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The Promised Neverland: A Proper Shocking First Episode

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…

***WARNING!!! MASSIVE

SPOILERS BELOW!!!***

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.

Let’s Talk About Goblin Slayer’s Rape Scene

When I turned on Goblin Slayer’s first episode, I knew what was coming. I had heard from a few friends in a Discord chat I participate in that there was rape in this episode. I turned it on anyways, thinking “Sure it’ll be bad, but I’ve watched shows that have danced with the act before and don’t really go too far with it. How bad could it be?”. And boy oh boy was I not prepared for what I saw.

Up until this moment when I immediate hit the circle button on my PS4 controller to shut off the imagery that I had just witnessed, it was already pretty damn grim. Being completely up front, I don’t handle horrific imagery well, I just don’t have the stomach for it. I can handle over-the-top “sexy” violence like Hellsing and Drifters has, but the realistic and downright brutal stuff? That’s a completely different story. So to watch goblins mercilessly stab the other party members repeatedly, I was already very uncomfortable before the big finale that set me off. I’ve watched shows like this that have been very grim and dealt with death, take Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash for example. It doesn’t pull punches and it’s very uncomfortable when you see party members severely injured and in one case, killed. Goblin Slayer on the other hand, doesn’t even give you the chance to settle into the show, it’s straight grim and downright disgustingly brutal violence.

This is where I took issue with the show. Had I watched this show for a few episodes and then it did this scene, perhaps it could’ve lasted longer, though I think in my case, I don’t think any amount of attachment to the show could’ve prevented me from shutting it off right then and there. But in this specific case, not having even half the episode before all this dark and brutal imagery was put before my eyes, it was just too much. It felt less like the show being “unapologetic”, as some people have called it and more like “being edgy for the sake of being edgy”. These moments can be written properly, giving the show time to develop, to give you a sense of attachment to the characters you see before you. Instead, there’s zero attachment, you’re just watching people be mercilessly murdered and raped. There’s no emotional value to it, it’s just disgust. And yes, I get that’s likely the intent the show is going with, but that doesn’t excuse the service you view this show on for something I will get to in a moment. But for now, let’s talk about the scene itself, the rape.

Let’s be honest here, if you are an anime fan who has spent a considerable amount of time watching hentai, if you take this scene and cut it aside from the murder beforehand, this is just par for the course. There are countless hentai movies out there that are far worse and more explicit than what is scene in Goblin Slayer. But let’s also remember the differences between the two here, between Goblin Slayer and your average hentai that would feature this kind of content. Just pick one, if you’ve watched more than 10 hentai movies, you’ve seen at least one rape scene.

In the hentai movie you picked where a “rape” scene occurs, consider the following:

  1. What was the tone of the show throughout before the scene occurs? 
  2. Is there a series of violent acts committed beforehand, like the several murders we see before the Goblin Slayer scene?
  3. Did this scene turn into one of the cliched “she ends up loving it” sex scenes?

Generally speaking, the tone isn’t usually as dark, grim and brutal in these hentai films as it was in Goblin Slayer. There usually aren’t innocent people being not only murdered, but mercilessly so, as we see with the guy and mage girl being stabbed, hacked and slashed and more by several goblins. And yeah, a lot of these scenes do end up going the route of “she starts loving it by the end”. Is it disgusting? Of course it is, but there’s one key to what makes this easier to stomach, in my opinion.

When you click play on a hentai movie, what are you expecting to see? Of course, you’re anticipating bouncing breasts, lots of cum, a lot of unnecessary dirty talk that no couple ever utters when having sex. That’s all par for the course. But massive amounts of brutal violence as well? Is that a constant in hentai films? No, it’s not. So in the case of Goblin Slayer, there’s a ton of differences between itself and hentai. When I clicked play on that first episode and let’s say in this case I knew nothing of the brutal violence and rape that was coming my way. What information did I have in front of me when I saw that show on my PS4 Crunchyroll app? I saw a cover image of two pretty girls being the focal point, along with a few armored guys in the back. Pretty standard fantasy anime cover image, looks like any typical one you’d find, right? How would anyone get the sense that this show was about to contain what is the most disturbing and brutal content I’ve personally watched in the now 4 years I’ve used Crunchyroll?

This isn’t a case of “If you can’t handle it, don’t watch it.” to me. This was a case of “If people can’t handle this, we should’ve been warned not to watch it.”. I have zero problems with this show existing and I have zero problems with this level of brutal content existing, clearly there’s people who loved what they saw from this first episode, judging by the reactions I’ve seen on Reddit and Twitter. I can have my opinion that content like this is for people who want to be edgy and badass and I can think it’s cringy as fuck, but it doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

What I do think is that because of a scene like this rape in Goblin Slayer, Crunchyroll needs to really take a look into providing more information to viewers about the content they’re about to watch. This episode 100% should’ve had a warning that read “This show contains extremely violent content, would you like to proceed?”, so people would have stopped for a moment and said “Wow, this doesn’t happen often, it must be really, REALLY violent!”. This way, those who fall into the “not for the faint of heart” category, like myself, we now know that this show is likely pushing boundaries beyond what we’re accustomed to in our typical anime.

