This season, Beneath the Tangles will be offering dual posts each week for The Promised Neverland, one for viewers who are new to the series and one for those who have read the manga. This post is for beginners and will only include spoilers up to the episode being discussed. We ask that you avoid any spoilers from the manga if you comment below. If you would like to discuss spoilers and other content from the manga, please read thathilomgirl’s posts for the series.
Welcome to our first The Promised Neverland for Newbies post! As I mentioned above, I’ll be going through the series as each episode airs. As someone who hasn’t read the manga, I’ll be avoiding spoilers as I write, so you’re safe here, anime watchers! If you want more insight from what’s ahead, please join @thathilomgirl in her series of posts for experts.
So, diving right in…I’ve been waiting all week for this episode to arrive. Eight days in fact, since the initial episode streamed a day before its TV premiere. Could it top last week’s? Not necessarily, and certainly not in the shock department, but episode two continues to demonstrate the quality of the show. It strengthens the narrative, providing critical points for the series, whereas many series would have done that in the opening episode. In fact, the episode accomplishes four important things:
1. It explains the problem. Of course, the big problem is that THESE KIDS ARE ALL GOING TO BE EATEN BY HORRIBLE DEMONS (I guess…I’m sure there are more secrets in store). But the problems I’m referring to have to do with the escape. In what area do they escape? At what time? And with whom? Norman also discovers that there is some sort of tracking device within their persons that Mother is able to activate, so that’s another big concern—and truly, Mother is the biggest concern of all, an enemy as terrifying as the demons themselves. Another problem arises later (I’ll get to that below).
2. It establishes our three leads. Emma is the easiest character to trust. Right from the beginning, her authentic kindness is on display. The innocence around her makes her trustworthy. We’re also mean to trust Norman and Ray, but for me, it took this episode to really get attached to them. Norman is too sneaky, too thoughtful, too sly, which is I really appreciated the scenes where Mother confronts Emma (who by the way does a wonderful job of lying to her about their whereabouts) and later in the forest when Norman trying to comfort her. He’s literally shaking in fright during both, showing that’s human after all. His declaration of love for Emma, as it were, also establishes him as a character to root for.
Ray is more traditionally hard to get attached to because he’s not at the center of the narrative. His shifty eyes also signal to us that something is up with him as does, again, his intelligence. But by the end of the episode, he’s not only humanized but also brought into the plan. I like how starting at the end of episode one, the series provides glimpses of him spying Emma and Norman before he pops up in the forest and surprises them. It’s an effective way of building his character, and its another reason I have confidence in this series: its totally avoided laziness so far. Cleverly, characterizations and plotlines are being revealed.
3. It shows us the enemy. Again, we saw the enemy in the opening, but we get to see Mother with different eyes in this episode and sense the deviousness within her (as well as her smarts, particularly as she notes that Ray is not in usual reading spot). And still…I wonder about Mother. I wonder what she is. Isn’t it too easy to make her into this monster who feeds other monsters? I sense that there’s more to her—though that could just be guilt; after all, this series feels like the most clever marketing ploy for vegetarian and animal rights organizations (other films have veered toward this analogy, if not with a particular bias, with Prime Cut and Soylent Green coming to mind). To humanize animals and portray them as humans farmed for slaughter conjures images of real farms. And pictured this way, Mother would be a farmer. That’s an interesting comparison to make, I think, and one that’s apt for me since I just rewatched Silver Spoon, in which the animal industry is portrayed in both its coldness and warmth. It would be most compelling if we came to understand Mother as both genuinely loving the children and leading them to slaughter, though that may be too hard to accomplish and too much to ask.
We also get a new adult and, apparently, a new enemy. Sister Krone has arrived with a new orphan, apparently as an assistant to help them weed out the children who know what happened to Connie. But again, I wonder what Sister Krone will turn into—the ferocity of her warmth shows through in the very short clip of her in the OP, though that could certainly just be part of a tone meant to show them as kind caretakers on the surface. I also wonder, on a related note, if anyone will get up in arms about another stereotypical representation of blacks (African-Americans? Are we in the west in this series?) in anime.
4. The objective is clear. The inclusion of Ray into the plot also brings us to this fourth point—the decision is fully made to save everybody. Man, I can’t wait to see how they do that, with Ray clearly understanding how impossible the task is. He’s also smarter than me, because he brought up the biggest challenge of all, which I failed to realize: What happens once they escape? Although we can’t be as sure as Ray is in thinking that the entire outside world is a demon society, it could be. Even if it isn’t, they have no idea what to expect and the danger is certainly very high past the walls.
Again, I’m impressed. Series like Attack on Titan and Claymore make use of the idea of a world beyond the walls or ocean, but those ideas are revealed later in those series, and they feel sometimes like either a cop out or a way of making the series more epic when they need not be. But The Promised Neverland jumps on the idea right from the beginning, and it effectively makes an already impossible task even moreso, and has us more terrified for these kids with whom I’m already falling in love.
And that’s perhaps the most important point of all—I already care deeply for Emma, Norman, and Ray, and I’m not convinced they all survive, especially Norman (death flag in this episode with the whole, “I’m going to make sure she survives”). But I’m hopeful..after all, if anyone can hatch an escape plan, it’s these three, with their huge, delicious brains.
Let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments section. And please, no spoilers! Save them for the “manga readers” post.