The Promised Neverland Season 2
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
The Promised Neverland (TV 2) ?
I generally make it a habit not to follow along with the source material of an anime I am covering if I wasn't already familiar with it beforehand. I strongly believe that any adaptation of a work ought to be able to stand on its own merits, and though I'm not generally a stickler about spoilers, I think weekly reviews like these are more fun to write when my reactions to big twists and such are as genuine as possible. It was a happy accident that I was an avid reader of The Promised Neverland before I got the chance to cover the series, and though I've often had a lot of fun comparing this adaptation to the original manga, I've always found it easy to consider the show its own, unique thing. This third episode of Season 2 is the first time I've felt like my familiarity with the manga has really impacted my judgement of an episode, and not necessarily in a good way.
Things run very smoothly for the first two-thirds of the episode, with the kids all bidding their fond farewells to Mujika and Sonju before heading off to the next set of coordinates from Minerva's Pen: B06-32. Emma waxes nostalgic about her siblings, including the dearly-missed Norman, to an empathetic Mujika, while Sonju plays the role of affectionate big brother/monster friend very well. The animation and direction here isn't quite as solid as the last two episodes, but this isn't as heavy of an episode either emotionally or in terms of action, so TPN doesn't suffer too much from the slightly diminished visual flair. In terms of both production and plot, “Episode 3” is largely a chapter of transition, allowing the Grace Field Kids a tearful goodbye with their unexpected allies before they head off to the next major setting of the story: The bunker they discover beneath the empty sands at sector B06-32.
Though there is quite a bit of exposition that the anime drops when the kids bid farewell to the Nice Demons, not to mention a bunch of smaller beats from the characters' dialogue and inner-monologues, the scenes maintain their core purpose and impact in that they reveal the sinister underpinnings of even the friendliest of encounters. The jury is still out on Mujika, who merely ponders whether it would be worth turning in the kids for their bounty after all, but Sonju is much less ambiguous about his ulterior motives: He'll help the kids, and even go so far as to kill the demon hunters that pursue them, but not out of any sense of altruism or love for the children. Rather, Sonju is playing the long game and waiting for the prime stock they've just saved to grow older and someday breed. The tenants of his religion make it perfectly clear that it is permissible to consume humans if they are wild and free, and hunted as any other prey animal would be in nature. The devilish grin that Sonju flashes as he anticipates such delightful indulgences of meat and blood is a cold, cruel, and not altogether surprising reminder of the peril the Grace Field Kids endure simply by existing in this world.
What is surprising is what comes when the kids uncover the next Pen Password – “HISTORY” – and climb down into the bunker at B06-32. For the uninitiated, the surprise comes from how easy this next phase of their journey seems at first. Naturally, I don't think any viewers expected to make it all the way to the credits without reaching the prerequisite signs of potential horrors to come, and Yvette's eventual discovery of the foreboding and scratch-marked room certainly satisfies on that account. Still, before Yvette walks into what looks like a scene ripped straight out of a Bioshock game — all while Emma and the others receive a suspicious-as-hell call from someone claiming to be William — one can't help but agree with that one teary-eyed kid who simply can't believe how easy things ended up for them. They didn't need to make use of any of that survival training that Sonju and Mujika gave them, and it took them less than a week of being out in the wild to find a fully-stocked and well-maintained home away from home.
As the kids revel in their cozy new digs, finding all sorts of tools and supplies in between the giddy laughter and celebration, The Promised Neverland takes on an almost schmaltzy tone that I never would have pinned to the series before. I'll save more specific spoilers for the Odds and Ends section but suffice it to say: Things weren't quite so simple for the kids in the manga, and I found it a lot easier to go along with the bunker development when those additional layers of complication kept the story feeling dangerous. Here, the oncoming danger feels almost tacked on, and even a bit hacky – the painful crash zoom onto the word “HELP” that is scrawled onto the wall of the Bioshock Room is one of the first directorial choices this series has made that I would describe as outright lame. Given that so much of “Episode 3” is simply just functional, instead of out-and-out disappointing, I can't say that this is a bad episode of The Promised Neverland. It is the first time I've ever been nervous about where things might go from here, though, and I can't help but envy the anime-only viewers who might not have ever realized that something might be amiss.
Odds and Ends
• The Spoiled Neverland
Warning – here be the manga spoilers that you may wish to avoid!!
So, “Episode 3” continues the quick pace of adaptation by technically covering six chapters, but a lot of that material has gone completely by the wayside because we have yet to meet one of the most pivotal characters of this entire arc! For those that are only reading along with where the anime is at right now, I'll avoid spoiling too much by using the nickname Emma gives him: “Mister”. He's the fully-grown man that the kids meet when they first step foot in the bunker, obviously unstable and immediately dangerous, and his presence there makes the cutesy-pootsey home-making montage work a whole lot better in my opinion, because the kids aren't actually safe from anything at all. They've simply learned to adapt to life where, even in the most seemingly comfy of environments, there are probably going to be adults who are actively threatening your life and screwing with your plans.
I don't know if TPN is just messing with the manga fans, and simply plans to introduce Mister next week, or if his role in the story has been completely changed/removed. I won't even try to prematurely evaluate such a decision, since it's way too early to say whether such a change would do great harm to TPN's overall plot. It's still a pretty huge change, though, my gut reaction is to wish that the anime had skewed a bit more faithfully to the manga and at least fully introduced Mister at the tail-end of the episode. I guess we'll just have to see how things pan out…
discuss this in the forum (72 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history