Anime Review: The Promised Neverland [Season 2]
Welcome to the second segment our review of The Promised Neverland! While we were rather blunt in expressing our utter disappointment at the direction (or lack thereof) which the show decided to persue in its second season, our review of the first season still painted the anime in good light, because it truly was a budding masterpiece. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of positivity in our review of its second season.
We shall persure this review purely from the perspective of the anime and pretend like the manga doesn't even exist; we take this approach owing to the fact that the second season takes an independent narrative starting from episode 4- a decision which was met with resounding backlash from the TPN community and there have been numerous comparisons made between the two which undeniably pit the anime as a poor adaptation. If you have watched the anime but haven't read the manga, we recommend that you do so. As was the case with last week's article, a spoiler warning is in effect from this point.
The second season actually started off on a good note: it picked up not too long after the events of season one's finale, with the children of Grace Field making their way through the forest. Their team spirit remains unshaken and they are in good spirits as they use Minerva's pen to guide them through the unknown territory. This pen would later go down as one of the most absurd instances of a plot device (literally!) ever employed in anime; wherever a plot inconsistency would show up, this pen would simply scratch it off, almost like the writers expected it to work the same as when writing up a script.
Back to the story; the children are making their way with good pace when they are suddenly attacked by a giant demonic creature. (Their existence and purpose is never explained in the anime, so don't bother getting interested.) Ray makes himself bait, which is actually interesting to see, and leads the creature away while Emma guides the children towards the point on the map signifying Minerva's hideout.
The monster is slain by three demons who immediately begin to persue Ray, but the boy is rescued by a hooded figure on horseback. In the distance, Emma and her group come across a hooded girl who points them towards safety. Ray and Emma are reuinted inside a cavern, only to realise that their rescuers are both demons. That concludes the first and most interesting episode of the season. It's all a mess of unfinished plot lines and bad writing from here.
It is immediately revealed in the next episode that the demons, who go by Sonju and Mujika, do not eat human meat for religious reasons. They've just saved the group because they're nice peopl- er- creatures; everyone is safe and sound. The full extent of the children's predicament is finally made clear in this episode, which actually does earn it some plus points: it is revealed by Sonju that humans and demons have long been at war, with both factions facing heavy strife. A pact was then made between both parties to live in separate worlds, with the demons being given a few humans as livestock to be bred for consumption in specially designated Houses.
The children are explicitly told at this point that the human world will not take kindly to their return, since they will be in violation of the conditions for peace. Someone tell that to the 3 minute powerpoint presentation at the end of episode 11, where these kids seem to be met with open arms and no questions whatsoever. This marks the first in a long chain of inconsistencies to follow.
A training montage follows where the group are taught several survival skills by Sonju and Mujika. It actually fits in the episode nicely enough and helps the viewer develop some degree of sympathy for the demons. It also sets up the children for independent survival should they be forced to live on their own- a reality that they are not too far from in this episode. What is particularly interesting is that the purpose of the blood draining plant (called Vida) is finally explained to be as a preservative.
Sonju and Mujika accompany the group to the edge of the forest after a few days of travel and there is an emotional farewell between Emma and Mujika. The demon gives Emma an amulet as a protection charm and the parties say their goodbyes as the group heads into deserted lands towards the coordinates marked on Minerva's pen. Sonju and Mujika watch on as the group heads off to their unknown fate, and Sonju reveals that he only helped the group so he could have a chance to eat their progeny later on. Wait, wasn't he a vegetarian just one episode ago?
The children finally reach the coordinates and are pleased to find an underground bunker fully equipped with self-sustaining technology and provisions to provide shelter for the group for as long as they will live, and beyond. 30 minutes, unfortunately, is as much screentime as these kids get to spend in their newfound paradise. The anime hardly lets them spend two episodes in it and skips an entire manga arc's worth of content at this juncture, which we shan't elaborate in the interest of preserving the experience for our readers. Of note here is the children's discovery of a radio set which they use to eavesdrop on the Farm reports every night.
An interesting plot point which occurs around this time is an automated call from William Minerva, which helps the bewildered group understand their situation. "William Minerva" is revealed to be a pseudonym used by an individual called James Ratri, who was opposed to the system of Farms and had left behind hints and accomodations for the children to escape. Hearing this, the children's resolve to rescue the others left behind in the farms only seems to solidify. Unfortunately, the show manages its pacing so terribly that when this does happen, it is nothing short of underwhelming.
This is the point beyond which the series effectively enters a free-fall in terms of quality. The newly discovered HQ is raided by human troops, who flush out the children successfully, but are killed by a monster shortly thereafter. No child is harmed in the slightest throughout the ordeal and the fact that the troops were human was never explored nor discussed ever again. It almost seemed like the show was in a rush to cut to the next phase of the story; it was at this moment that the show utterly betrayed its own style of storytelling and dug a grave too deep to ever crawl out from. To add insult to injury, the show again attempted to regain the interest of its viewers by showing us a scene of Isabella being offered absolute freedom from her imprisonment by Grandma herself. The conditions of their deal were never elaborated upon and Isabella's intentions were never again brought to light.
The children's frantic escape brings them to a temple for refuge, where they spend an unspecified length of time and become acquainted with an old demon who often visits the site. The children learn to dress like demons and fashion masks to cover their faces. One day, a close encounter with hostile demons exposes the identity of a small group of the children (including Emma and Ray), and a rather suspenseful chase culminates in the group being saved by Norman and some other humans also dressed as demons. The episode ended on a climactic reveal and was followed by a filler entry just to slap the fanbase for daring to start enjoying the season. In retrospect, this episode could have been used to much better effect had it been used to give the series finale some modicum of sense, but we're clearly asking for too much at this point.
