The Legacy of The Promised Neverland
Could it have been worse? Probably not.
I've been a huge anime fan for quite a long time. The first anime I ever followed closely was InuYasha: The Final Act way back in 2009, and after I saw what the medium had to offer, I jumped into the ocean and explored to my heart's content. From more generic shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto to masterclasses like Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist, each anime I watched was unique in its own way and had something that kept me coming back for more. I enjoyed every anime I saw - even if some weren't as good as others; I was pleasantly surprised that out of so many shows, there was nothing that I actually come across that I flat out disliked. This continued to be the case until I ran into the Tokyo Ghoul franchise, which, if I'm honest, wasn't even that bad. I actually loved the first season - it had great animation, an engaging story, and great moments that I still remember to this day. I wish I could say the same thing about its sequel, though - Tokyo Ghoul: Root A was an absolute tragedy, and a large part of that is because at the very beginning of the season, there was a huge deviation from the story of the original manga. However, despite this, the ending of the season reached the same point as one of the most intesne parts of the manga, despite having virtually none of the story leading up to said point. This is where the season ended, and when the third season of the show started, Tokyo Ghoul:re, there was yet another deviation, with the season starting from an even later part of the manga. All in all, this led to me being totally disinterested in continuing the series, as there was zero consistency as to what was being adapted.
Now, with that in mind, we come to The Promised Neverland, which suffers from alot of the same problmes, but somehow does an even WORSE job than Tokyo Ghoul in adapting from the source material.
Again, much like Tokyo Ghoul, I thought the first season was fantastic. From the very first episode, it established itself as a super intense cat-and-mouse game between Emma, Ray, and Norman against Isabella, and the show carefully increased the tension with each episode up to the point where it explodes in a magnificient climax that is satisfying as it is heartbreaking. Of course, I knew that the second season would be nothing like the first due to the completely different setting, but I expected the essence of the show to remain intact - after all, isn't that what drew so many people to it in the first place? Four episodes into the season, and I was having a good time. I went online to glance at some theories about where the show would be going from here, and to my surprise, I found that alot of people found the season downright hideous. Digging a little deeper, I found out that the CloverWorks (the studio behind TPN S2) changed the story of the manga and there were rumours that the rest of the season would be anime original content. Now, while this is never inherently a bad thing, it did set some alarm bells off in my head, and I resolved to read the manga for myself to see what I would potentially be missing out on. I started from where the first season ended and by the time I got to the part where the deviation in the anime occured, I was already loving it more than the episodes I had seen, and this feeling only grew stronger when the Goldy Pond Arc started.
I genuinely can't believe that someone looked at the Goldy Pond Arc and thought, 'Yeah, we shouldn't adapt this part of the manga'. It has arguably the best action sequences in the entire story and is one of the high points of the manga, both for the aforementioned action and for the way it gives so much more context to the demons and the kind of world that they live in. From the time that the kids meet Yuugo in the bunker until the end of the arc when Emma is safe in the hideout is when The Promised Neverland is at its best, and while the story does sort of taper off from this point onwards, it remains as one of the more memorable manga arcs in recent times, at least for me. And the anime just....skipped ALL OF IT and jumped straight to the time when the gang meets Norman again. It is at this point in the season that the show transitions from 'all right' to straight up horrendous.
Now granted, the fact that they showed the kids actually spending time in a demon village was cool, and Norman's escape from the Lambda facility was fun to watch as well. But if you look at it in comparison to what we got in the manga, its so....underwhelming. The entire conflict between Emma and Norman regarding the destruction of demons feels very flat and rushed, and the number of contrivances that start to crop up in order to move the plot forward borders on ridiculous. I won't go through all of them here, heavan knows how many others have already, but it suffices to say that I was not happy with how they handled it. To make matters EVEN WORSE though, they ended the season at the point where the actual manga ends! Yes, you read that right - instead of carefully building up to the climatic ending where the kids return to Grace Field to confront Isabella and Peter Ratri in a last ditch attempt to save the other kids at the farm and escape to the world of humans, the season just throws the kids there in the last couple of episodes and wouldn't you know it, they absolutely obliterate any obstacle in their path. This is what really got to me the same way that the ending of Root A did - even though the scene is the same as how it is in the manga, how can you expect viewers to appreciate it without showing them everything leading up to it? The scene itself isn't what makes it memorable; its the trials and tribulations that the characters had to go through to get to this point that immortalises the scene. In the manga, Emma and Ray had to go through so much strife to finally confront Peter Ratri, but none of that is present in the anime adaptation, which is a damn shame.
Lastly, there's the ending.
I said earlier that TPN is worse than Tokyo Ghoul in terms of adapting source material, right? The ending to season 2 is the sole reason why I say that, because while Tokyo Ghoul did a whole lot wrong in terms how it handled the manga's story, it at least had an actual animated ending. Clover Works seemed content with literally flashing still images at the viewer, and just to rub salt in the wound, these images were of events THAT HAPPEN IN THE MANGA. Meaning, they KNEW what they were doing and they might have actually had plans to animate these parts in full, but for some reason they just stuck it in at the end of this season at the last minute. It's entirely possible that they had planned out a much more detailed ending for season 2 that was anime original and these images were supposed to be glimpeses into the third season of the show, but I guess we'll never know, because after a 3 minute PowerPoint presentation, the show actually ends. Everyone crosses over to the human world, no one dies, no consequences, nothing. Everyone is happy and safe, which I wouldn't mind if I felt like the characters actually went through hell to get it. Here, it just feels unearned, and that really dissapoints me.
I started watching The Promised Neverland because I heard that it was one of the best anime series in recent memory, and it didn't dissapoint. The first season was a brilliant experience that I would have whole-heartedly reccomended to anyone looking to have a good time, whether they watch anime or not. However, now after the second season....I'm not too sure how to sell people on this series. Of course, I would tell the to watch the first season and then read the manga from then, but I know alot of people prefer watching to reading, so it will definitely be the less popular choice. It may be too soon to reflect on its legacy with an air of finality, however - Fullmetal Alchemist ended with an anime original ending, only to get a brand new adaptation that rose to became arguably the best anime series of all time, so you never know. I would be delighted if The Promised Neverland got the same treatment, because if nothing else, the series definitely deserves better than what we got.
Farewell, TPN. Thank you for the memories, bittersweet as they may be. May we meet again another time.