Animal Farm was a wonder that took the world by storm in 1945. A take where farm animals become self-aware, rising in rebellion against the farmers and society that deemed them food. In 2019, anime gave a similar take. A show about an orphanage ran by a loving “mother”, an orphanage filled with varying age children that seemingly only have one rule. You can spend a majority of the day playing, eating, or vibing with the other children but there is one instance one must take seriously testing. So going through the motions Ray, Norman, and Emma one day stumble upon the truth of their fate. How this orphanage with that mama whom they loved dearly, is indeed something much darker. So let us take a look at the one, the only, The Promised Neverland.
Racking up an impressive 8.66 on MAL this series somehow eluded me, falling under my radar until one day I stumbled upon a Reddit meme that piqued my interest. Talking to a friend about it we decided that we were going to binge the first season over a weekend and discuss it at work the following Monday, and my god am I glad I did.
The first major takeaway about this series was its ability to hook a suspense line in episode one that gives a heavy atmosphere throughout the remained 11 episodes. What seems like a lively, loving, orphanage quickly becomes a lot darker as the kids see off 7-year-old Conny, a rather dumb but cheerful girl who could always be seen around the Grace Field House with her beloved stuffed bunny. Promising to write to her dear friends once she arrives with her new family the proclamation is something that has yet to happen within the orphanage, once a kid is adopted they are never heard from again.
Right away this put in place and disturbing feeling, which is exacerbated by two of the mains, Norman and Emma finding Conny’s stuffed rabbit after she had left to go be with her new family. This was bizarre to the kids since this was without a doubt the number one cherished thing in Conny’s life, there would be no way she would forget it. This is when the third main, Ray, hints that if they hurried Norman and Emma could reach the gate in time and return the rabbit to its owner, gleefully they oblige.
It is with this action the brilliant Norman and Emma discover the bleak truth of Grace Field House. Unable to find Conny or anyone at the now open gate they poke around, looking in the back of the truck where, to their horror, they find the girl they were looking for. Laying haphazardly with some sort of rose coming out of her chest was their dear friend dead. Hardly being able to comprehend what was laying in front of them they get little to no time to think about it as a noise forces them to hide under the truck. Carefully peeking out Emma and Norman see what they can only describe as “demons” abnormal monsters who refer to Conny as “food” while talking about business deals with the orphanage’s beloved Mama.
Narrowly being able to escape the two dart back to the house, leaving behind the stuffed bunny as evidence someone had been there. With the assumption that two of her most brilliant children are now aware this loving home is nothing more than an industrial farm, and they are not kids for adoption but cattle. Starts a cat and mouse game of wit, determination, pain, and hardship as Isabelle (mama) attempts to break the will of her brilliant children. Attempting to paint a picture that shows escaping was never an option.
Another thing this story does very well shows that the world beyond this farm is rather fucked up. That Isabella, this cold seeming sociopath mother knowingly raising her kids to be slaughtered is a little more complex than that, and given the situation, a lot of her actions start to make sense to the point I kinda felt bad for her.
Overall CloverWorks did a fine job animating this series. It’s weird, a lot of five heads and weird eyes placement but it does add a certain charm in moments of extreme distress. For the most part, the expressions are either none existent or somewhat cheerful, but once Emma comes to the harsh realization of what her life actually is. Her mental breakdown just adds layers because of how distorted her face becomes in that moment.
As for the sound it holds up, adding eerie moments with a respected intro and outro that just fits the show like a tight shirt. In short, this show is phenomenal, it hits at almost every level it should, it is full of mystery, suspense, and genuinely interesting world-building. The character development was on point and every kid and adult that seemed relevant to the story got proper screen time and fleshing out. I can see why this show was held in such high regard when it came out in 2019, its a banger, period, and well-deserving of an 8/10.
As always thanks for the read!