The Great Escape!
What’s the Story?
Emma, Norman and Ray live an idyllic life, yes they’re orphans, but they’re looked after by the perfect mum. They’re warm and safe and well fed, with plenty of siblings to play with and to love and be loved by. All in all, their house is one big happy family, except for those that leave. When a child leaves their house and goes down to the gate, they’re never heard from again, no letters, no visits, nothing. So when the next child is sent and Emma and Norman realise she’s left something behind, they hurry after her before she’s gone for good. However when they reach the gate they learn the truth about their little world and suddenly those idyllic lives are gone forever.
Go watch this series. I’m serious, stop reading this, open a new tab on your browser of choice and start watching this show if you haven’t already (I realise that may only be a small number of people considering I’m at least a season behind with getting these reviews out and this was one of the best anime of its particular season). If you want a summary review though, it’s a fantastic show, it’s smart, it’s gorgeously animated, the characters are equal parts adorable and badass and it has an amazing soundtrack and plot. If you have yet to check out this series then do so, immediately, it has my full recommendation (for whatever that’s worth). I’m hesitant to say any more than that because, in my opinion, going in blind is the best way to watch this series (I didn’t and I’ve paid the price, mostly ‘cause I was an idiot and the couple of chapters I’ve read of the manga I read out of order, because poor impulse control is a defining quality of mine).
This is a series that is built on its twists and plot development, I’ve heard people class this series as a horror and while it certainly has horror-elements, for me, this is a mystery series. Unlike a lot of mystery series though, the overhanging question that makes up the mystery is less of a ‘why is this happening’ and more of a ‘how do we get out of this’. We learn relatively little about the world outside of the series’ location, we catch glimpses and can infer certain things, but we never get a good look at anything beyond the confines of the House (I suppose that’ll be season 2’s job). Instead our main characters have a general idea of what’s going on and instead the question becomes what do they do about it.
This series is a puzzle box, with Emma, Norman and Ray coming up with plans and strategies to reach their goal, while all the time those that oppose them seem to be ten steps ahead. They just manage to figure one thing out, and we cheer, and then it’s revealed that there’s a new problem that completely negates any advancement they just made. One step forward, two steps back, as the saying goes and while that can be incredibly frustrating, it’s also part of how this series gets you. I’d get frustrated, but then I’d be on to the next puzzle piece, working out how to get in that next step, thinking this time, this time, I’ll get it, only for the rug to be pulled out from under me and bring everything crashing down. It makes the characters so endearing as the watch the odds get stacked higher and higher against them and you wouldn’t really hold it against them if they just gave up, but they push through it and try harder and harder and until… well, that would be spoilers and you’ve got to go in blind, remember?
Of course the plot and the mystery aren’t the only great things about this series. I’ve mentioned the gorgeous animation and, truly, this series is a joy to just look at, the rich colours and how it uses shadows and light, I could take a screenshot of any single moment in this show and it would be perfect to hang on my wall. Not to mention that the direction is top notch, finding some really clever angles and there is an astounding amount of visual story telling. This show knows when to let a shot linger, to build that tension, to make you wait for the reveal and make sure it really hits you. Not to mention that a lot of stuff is simply shown to you, trusting you to know what it’s saying without a line of dialogue. Not that this is a completely silent series. There is plenty of dialogue, heck I’d say the majority of scenes are just characters talking and yet the show knows how to make that engaging. There’s always a new bit of information or a revelation to hit you, its storytelling at it’s best.
One final thing to mention (since I’m refusing to go into spoilers on this), the soundtrack. Honestly I need more words for beautiful because I’ll use them all to describe the sound in this series, not only does it have a killer opening and ending track, but the music within the series itself is just bliss for my ears. My two favourite tracks have to be 63194 (Emma’s theme) and Isabella’s lullaby. Emma theme is just this grand, dark masterpiece that you wouldn’t think would fit such a bright and cheery girl, but when you think about it and you see the steel in her eyes, you know it’s the perfect music for her. As for the lullaby, well, watch the series to the end and you’ll know why that is perhaps one of the most beautiful and tragic pieces of music I have ever heard. Also this series has a fantastic villain, just saying.
The Promised Neverland is a puzzle box mystery, with the characters fighting with everything they have to overcome ever-mounding odds against them. It doesn’t feel like I’ve seen an anime this well put together in a long time (not until this current summer season came along anyway), from the animation to the writing and the directing and even the music, everything just perfectly slots together to tell this tragic, yet hopeful series about overcoming all the odds. I am really looking forward to season 2. Watch this series, I know I’m going to give it a couple of dozen more watches.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.