Norman reveals that instead of being used as a delicacy, he was relocated to a Farm called Lambda 7214 where he was kept as a test subject before he escaped with a few other subjects. He also told Ray and Emma that demons have to eat humans to gain their intelligence and skills; failure to do this will cause them to regress to a mindless, primitive state. While the group exchanges a long awaited and hope filled hug, it is soon made evident that deep-seared conflicts are in store; if there's one thing this season does right, it's this. Unfortunately, no amount of newly injected plot details could save the trainwreck that The Promised Neverland had already becme.
Norman is revealed to be in the process of mass producing a drug which would force the demons to regress into their animalistic state and cannibalize their own kind. Emma is vehemently against this and states that she doesn't want to kill the demons, citing her experience with Sonju and Mujika as proof that demons weren't all bad. Norman's allied escapees (we won't bother naming them because they literally do nothing to further the plot of the anime, whatsoever) react violently to Emma's retorts and the situation is finally calmed down by Norman, who agrees to make a deal with Emma and Ray.
He tells the two to bring Sonju and Mujika to him within five days- if they do so, he will not release the drug in the cities and lead the demon world into a state of civil war. The parties agree upon the settlement, but Norman's true intentions are brought to light as soon as his friends set out on their journey. It so happens that Sonju and Mujika have a unique power in their blood which makes them immune to the degeneration which plagues the demons if they do not regularly feast on humans. Norman wants this blood mitigated as it is a natural antidote to his drug. It is also revealed that all of Mujika's relatives have been slaughtered by the demon nobility in order to force the rest of the population to depend on human meat, and by association, the Farms. The show fixed at least 3 plot contrivances with this addition alone, which definitely earns this season some last minute brownie points from us. Too bad that can't save it from what about to happen.
(Pictured: yet another unexplained scene in the anime)
Norman breaks the deal and releases the drug on the 4th night, starting the spread of chaos. This makes absolutely no sense since he could just have done it a day after after getting Sonju and Mujika under his control. Emma, Ray, Don and Guilda are heading back with the two demons when they see the commotion and realise that they have been betrayed. Guess what? Norman's plan fails terribly. Mujika shares her blood with the infected and Norman realises that he can't bring himself to kill a demon, when he comes face to face with the old Demon who frequented the temple which the children took refuge in. What even were the chances of such a convoluted situation happening?
Norman attempts to salvage the burning plot of the show by revealing that he had been tested upon in Lambda and his lifespan had been reduced as a result. Even if we consider this, be wasn't going to die anytime soon since he clearly survived the night anyway so there wasn't even a good reason to rush the plan in the first place. To add to the ever growing pile of nonsense, the fact that demons would conduct lethal experiments on a child considered to be the cream of the harvest makes absolutely no sense. The "tests" in question are also never elaborated upon, so the viewer is simply expected to move on. (We are told that they were developing drugs which would rapidly develop the brains of children, but what sense does it make to test something like that on an already established genius?)
The series just stopped trying at this point. As if waiting until only two episodes were left, a sudden plot is injected into the story when the children receive news that James Ratri, brother of previously mentioned Peter Ratri, head of whatever nefarious operations went on in Lambda and current descendant of the Ratri family tasked with keeping the pact between humans and demons, orders all the farms to adopt his experiemental system and ship off all their current stock. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. Nevertheless, the children decide that the time to rescue the prisoners of the farms is nigh, but there's just one problem- Norman is supposed to be dying and the plot needs him alive for this.
So what do we do? We bring Deus ex machina, aka Minerva's Pen to the rescue. The old demon Norman was about to murder hands him a missing piece of the pen with instead on how to cure his ailment. Missing piece? You'd think the kids using it for weeks would have noticed but the show doesn't even care anymore. The next episode starts with absolutely no mention of Norman's condition. Are we supposed to assume he cooked up the antidote during the end credits?
(Picture: Saitama's got nothing on this pen.)
More crimes against humanity follow. The ending is so rushed and nonsensical that it makes no sense attempting to decipher any of it. The kids storm Grace Field by dropping through balloons and rigging others decoys with explosives. Their plan? Run inside and hope to find the exit to the human world on a whim. How'd they know the portal to the human world was there? Pen-sama, of course. The kids free their friends and reach the room containing the final plot hole (the one to the human world). They meet Isabella and Peter Ratri, who surround them with several armed moms, which looked just as ridiculous as it sounds. Then Isabella, for absolutely no explicable reason, turns on Peter and sides with the children. Peter, after revealing that he had ordered the death of his brother Ratri, realizes that he cannot stand another second of the show and shoots himself before Emma can give her 18th friendship speech for the day. Poor Emma.
What follows, you ask? The children forgive Isabella like nothing had ever happened and they all step out into the real world- except Emma, Norman and Ray who stay behind to fix the big bad demon world.
They fix the world.
Nobody knows, but there's a 3 minute slideshow you can watch if you don't believe us.
Oh also, Mujika is queen now.
3 minute slideshow.
Also also, Emma, Norman and Ray finally step into the world and are greeted by their friends who apparently stood on the other end for God knows how long waiting to hug them.
(Picture: can we really call this a happy ending?)
And that's how The Promised Neverland decided to end: as an abysmal mess of a show with so many underutilized plot points and mismanaged storyline that it would make even the most tenacious of watchers look at their watch in anticipation of the end. Many fans are already clamoring for a remake, but this is nigh impossible for the mere fact that the ending just wasn't bad by storytelling standards but on an objective basis. The show writers decided to end 23 episodes of content with a 3 minute slideshow; if this doesn't scream a blatant lack of effort, we don't know what does.
Season 1 Rating: ●●●●●
Season 2 Rating: ●○○○○
Overall Rating: Watch S1 and pretend like it ended there