Anime Review: The Promised Neverland -Season 1 (2019)

The Promised Neverland started as twenty tankōban volumes written by Kaiu Shirai, illustrated by Posuku Demizu, and published in Weekly Shōnen Jump 2016-2020. Over 25 million copies were sold so it was no surprise that it garnered an anime adaption in 2019 with an English dubbed version in 2020. A second season is on the way for January 2021, previously October 2020, delayed due to the pandemic pushbacks.

This dark fantasy thriller centers around three eleven-year-old orphans who live a life of happiness with their foster mother and siblings. Their world is turned upside down when one of their sisters is adopted and Norman and Emma discovered that their gentle sister wasn’t sent to a loving family but to be eaten by demons who have taken over the earth. Norman, Emma, and soon Ray team up to find a way to escape with their thirty plus other siblings before the next child is shipped for slaughter.

Emma, Norman, and Ray are fantastic main characters. Each are unique and very well-written. Though Emma and Ray have the best character arcs, Norman is a character who brings the best out of both of them. Emma was refreshing lead with her pure heart, bravery, and other Christian aspects. In contrast, Isabella makes a formidable villain. Seeing this woman transform from the caring mother to the sinister warden sent chills down my spine and sent me clicking to the next episode. Despite her antagonistic characteristics Isabella, still has a sympathetic side to her that fleshes out her character. Furthermore, the show featured a prominent black character named Krone which is rare in anime.

Though this first season just spans twelve episodes, it’s perfect for a late-night binge. The storyline is a packed thriller and will keep a watcher on the edge of their seat, begging to know if these children make it out of their dire situation. The season wraps up nicely, but leaves the viewer anxious for the season two release. Despite the premise there is a low amount of violence and very little swearing.

The voice acting was stellar for both the subbed and dubbed versions. The English actors casted to dub were spot on. Erica Mendez (Erased, Sailor Moon) did a wonderful job capturing Emma’s innocence and determination. Though Norman and Ray were voiced by female actresses Jeannie Tirado (Orange, Soul) and Lauren Megan Stahl (Beyblade Burst, Pokemon Masters), respectively, they did a fantastic job capturing the voices of tween boys. Finally, Laura Post (Persona 5, Justice League Action) performed wonderfully in a motherly and sinister way as the scenes changed.

The animation was beautiful and vivid. Particularly shots such as when the kids were researching in the library or playing tag were so unique and creative. The soundtrack by Tahiro Obata, a new but talented composed, was equally high-quality with moving instrumentals and even an original vocal tune “Isabella’s Lullaby,” a haunting melody of sadness and regret.

The Promised Neverland is a great short anime watch for otaku who love shows like Erased: A Town Without Me and Attack on Titan.

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