This Week in Anime
Are the Changes in The Promised Neverland Working?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Before the second season premiere, staff for The Promised Neverland anime series announced there would be some changes to the adaptation with supervision by the manga's writer Kaiu Shirai. The changes to the story were apparent almost immediately, creating a dividing point between manga readers. Nick and Steve jump into the man-eating survival horror series to find out just how well the anime original route is going.

This series are streaming on Funimation and Hulu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Hey Nick, little known fact, but they call it The Promised Neverland because they've promised not to change anything major between the manga and the anime adaptation. Kind of a weird way to approach nomenclature, I'll admit, but hey, it's not like I'm the one writing a super successful Shonen Jump series over here. Anyway, just wanted to get that little factoid in before I quick catch up on the new season for this column.
[Approximately 92 minutes later]
Oh dear.
Oh hey, welcome back Steve! Glad you're ready to wade with me into Neverland discourse!
Luckily I'm totally prepared! And by that I mean I did actually more or less just finish catching up, and all my thoughts are fresh, still congealing, and may change in between this sentence and the moment we finish writing. Wouldn't have it any other way!
So yeah, the first thing anyone wants to talk about with this new season of The Promised Neverland is that, yep, as of these latest episodes they seem to be taking an anime-original approach rather than a more direct adaptation. Anime fans, widely known for their open and accepting attitudes toward change, are of course handling this in stride:

Pictured: my twitter and discord feeds as of last Thursday.
So I did a little experiment myself. I read this part of the manga back when season 1 was airing, which was approximately 20 decades ago in 2019. Consequently, I had forgotten everything except the broadest strokes. So I watched these anime episodes first in order to see how well they held up on their own. Then I've spent the past ~2 hours re-reading the manga to compare. Now my brain is fried, but I did just gulp down a lot of black tea, so it'll probably be fine.
Be sure to wash that down with some delicious bugfish while you're at it!

Anyway, speaking as somebody who read the Neverland manga weekly from start to its conclusion last year, I'm thrilled to see the anime taking a new course, just on principle alone. We can get into how the new stuff works later, but just as a concept I'm jazzed. Because, worst-case scenario, I still have the manga that I already love. Best case: I get TWO good versions of this story. I am literally having my cake and eating it too.
Yeah, in abstract terms, I'm 100% with you there. We already have so many anime adaptations that follow their source material as closely as possible. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's nothing wrong with trying to do something different. Plus, the author is personally involved with the series composition for this season, so whatever is happening is happening with "God's blessing," if that's important to you.

What's important to me is that Mujika and Sonju are still around, so no complaints there.
Oh absolutely. I love these oddly Orthodox demons. Or whatever they're called. I don't imagine they call themselves demons, but also they never say what we should call them.
Just don't call them late for dinner.

It's also a neat trick for Promised Neverland to pull, to have the kids' first allies outside of Grace Field House be a pair of the demons they were running away from in the first place. It takes the already-complicated picture of their world and adds a few more whorls.
Yeah, the big dangling question at the end of S1 was like, the premise of the show has been resolved. You've completed the prison break portion of your prison break premise. What now? And the answer is to immediately make the outside world and conflict a million times more complex. And also introduce demons who don't think humans are halal.
Even before Sonju dumps a bunch of exposition on their laps, his existence alone tells a whole story. That not all demons look or act the same. That at least some demons have religion. That there's a whole society out there we only have the tiniest glimpse of. That's some smart and tantalizing writing.
It also tips us off right before it's explained that hey, remember how the kids thought the demon takeover was like, 30 years old last season? About that...

Lol 30 years. Try 1000 years of breeding a subset of humans doomed to be sacrificial lambs to maintain the veneer of peace. No half-measures in The Promised Neverland.
The kids actually take this in amazing stride. Some real 2021 energy here.

"Shit's immensely fucked, but it's NOT 100% hopeless. FUCK YEAH."
Just shy of "that's not blood in my mouth that's victory wine" energy. Buoyed of course by Emma being the best. I could definitely use some of this optimism myself!

That or the world could use a lot fewer demons.
Sorry Steve, can't help you there. We CAN teach you about the cycle of life and predation in a heartbreakingly solemn contemplation of life and death. That do anything for ya?
Here I think the anime did a fantastic job meditating on this scene longer and making Emma's mental, physical, and spiritual struggle feel a lot more visceral. It's a big scene!

It's an absolutely fantastic scene, and the one thing I would genuinely have been upset over if the anime had cut or altered it. It's at once a personal step forward for Emma in her quest to protect her family and a gut-punch reminder of those she couldn't save.

Emma's also such a strong person that these moments of pain and weakness hurt that much more. She's not the same person on the other side of this kill, but she's better prepared for what's to come.

So all-in-all a very productive training camp with Big Bro Sonju. Whatever else the season might have in store, at least the kids know there ARE some friendly demons out there who definitely don't have any ulterior motives for teaching them how to survive in the wild. Thanks for confirming that, Mujika!
Good...for making MORE kids, that is.

