Our time on this planet is finite. In fact, if you break it down to its simplest form, every second that slips away is a second less that we spend on our blue planet. It’s certainly a gloomy prospect but one we thankfully don’t have to worry about while we’re kids.
Those carefree days are spent riding bikes and playing tag, where the only worry comes from skinned knees and dreading school on a Monday. Simpler days; simpler times. So what happens then when those two worlds of innocence and dread collide together? Step forward The Promised Neverland.
To reveal anything specific about the story would be a massive spoiler. In fact, this is one of the few shows I’d highly recommend jumping into blind. Don’t watch the trailer, don’t even look at a plot synopsis – just jump straight in and take a gamble. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
If you really do want a brief synopsis however, the show essentially boils down to a 12-episode mystery box that evolves and grows across the season into something that’ll undoubtedly be remembered as one of the breakaway anime hits next to Attack On Titan.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. This first season essentially serves as a prologue for a much bigger story to come in the future. The centerpiece for this dread-inducing cocktail of mystery and horror comes in the form of a secluded orphanage where kids run freely and study to become the best. Eventually, the kids become old enough to be adopted and leave their house, never to be seen again.
Across the 12 episodes we follow three of the elder children living at this orphanage, raised by their loving “Mum”. Spunky Emma, brainy Norman and moody, mysterious Ray form an unbreakable bond under unlikely circumstances. When they discover a dark secret about the orphanage, it turns their entire world upside down. What ensues is a methodically paced game of cat and mouse, doubling up as a psychological thriller with aspects of a prison break thrown in for good measure.
With every episode hanging on an almighty cliffhanger (reinforced by a few that are literal cliff hangers!) this self-aware anime delivers a wonderful display of carefully constructed character work and a masterclass in suspense. There’s several moments here that really do rival suspense seen in horror movies and the drawn-out scenes only reinforce that.
While Promised Neverland does sometimes lean a little too heavily into these long-cuts (especially midway through the season), your patience is undoubtedly rewarded by a few great reveals and a shocking ending that’ll have you scrambling to watch the season 2 trailer. As I said before though, this is an anime you really should go into blindly and if you can hold off watching the trailer, Promised Neverland promises to be quite the thrill-ride when it returns later this month.
There’s a constant recurring motif of time through this season too, with both calendars and ticking clocks a mainstay across the visual spectrum. Both of these stark pieces of imagery work beautifully to add a sense of urgency, keeping you gripped right the way through to the end. The best example of this comes in the form of literal fade shots of characters running with a ticking clock behind them.
The theme song is wonderful too, adding some unconventional brass instruments in for good measure. The sound design throughout the season flits between orchestrally stirring and outright creepy – even confidently relying on silence to do the heavy lifting. On the subject of sound though, do yourself a favour and steer clear of the English dub. The original is far superior and given Amazon Prime currently hold both versions, the Original is far superior in every way.
Around so many mediocre and formulaic anime released every year, The Promised Neverland offers something very different. It’s a special animated offering, one that perfectly adds all the elements that make mystery box shows so appealing and backs it up with satisfying and well-written reveals.
Armed with strong characters, a gorgeous aesthetic and a carefully constructed 12 episode prologue, The Promised Neverland is shaping up to be a very special anime offering and this first season is a must-watch.
Verdict - 9.5/10