Written by Shiggins
With the Promised Neverland having now finally hitting the screens, something I've been waiting for for over a year now, anime-only viewers are getting to adore the series as much as I have all through 2018. As I sit back and watch the reactions, I notice how much love is going around however, and I start to wonder why exactly that is. We've seen many shows get this sort of popularity before, but for different reasons. What reasons have we got to love the Promised Neverland so much?
Note: For the anime viewers out there, this article will be mostly spoiler-free of any manga moments.
Let's start with what the show is actually about, incase you've not yet watched it but want a recommendation. To put it simply, the Promised Neverland is a series about a group of children that live in an orphanage under the kind eye of the caretaker, Mother Isabella. But one day, the young girl Emma and her friends Norman and Ray discover that the orphanage is actually a farm for monsters, who are raising the kids to be devoured when they come of a certain age. And so Emma becomes determined to escape the orphanage, and find a way to get everyone else out as well.
One of the most major appeals to this series is definitely the unique setting of the orphanage itself. We've seen this trope before, where a seemingly innocent place is actually sinister by design, but so rarely do we get it to be an orphanage. And in the even rarer cases where it is an orphanage, never do we see it in this fashion. The "evil orphanage" is usually portrayed with a bunch of children pretending to be happy but are actually miserable, and it's always because of the caretaker that resembles the evil stepmother from Cinderella in terms of wickedness.
Here however, we see an entire labyrinth of deceit within these decadent walls. Mother Isabella is not a laughing, smirking witch but portrays herself as a kind and gentle soul that can be ultimately trusted, which makes her association with the monsters all the more unnerving and heartbreaking, for both the orphans and ourselves. She, like everything else here, is designed for an environment that allows kids to grow, but not to grow too much. Rather than call her a mother, it might be more accurate to call her a farmer.
Grace Field House, the orphanage, feels like it was designed for both the story and the world it lives in. Every location, every area, is where logic dictates it should be. Instead of the trio being given constant conveniences and scenarios that exist purely to further the plot, they have to use what they possess, what they would have in this environment, and this creates a far more satisfying pay-off in the end because every accomplishment feels earned, and every defeat is a gut-punch. The strategies involved by these characters were something I was proud to pick up on as it was happening, and it made me feel smart to figure them out, while the series made sure I was never falling behind. The writer, Kaiu Shirai, knows when to hold my hand so I don't get lost, but also knows when to let go so I can learn on my own, as any good writer should do.
Of course, a story can only work if we care about the characters involved, which brings us to another big appeal; Emma!
|Well, that's just adorable and now I need a hug.|
Let me give you the mantra that I write with: Bad characters can ruin a great story, but good characters can save a bad one.
Characters are a priority, even above setting and story. If I don't care about these people, I won't care what they're going through no matter what it is. Tom Cruise fighting an undead mummy that's trying to destroy the world? That's a yawn, because the characters in it are boring. And Emma, thankfully, is a wonderful protagonist that does what she should.
|Ugh, what a nerd.|
The Promised Neverland is smart but never smug. It knows to not treat their readers/viewers like idiots, and it isn't trying to boast about how amazing they or anyone else are. We've all watched or read something that feels like it was made by a self-titled "artiste", an auteur, who seeks to impress rather than inspire. (I won't name any names but... you know at least one person!). For me, The Promised Neverland is not so fun and enjoyable because of any one of these aforementioned appeals, but rather the tight and focused combination of all of them.
Emma is a wonderful protagonist, one of the best of the decade from Shonen Jump, and the other characters such as Norman and Ray help to sell me to the clever writing. Grace Field House feels almost like a character of its own, a prison of danger that we want to see Emma escape from, but it is never unreasonable in its cruelty. (Unless you count the part where children are dying because of it...). In a way, Grace Field House is the Dark Souls of anime locations. It's ridiculously tough, but it's also fair. If you can learn and improve, you can survive. It is possible! And it's that fairness that makes Emma refuse to give up, and we refuse to stop supporting her as she tries to make it to the Neverland she was pro... oooooh!
Also, she's ginger. Got to love that.
Born under the stars of the Dark Gods, Shiggins owns the power of the Great Eye and is utterly magnificent in his omniscience. If you dare to discover more about someone as great as him, then go ahead. And to all my friends and family members, YOU are wrong and I should be disappointed! Not the other way round!,. You can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere or go to his tumblr page http://otakugajeel.tumblr.com/