cunning, which will have you press that play next episode button faster than that one popcorn that falls into your cleavage for continuous suspenseful binging.

Mommy's onto you! Getting some Cruella DeTerminator wolf in sheep's clothes vibes from this one. Strong villain with good instincts, always one step ahead of everything. 

After finding out the truth, Emma and Ray trust Ray and tell him what happened. They have to find a way to get off the farm with all of the children, a plan Ray is against. He just wants to leave with the older kids, as the younger ones will slow them down. Ray kind of knew everything all along and has been planning all of this since he was 6 after remembering the demons from the time he was a baby. Rough life man. This has been weighing on him all his life, he never got the carefree time that Emma and Norman enjoyed. No wonder he looks all dark and emo (that hair tho, really). 

Honestly tho, I see you 80s/90s kids, 20-ish years ago. Not that far off aye? Hashtagnoshamingtho.

Speaking of Mom, she is one hell of a villain I guess the cunning apple doesn't fall far from the cunning tree. Strong, smart, cunning, always one step ahead of the kids, until she is not. She makes up for that with her impeccable instincts and decision-making. One example of that is getting a back-up Mom.  who wants to stab her in the back and become the main Mom of that farm and of course Mommy Isabella knows. It's the kids versus an adult, adult versus adult, who will outsmart whom? This delicate balance of action - reaction runs through this anime like a red thread and makes us sit on the edge of our seats the whole time.

 Ms. Krone is introduced to the kids, making Emma and Norman realise Mom is aware of some of the kids knowing the truth.

 Another adult, another enemy. Are all adults enemies in this story? 

 Smug Mom, knowing she made life more difficult for the aware ones.

Seemingly worried about Emma, AKA "girl were you the one that saw everything? Nah ya gotta get eaten now child".

So, there are a few memorable and 'shocking' storylines. First of all, Ray was a spy for Mom all along, and is even her real son (I wonder where the mommy farm is at.. feels a bit The Handmaid Tale-ish). After almost running away herself, then being selected to become a Mom, she ended up at this academy and gave birth to Ray. After this, she was assigned to the farm that Ray was on, all of this because of a song that Ray remembered hearing (made by Isabella's own 'Norman'). 

 Isabella's own version of Emma and Norman back in the day. She was rebellious and tried to run away herself.

 Being convinced by Mom, she is on the fast-track to success! or just more horror.

 Work hard, little Isabella, so you too can become a monster betraying your own kind basically.

 The idea of bearing a child for 9 months and giving birth knowing it will be eaten.. Truly horrific.

 Realisation in the nation (for all y'all that still remember Ali G).

 The moment Mom finds out she REALLY IS the mom of one of the kids. Look how she grabs her belly. I wonder if she ever felt remorse.

Well, smart runs in the family. Existential crisis at age, 4-ish I'm guessing? Too young, man. Get this guy a proper childhood before he gets eaten!

One storyline which triggers everything is Isabella finding out about all of them knowing and deciding to ship off Norman to the 'restaurant', of which we still know very little about.  We only know that it's high-end and the current farm is delivering the best merchandise (go Isabella? I guess? At least she's doing her job well..). The reason they were doing tests, and the reason Emma Norman and Ray weren't shipped off when they were 6 years old like Conny is that they were growing their brains as it's a delicacy. Somehow I kinda already guessed this was the reason. I already told my partner I AM SO SURE IT'S BECAUSE OF THEIR BRAINS, got me thinking of those horror stories of people eating monkey brains while the monkey's alive. Hey, if we can do it, why can't demons do it with our brains? I am pretty sure cannibals have done this before as well. We have a will-they or won't-they situation now that Norman will be shipped off. Will they escape altogether?  (You thought I meant something else with Emma and Norman did you, get your mind out of the gutter.) When will they do it? Well, Norman, my favourite of course, decides to sacrifice himself for the others, which leads to a strategy for Emma and the other kids to get organised behind Ray's back. The night before Ray's scheduled 'shipment' he decides to set himself on fire. He'd rather burn to death than let himself get eaten. This gives Emma the opportunity to let him in on the escape, and they manage to pull it off! They leave behind Phil (my absolute favourite, he's the CUTEST and so smart, yes I am fangirling LEAVE ME ALONE) as a 'spy' to make sure the other kids stay safe, but of course Mom knows all about that and lets him know they escaped safe and sound.

 Again, RUN FORREST RUN. Never gets old. Life is like a box of chocolates, you ... ok ok I'll stop with the Forrest Gump quotes. For now.

 After realising the kids escaped successfully, Isabella let her hair loose like she did when she wanted to escape herself. I think tying her hair is kind of a symbolism of her being tied down herself. I wonder if she will let down her hair from now on, and become one of the 'good' guys. In this anime, who are the good guys anyway? what is wrong and what is right? Would we also be reacting the same way when a couple of pigs escape a pig farm? Coming from the demons' point of view, isn't it kind of the same? SHOULD WE ALL BECOME VEGAN?? 

 Back at the house, Isabella comforts the smallest kids. 

Of course, after letting Phil know that she knows, so he knows now that she knows he knows ya know?

To conclude, the maker of this story did a brilliant job. We were confined to a small world, everything peaceful and all, and then we were plunged into darkness. The suspense you feel with every episode will make you want to binge it without even wanting a toilet break. 

Flashbacks and background stories of characters like Ms. Krone and Isabella gives us hints of the world and how it is run. I really love how we get to know this world bit by bit, exploring it as we go. It leaves so much open and leaves us with so many questions, but I love that we do get some insights into how this world works. Everything is still very mysterious: the technology, like tracking devices implanted in the back of their ears, how the infrastructure or communication works with Headquarters, the logistics of it all. What time are we in? Is this the world as we know it? A future version? Or an alternate universe? So many questions, so few episodes. 

Is this like the GPS how we know it or more like the Dragon Radar from Dragonball? Come on y'all thought the same when you saw how it looked.

So there is just one thing on our minds, is Norman alive or not?? Was he sent to the daddy-factory? I mean they need the... male specimen.. from somewhere, right? (I wonder if it's like a dairy farm..) He is smart so has good genes, greater chance at big brained kids. Or will he become a 'slave' somewhere? Also, will the kids survive in the outer world? What does it even look like? Will Isabella become one of the good guys?? Will they ever find the guy that left those hints in the books? 
I don't believe Norman's dead. Well as long as we don't SEE it, it's all open. And NO I'm not going to read the manga to find out. I will be a good little girl and wait until season 2 comes out in January next year. It already got pushed back from October this year, so here's hoping it won't be pushed back any further (damn you Covid-19!!!). I hope the second season will be super fast paced and gives us answers while giving us even more questions so we can keep wanting to explore more and more of this world.

 Let's explore together with the kids! A new dawn for them, a new binge-worthy season for us.

An ode to Phil

Oh Phil, you cute little thing
that smile so massive 
but somehow impressive
will you sell out your brethren
and stay in mother's good grace
or keep that smart little head on its place
Oh Phil, please also escape
in a world that you will reshape

~ Written by Devi ~

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