What’s the Story?
Having escaped the Grace Field House, Emma, Ray and the rest of the children now have to contend with the dangers and wonders of the outside world. Can they possibly survive in a world full of demons? A world were their only source of information is a pen and the few clues left behind by William Minerva? It won’t be easy, given they’ve got a whole world order to fight against, but who knows, maybe it’ll be exceptionally easy. Maybe everything Emma puts her mind to will come to pass with frighteningly little difficultly. Staging a revolution, enemies turning to staunch allies at the drop of a hat and whatever other obstacles remain quickly disappearing. No, that couldn’t be right, that would tank the whole series. Wouldn’t it?
I adored the first season of The Promised Neverland. You can read my review of it HERE, but in summary it is a staggeringly well put together show, a perfect puzzle box that continually kept me at the edge of my seat. I’ll still thoroughly recommend it, heck, I even shelled out for the collector’s edition blu ray just so I could own it (and it arrived just in time for me to watch it and remind myself that I actually enjoyed this series at one point in time). If you enjoyed the first season, leave it at that. Treat episode twelve as the final episode and make up your own ending from there. You could of course go read the manga, I’ve heard the next couple of arcs after where the first series left off are actually pretty good, but I haven’t read them so I can’t vouch for that. Whatever you do, do not watch season 2, not unless you want to experience the soul crushing disappointment and rage-inducing frustrations that I just have. If you want to leave this review at this point I don’t mind, from here on out begins the flaying of season 2.
I’m not going to act like continuing the story of The Promised Neverland was ever going to be easy. The ending of season 1 so irrevocably changed the dynamic of the series it’s hard to know where you go from there. We’ve transitioned from this closed off, claustrophobic environment to a wide open world that we know so little about, and somewhere in that the series loses part of that essential spark that made it so great. The first problem to hit season 2 is it’s lack of direction. From the outset of season 1 we had a clear objective for our characters to follow, they had to come up with a way to escape Grace Field House and they did. Season 2, well the end goal is finding a way to the human world, once the characters learn that that exists. The problem is that ‘Reach the Human World’ is a very vague and nebulous goal. We don’t know enough about this world and its rules to clearly establish what our characters can and cannot do. As such the series meanders around for its first few episodes.
It doesn’t help that the looming danger that was so ever-present in the first season has been removed. The kids still aren’t safe, but that danger is now nameless, there’s no central antagonist constantly looking over our heroes’ shoulders, creating that sense of dread in us viewers. Another factor is that the kids don’t actually do anything to face the danger that they do come across. In the first season (and I’m sorry to keep bringing up this comparison, but the two seasons are like night and day and that really is the coffin in which this season is buried), the characters are always thinking, always trying out plans, getting knocked back and coming up with something else. Here, what do they do? Most of the time they’ll run away, either that or Emma will give an impassioned speech about what it is she wants to do. There’s no challenge, where’re all those brilliant, devious little geniuses that I got to know in the first season? When they accomplish something in this season I don’t marvel at how clever they’ve been, I roll my eyes at the plot, yet again, bending over backwards to make things easy for them. It feels like the fangs have been removed from this season for whatever reason.
That brings me to the final nail in the coffin for this season, and that’s the pacing. It really just boggles my mind to think about it, once the show finishes it’s meandering after the first couple of episodes it just suddenly puts its foot to the accelerator and doesn’t let up from there. We get a time skip, reintroduction of characters, sudden heel-turns, back stories are crammed in and a revolution is begun (don’t even get me started on that ending montage. I nearly blacked out with rage once I realised what was going to happen). It’s as if there was some kind of edict from on high that this season also had to be the final season and if someone did make that decision I want to meet them, so I can strangle them with my bare hands! Every plot twist, every moment that if given enough time and development could have been a juicy bit of drama is instead bulldozed over in a mad rush to get to the ending, logic and reason be damned! It’s a sad end for a series that felt so methodically and carefully plotted in its first season.
I don’t know what happened to The Promised Neverland. I’d be really interested in hearing about the behind the scenes on this season, but that wouldn’t change the fact that this show is a pale shadow of its former self. What once was a carefully plotted puzzle, with a continual sense of dread and purpose has become a meandering, rushed toothless mess. The plot twisted itself into knots to get where it needs to go, foregoing logic, reason and, worst of all, character in order to reach its dictated endpoint. Don’t watch this season, leave after the first and let’s all pretend this never happened. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to watch the first season again to remind myself what good anime is again.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.