If there was ever a moment of validation for me only watching anime and not getting into manga or light novels as well, the first episode of The Promised Neverland certainly was one of them. Much like School-Live! did for me when that show came out, having no knowledge of the anime going into that first episode, it really puts those closing moments into a higher gear. I imagine that it’s the same for people when they read the manga or light novel of the same series, but I’m an animation guy and I’ve never been much of a reader, so there you go.
It’s very rare for an anime to pull this stunt successfully on me during its first episode. In fact, the aforementioned School-Live! is the only one that comes to mind at this point. Some shows may have done it, but the atmosphere made it more obvious that something was coming, and other shows have done it in a comedic way, but I’m not here to talk about those shows. I’m talking shocking as in “HOLY FUCK, MAN!!!” kind of shocking. The ones that make me go “I…I need to watch a really funny show now…” after the episode ends. And this show, it certainly did that.
And now, you’ve been warned…
Obviously I knew something was up with the show. How could you not be suspicious? The entire premise before the very end is that they’re “orphans” with numbers printed on their necks, living in an orphanage where their physical and mental abilities are being constantly tested and they’re told on a consistent basis that they cannot leave the property. What? I don’t see anything suspicious going on here!
Initially however, my theories were different to the end result. I figured with all the training, that these kids were being bred for battle, for military or mercenary usage. It’s kind of like how Xianming Lin’s character in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens was, he was taken at a young age and bred to be an assassin. Maybe some kids would be assassins, some would be master hackers, who knows, but I figured it was a military or terrorist thing, rather than what we got.
Granted, when Conny was selected to leave, I wasn’t sure how that fit in my theory, so the questions started flooding. Maybe she belonged to a rich family or a powerful political figure, so she would be used as blackmail. Maybe she was being released as someone paid for her freedom. Then you go down the darker roads, maybe she caught the eye of someone in the organization who has a very disgusting sexual preference. Or worst case scenario, she was showing terrible results long enough that they decided her to be useless and she was being shipped off for slavery, or even worse, death.
Well, that latter idea turned out to be right…in a way…
As soon as Emma peeked into the back of that truck and had that “OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!” look in her eyes, I knew. Conny was dead and I was about to see something that wasn’t going to be pretty. Sure enough, good lord that picture is haunting. I’m staring at it right now as I’m typing this and I want to finish this article faster, just so I don’t have to look at it anymore.
This is a straight case of a show that sucked me in and even though it’s horrifying, I can’t back out now, I’m too interested. It’s a lot like ERASED with its violence, and shows like Your Lie In April where I know I’m in for a depressing, saddening story, but I’m already invested, so I’m stuck with the inevitable pain now. The Promised Neverland has my attention and even though this moment of finding Conny’s dead body made my stomach turn, it’s too late, they got me.
But then the alien angle gets brought in and we discover that I was way off. This isn’t a military or terrorist breeding camp, no no no. It’s a fucking human farm. Aliens are eating kids. Oh dear. Now at this point, it doesn’t explain the constant intelligence training, what’s the purpose of that? If they’re just using us as food, why not just fatten all the kids up, right? So there’s more to come and despite my better judgment, I’ll be sticking around to see what that is.
I mentioned in the excerpt to this article how this show did a shocking first episode the right way, while Goblin Slayer did the opposite. So here’s why. Goblin Slayer gives you no reason to like any of the four party members that go into that cave. And yes, I’m including Priestess. Also, they pull the trigger way too soon, there was no successful battles, no important dialogue between the four, nothing to grasp onto. So when that brutal murder and rape scene came, there was no value to it, it was just
edgy shocking for the sake of being edgy shocking.
With The Promised Neverland however, you had time to meet everyone in the main cast, start to pick who you liked, all that lovely jazz. You had enough time to digest the world you were starting to watch, not to mention develop ideas of the mystery that was going on. There were characters to attach to and hypotheses to check and see if you were right.
So when the moment came, you were all in. I was all in. And bloody fucking hell was it a shocker.