And nothing gets Sonju more excited than the thought of some big naturals.
Yeah turns out Sonju's objections towards people-eating are mostly about preferring game over cattle.
Womp womp.
Look, sometimes to protect yourself from the people who want to kill you, you have to ally yourself with people who also want to kill you, but in a way that's more protracted and humane. I mean, that's why I vote Democrat
It really is interesting though that even the kids' ostensible allies don't inherently line up with their own interests. Though the jury's still out on Mujika considering she's out here giving humans fancy jewelry. Maybe she thinks this is what human marriage is.
Mujika is intentionally difficult to get a read on. She neither agrees nor disagrees with Sonju, which means her and her motivations are all but guaranteed to show up later. That said, while I do think the anime did a good job with her character, I wish it had been a little bolder and animated this bonus page from the manga, with all the gory detail it deserves.
Gotta save something for the Blu-rays man.
Gimme that fang sakuga, cowards. Anyway, the kids leave our favorite problematic demon pair none the wiser, and soon find their underground shelter in the middle of the desert, with absolutely nothing out of place or missing.
Well besides the random payphone in the basement. Other than that everything seems to be in order though. But yeah, starting with the bunker, the anime has taken an immediately divergent path from the manga in ways that are probably not worth going into detail. I've seen some folks claim the series is "skipping" arcs but honestly this seems like such a fundamental, structural change that discussing it as cutting or adding material seems totally wrongheaded.
Back when season 1 was airing, I remember discussing with people that everything post-Grace Field House is such a departure from the weird psychological horror of that first arc, that you'd almost want an entirely different creative team to tackle its adaptation. I did not, however, consider this potential alternative: readjusting the story to better fit the adaptation. Granted, I don't think we can say for sure yet that this is happening or not, but it's a possibility!
If nothing else, it means anime-only viewers and manga readers alike have no clue where we go from here next, and I'm going to embrace that. I understand the appeal of a faithful adaptation, but there's nothing quite as fun as not knowing what the hell is gonna happen next. For me anyway. The kids would much rather have stability instead of an ominous and unknown future.
Yeah I'm still mostly optimistic about where things can go from here. Like you said, it's the openness of the possibilities that makes this such a unique and exciting prospect. Plus, I gotta bring up Fullmetal Alchemist '03, which diverged wildly from the manga and yet remains some fans' (myself included) preferred adaptation.
Oh god there's gonna be people petitioning for a Neverland: Brotherhood any day now. Thanks for making me think of that.
I mean that is the other side of that coin. But some things about fandom just do not change, unfortunately.
But speaking just on the material we've seen so far, I dig it. It's nice to see the kids start to build an unorthodox home in the shelter, to develop some semblance of normalcy in this weird manmade oasis they've found themselves in. And it lasts juuuuuuust long enough to sucker you in before things go to pot.
Going back to my point about adjusting the story to play to the adaptation's strengths, we get more of a focus on the kids who aren't Emma, Ray, Gilda, or Don, which is kinda nice. That might be the play they're going for—forming more of an attachment with all of the Grace Field kids, for later developments. And like, I trust the anime to do that character work better than the action scenes, which haven't been all that stellar so far.
It certainly works so far. Even in the manga 90% of these kids were too unimportant for me to remember who they were, but by the time they're running for their lives through the woods for the 2nd time in 4 episodes, I at least buy that this is a family and not just a herd of cats for Emma and Ray to wrangle.
I certainly did not know about this miniature bug-eyed murder machine before episode 4, I'll tell you that.

And I'll also say that the material the anime appears to be cutting out is very action-heavy, which isn't easy to animate, and is even more difficult to organize and pull off in the middle of the pandemic. Based on what I've seen of the anime's monsters so far, maybe we're better off going in this new direction.

Like, even in the best of circumstances, there's just No Way you're getting anything close to Posuka Demizu's art.
I mean if I'm being honest here, the manga wasn't great with action either. Posuka Demizu's got a great eye for horror imagery and character expression, but (spoilers) once guns started showing up a lot of the more climactic moments became pretty hard to follow. So if this change was partially motivated by wanting to avoid that, it's probably a good move.
And should worse come to worst, we'll always have slug fish. Good ol' slug fish.
I say we all should just sit back and wait to see what the anime has to sho- WAIT WHAT THE FUCK
Between this and Resident Evil 8, 2021 sure is shaping up to be the year of the large problematic mom.

I'm freaking stoked about seeing more Isabella, though.
Let's just say seeing her here and now is uh, surprising, as a manga reader. But I am genuinely interested to see where they go with this. It could be a simple redux of the cat-and-mouse game from season 1, but considering everything we learned about Isabella in that season finale there's also a lot of room for exploration.
Meanwhile I actually haven't finished the manga yet, so I super do not have a clue where any of this could be going. Which, again, is fun! If there's one thing Promised Neverland does well, it's stringing the audience along, and despite the changes, I'm still hooked.
I get where people are coming with apprehensions, but I encourage everyone to just give this a chance, because there's room here for something special and unique that's just as meaningful as the original. Join us in running into the great unknown!
Plus, we all know that this is all just a prelude to the grand unveiling of the real ringmaster and protagonist of this whole shebang. We all know who holds all the secrets, and all the answers.

discuss this in the forum (25 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

This Week in Anime homepage / archives