For example, when I’ve browsed E-Hentai’s content, I’ve come across a screen after clicking on, let’s say a doujinshi. It reads something like “This material contains extreme themes that are unsuitable to some viewers. Would you like to proceed?”. I don’t see that message often and every time I do, I know to not proceed further, as the one time I did, I was 100% deeply disturbed. Now when it comes to warning messages like this, I’m not saying it needs to be put on anything violent, or anything featuring sexual content. Considering that someone had to translate this episode, they certainly had to watch this episode several times to get it done. Perhaps it would be wise that they bring up that this episode is extremely graphic to whoever they report to and that can be brought up within the company before the episode is put up online. Obviously others within the company will watch this episode before it’s uploaded, how did they not think that this was something that they might’ve wanted to give people a heads up about beforehand?

In Drifters, we see a similar level of imagery, but we don’t see the act in progress, we see the aftermath. It is just as uncomfortable as any reference to the act of rape would be, but the show has had us settle into the darker and violent atmosphere the show has for a number of episodes up until this point. The show also features quite a lot of comedy to offset the violence and downright disgusting imagery we sometimes see in the show. So for people to be as shocked as they were with Goblin Slayer, how could you not expect that kind of reaction, especially from those who don’t know a thing about the show they just clicked play on. If I hadn’t read in that Discord chat that this showed contained rape, I would’ve had no idea what I was walking into.

Goblin Slayer gave you no time to prepare, to attach yourself to anything you’d see so far, or information that gave you any sort of a heads up that this show would be extremely violent. There’s nothing wrong with deciding you’re not going to pull any punches, but it would’ve been nice to at the very least maybe save the rape for a second episode. By then, you’ve already taken away a good chunk of the “not for the faint of heart” crowd from the brutal violence we saw with the two other adventurers that were slaughtered. The audience you’ve retained, they’ll likely be able to handle what’s coming. But to go that far within 10 minutes of the first episode? That was absolutely unnecessary.

I don’t blame the creators of the show for this. I fully blame Crunchyroll for not warning their consumer base ahead of time. This goes beyond parental controls, this is content that grown adults still wouldn’t have the stomach for, whether it was in Episode 1 or Episode 192. To me, this shows that Crunchyroll needs a rating system, or a warning system for episodes that feature extreme content. We can collectively discuss what that is, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this episode of Goblin Slayer certainly constitutes that. So let’s have that discussion.

But before I bid you adieu, let me address all the edgelords and your comments that I came across on Twitter after watching this episode. I’ll address the ones that ticked me off and show them here:

I’m not butthurt and I imagine most people like me aren’t either. We’re disgusted, because we watched an extremely brutal scene that while yes, it’s effective in what it does, show true evil and the realities of what a fantasy world like that could bring, a dark, grim and downright disgusting world, we had no idea it would be this harsh, this brutal. Not everyone does a ton of research into every anime, in fact I do almost zero when I start my first week of each season. I just look at the cover image and the brief description and go from there. Don’t tell me Goblin Slayer’s cover image gives you any idea of the level of violence committed in the show. We don’t all read manga or spend hours upon hours studying all of anime, stop acting like you’re above us.

Also, me personally, if I wanted to watch something more “realistic”, I wouldn’t be watching anime. I love anime because it’s beyond anything realistic.

https://twitter.com/boicornpuss/status/1049125102124720130

I’ve completed as of the summer season, 214 pieces of content, whether it being TV series, films, etc.

If I’m getting worked up about this, it’s not tame, it’s not par for the course. Rape is not “pretty fucking tame” in non-hentai anime series, stop talking like it is. Not everyone watches every gore-infested show that comes out. And again, look at the cover image, that looks pretty fucking tame to me. The show isn’t.

Uh…the people who are “crying” about it being too hardcore aren’t going to watch it any further. But thanks for the heads up.

On another note, to all the people saying “If you can’t handle it, don’t watch it!” to people that are expressing their disgust with what they saw, can you at least take a moment to realize that it’s a little fucking late to say that? Of course we’re not going to watch it any further because we can’t handle it, that’s kind of what you do in that scenario. I’m not going to suddenly turn this show on again, thinking it couldn’t possibly do it again, that would be fucking insane of me.

When I told people that if they didn’t like what Dead or Alive: Xtreme 3 was doing, don’t buy it. They were trying to get the game banned from North America and succeeded. From what I’ve seen online with Twitter and Reddit, no one’s calling for this show to be taken off the air, they’re merely displaying their disgust of what they saw. You seem to like its brutal nature, so wouldn’t it jazz you up more than people can’t handle it, thus proving how brutal it is?


Anyways, I’m done venting. Let me know what you think on the issue. Cheers!