The Winter 2021 Preview Guide
The Promised Neverland Season 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Promised Neverland (TV 2) ?
What is this?
Emma and the children have finally escaped Gracefield House, the home they discovered is little more than a farm to raise intellectual children as food for demons. Now they head to the place indicated on the pen Norman gave them in search of safety. But beyond the walls of Gracefield is a wild and dangerous world.
How was the first episode?
I hope everyone tuning into The Promised Neverland 2 remembers the first season perfectly, because this episode made absolutely no concessions to refreshing anyone's memory or, heaven forbid, catching up people tuning in for the first time. For better or worse, everything picks right up where the last season left off, without a word of recap or exposition.
“Where the last season left off,” meaning that Emma and Ray, with 50% the amount of ears they'd had before, have led the children of Grace Field House to escape into the forest, full of unknown terrors. The phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire,” has never been so apt, and rarely as close to literalism as it comes here. Instead of peacefully and comfortably waiting for their slaughter date, the children are in a dark, dangerous forest that contains demons who are all too happy to catch them and eat them instead of buying them cultivated from the farm.
Although they are free, the forest, dense and unknown, creates an oppressive feeling that contrasts with bright, open spaces and homey buildings of Grace Field House. It's a clever bit of visual storytelling, illustrating the often-paradoxical nature of freedom often feeling far more dangerous than the safety of a controlled environment. Further adding to the feeling of alienation is how it becomes clear that this isn't the world we know, with strange flora and fauna unlike what exists in ours.
The character writing offers no particular revelations, nor anything remarkable or unusual for returning viewers. Emma and Ray are the same as they were before, albeit a bit more frightened and less confident. I still feel like the transition to anime, which removed all of the internal monologue, was detrimental to Emma's development. Without her thought processes made clear, she seems less intelligent and deliberate than Ray. On the other hand, I thought this episode was great for Don, who has a moment of real leadership and strategy. Previously, he had always seemed like a bit of a dunderhead, even though he must be highly intelligent to have survived as long as he has. Hopefully, he can come a bit more into his own in this new story arc.
The Promised Neverland Season 2 is a no-brainer for fans of the last installment. However, it is absolutely not a good starting point, so if you're curious, go back to the beginning.
It's been an agonizing year waiting for The Promised Neverland to return, but for Emma, Ray, and the rest of the Grace Field House runaways, barely any time has passed since they plunged headfirst into the monster and demon-infested forests of the world beyond their home. One of Emma's first lines in this premiere is that freedom is “so beautiful…yet so cruel”, which is a reasonable reaction to fleeing life as an eldritch monster's five-course dinner, only to find yourself trapped in a nightmare hellforest straight out of a Clive Barker novel. With the show's typically moody lighting pulling double-duty alongside Takahiro Obata's spooky soundtrack, it didn't take long before this new season of TPN started giving me some Made in Abyss vibes. This is one hundred percent a good thing.
It isn't a perfect premiere, though. Much of the episode's first half is understandably devoted to reacquainting the audience to the world and characters of The Promised Neverland, including the ever-present mystery of William Minerva and his overly complicated Orphan Rescuing Escape Room Puzzles. This is good for anyone that hasn't read the manga in a good long time, like me, but it makes for a slower-paced opening to the story than one might expect, given how explosive and cathartic the Season 1 finale was. Also, while I think Mamoru Kanbe and CloverWorks' aesthetics largely work for the story's pivot into a more overtly fantastical setting, the series' notorious incorporation of CGI elements doesn't always mesh well. I'm okay with the 3D backgrounds, even when they stick out very obviously, but the digital render of the forest creature that pursues the children is a lot harder to overlook. At times, such as when Rey is framed in the foreground while the pursuing creature chases from behind, it almost looks like the characters are being placed against a greenscreen or rear-projection shot, which isn't even an effect I thought you could replicate in animation.
Still, The Promised Neverland is built on a strong foundation of character, narrative and mood that can easily outshine any production blemishes (at least so far). With the introduction of friendly(?) demons that offer Emma, Ray, and Co. respite from the demonic hordes of this terrifying new world, TPN is set to take its fascinating world and thrilling story to even stranger, darker places, and I can't wait to see what comes next.
It's hard to believe it's been two years since the first season of The Promised Neverland premiered. Partly because time has ceased to have any meaning this past year, but mostly because this season picks up immediately where the last left off, as if it had only been a week since we saw (most of) the children of Gracefield House escape the farm they called home. At the same time, this premiere definitely feels like a necessary transition episode rather than the kind of attention-grabbing start you'd expect from a new season.
That's probably a good thing, honestly. The escape that marked the conclusion of season 1 also necessitates a new status quo and dynamic to this story – now that Emma, Ray, and their siblings are on the run in an alien world, it's important to give them and the audience a grounded understanding of what the stakes and threats are now. In just this opener, the kids use clues hidden in William Minerva's books to learn the flora and fauna of the forest surrounding Gracefield, are chased by a giant feral demon, and then have a run-in with the farm's security force to cap it all off. It makes for a busy opener even with cutting some content from the manga, but considering how much this season is likely to cover it's probably necessary.
More importantly (for me, anyway) it's just nice to be back with these kids and being reminded how much they've grown since the beginning. There are small things, like Don and Gilda taking charge of the kids' formation in the middle of running from a monster, and larger moments like Ray promising Emma he'll never try to sacrifice himself again. These are relatively quiet developments, but they're consistent and welcome signs that the emotional core that anchored season 1's cat-and-mouse game isn't going anywhere. That alone is a solid enough reason for me to stick around with this new story dynamic, even if I hadn't already read through this arc twice.
Though if I do have any reservations, it's with the direction and pacing of this episode's action. Director Mamoru Kanbe's approach for Neverland worked fantastically for season 1's tense battle of wits and schemes, but now that the conflict is as much physical as mental, things feel a bit limp in motion. Scenes like Ray running from demon-dogs and his subsequent rescue are somewhat awkwardly storyboarded, and if there's to be a continued focus on action going forward, it's a less-than-promising sign that the most kinetic moments of this episode are all dialogue scenes. Hopefully that's just a consequence of having so much to cover in one go, but it's something to look out for moving forward. Otherwise this is as solid a return as one can ask for, with a gorgeous new OP to boot, and I'm very excited to be back with all my kids once again.
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