Shocked doesn’t begin to describe what I felt while watching the first episode of “The Promised Neverland.” Better than any thriller movie I’ve ever seen, this anime series gave me chills the second it started playing. The first episode of “The Promised Neverland” features a group of 38 kids who live in an orphanage with their “mom.” At first glance, nothing looks out of the ordinary, but in the back of my mind, there’s this feeling that made my skin crawl.
The anime is about an orphanage of children who aren’t allowed to go beyond the gate and high walls surrounding their home. One night, Emma, a joyful and bright 11-year-old, follows after her younger sister, Conny, who got adopted and left her favorite toy bunny behind. On her way to return the bunny to Conny, with her best friend, Norman, they witness a horrifying scene. Gray and lifeless, they see their little sister’s dead body sprawled in the back of a truck, impaled with a rose. As they hide, they witness terrifying demon creatures holding back their urge to get a taste of her body. The “food” is not for demon creatures, but for their higher-ups. Collecting nutrients, the long-fingered demons expose the reality of the orphanage: a farm that raises and harvests children for their “delicious” flavor. Stunned with fear, the children realize they must come up with a plan to escape their deaths before they turn 12, the perfect age for harvest.
Right off the bat, the anime starts with an ominous scene featuring the three main characters, Emma, Norman and Ray, peering into the other side of the gate that connects to the outside. This scene, although chilling, gives an inside look of what’s to come, referencing how they aren’t allowed to go outside, and showing the dangers that lie beyond the gate. Not only that, but they never shake off the feeling of suspense, even when there are kids playing tag, laughing and having fun.
Although the first episode shows innocent scenes, the anime does an amazing job with foreshadowing. For example, they show Conny’s name on a calendar, find the gate while playing tag, and one of the children notices that they don’t receive letters from the adopted children. The anime leaves you in the dark, alongside the children, experiencing and realizing everything along the way.
Just like the foreshadowing, the narration and animation of suspenseful scenes leaves me amazed. The director shows one second clips during certain parts, in order to give the overall scene more depth. An example of this would be when the kids gather near the gate during a game of tag, hoping for a future outside of the house. One of the other children, Gilda, realizes that they haven’t heard back from the kids who have been “adopted.” The directors use one-second scenes, highlighting the phrases “you know what?” and “letters?”. With these small cuts, the scene feels innocent, but gives a sense of fear.
Along with directing, the anime has an amazing soundtrack and sound effects, giving the episode a more profound feel. The use of dripping, shallow water and creeping footsteps gives you a suspenseful, horror movie feel. What I love most about their usage of music is when a hopeful song plays, and then, suddenly, there’s this screeching violin sound after Isabella, the children’s “mom”, finds Conny’s bunny misplaced. Her eyes wide, wearing a creepy murderous look gave me a thrilling chill.
Overall, this anime was unsettling. In one episode, this show really went from 0 to 100 and was surprising without being random. Right to the point, but not rushed, the first episode gave an inside look of what’s to come in the season. It leaves me at the edge of my seat. Who is on their side? What lies beyond the walls? What does the impaled flower mean? Intense, suspense, foreshadowing and tone, all five stars from me.
Crunchyroll is $6.95 a month, https://www.crunchyroll.com/the-promised-neverland