OP Sequence

OP: 「Touch off」 by UVERworld


Sorry for the relative lateness of this post. The Australian government has been making my life difficult.

Back when I dabbled in American comic books there was this one guy called Mr Miracle. His backstory was that he was once a kid named Scott Free and imprisoned in a nightmarish orphanage run by the ironically named ‘Granny Goodness’. There, Granny used torture and brainwashing to turn her children into supersoldiers for some evil god-emperor. Scott eventually escapes and becomes a superhero, because that’s what they do.

The ‘evil orphanage’ is a rather old and surprisingly common trope. Sure, institutions in general have always been slightly unnerving to us, because of the inherent loss of control. Mental asylums, hospitals, prisons — all great places to set a horror story. Therefore, we don’t even need clues like sinister brands or pragmatic cynicism about characters being too happy to suspect that there’s more to the House than meets the eye. In particular, though, we seem to have always had a special place for bad things happening to abandoned children. I blame, as I do for all things, the Brothers Grimm, who basically made a career out of it. They immortalised Hansel and Gretel and now eating children is du rigueur. And so the hapless state of fictional orphanages: if they’re not burnt to the ground early in the story for emotional impact then they’re secretly horrific Soylent Green factories. Either way, the kids don’t do very well (though, from the stories I hear out of Cambodia they don’t necessarily do better in reality compared to fiction).

Not only is Yakusoku no Neverland a show about children suffering, on its surface it could actually masquerade as a children’s show if we just look at the pleasantly round character designs. It’s a similar aesthetic/subject matter dissonance as, say, Made in Abyss. When that show was around people were referring to it as a ‘trap’ anime, in that despite its child-like guise it was not appropriate for children as well. But, again, stories that scare children is an old and valuable tradition. Don’t think of it as traumatising the innocent, think of it as helping the next generation build character. It’s a view that the late Roald Dahl, who had an interesting childhood himself, was certainly a proponent of, with books like Matilda and The Witches that share Yakusoku no Neverland‘s themes about kids secretly oppressed in uncomfortable ways. Yet, despite his works being beloved children’s classics even today they also often attract the eye of the censors (and, surprisingly, not because Dahl was something of a racist (to be fair, he was British)). Even the relatively positive James and the Giant Peach attracts protest from fussy parents now and again just because the protagonist’s parents gets eaten by a rhinoceros and later murders his (abusive) aunts with a mutant fruit. Bunch of prudes, I tell you.

I don’t know if Yakusoku no Neverland intended to emulate Dahl and how close it’ll hew in the future; I’ve kept myself deliberate ignorant of the source material because I prefer blogging fresh experiences over old ones. But even in this pilot we can see some of the DNA, with the mundane joy of childhood juxtaposed with the grotesque and horrible. I have yet to decide if this is a good thing. Mind you, this was a perfectly good pilot. It looked fairly good; Emma gave us lots of expressive faces and we got some interesting compositions. The exposition was a tad clunky (‘Let me tell you things we both already know!’) but at least it tried to be organic and we got a lot of work done establishing the setting and character dynamics. And it all built up to a fairly tense twist twist that was engaging even though we all saw it coming (is this not the face that raised a thousand death flags?). But I wonder whether Yakusoku no Neverland is trying too hard to shock and thrill us. It at once embraces the absurd and the grotesque (i.e. actual children-eating bogeymen) yet also wants to frame itself in realism and have us take it completely seriously (in contrast to the sadistic yet whimsical humour of Dahl). The two don’t necessarily mesh very well. At worst it becomes unintentional comedy, making us laugh where we’re supposed to squirm, which ruins the effect of the horror. At best, it’s still leans rather hard into pulp fiction, which is completely fine but requires a love of penny dreadfuls to fully enjoy.

We’re still just at the first episode, though, so the most important thing is that we have a promising show and that is definitely in order. No matter how Yakusoku no Neverland proceeds I’ve got my popcorn ready for a bumpy ride.

Full-length images: ED 01.


ED Sequence

ED: 「絶体絶命」 (Zettaizetsumei) by Cö shu Nie


  1. I have a feeling these monsters are simply children’s imagination going wild, you know how kids say that “he’s a monster” about a “bad man”? yeah and it’s just normal organ/human trafficking organization, still fucked up, i don’t see how this can get a good ending, this reminds me of RAINBOW, a lot of suffering ahead.

    1. Meh, I was thoroughly annoyed with this episode and the plot armor the protagonists have, I can only see them having plot armor for the rest of the show as well. and only 12 episodes when the manga isnt even close to being finished? not watching this.

  2. Neverland is currently one of Weekly Shounen Jump’s top-ranked popular titles. Debuting in 2016, it was one of the few that year to gain enough reader popularity and escape the ruthless cancellation axe of WSJ’s editors.

    Author Kaiu Shirai believes one reason for its popularity is because it stands out from the usual WSJ shounen formula of flashy, hot-blooded battles and head-on fights – instead his focus was on suspense and psychological warfare.

    That seinen-like approach to the plot mae it hard to sell to WSJ’s editors for being “too un-shounen”, but artist Demizu Posuka liked what they saw and offered to be the series’ artist.

    1. I agree, the last time WSJ had a suspense/psychological manga this good IMO was Death Note. (I pretty much call it the “next death note” even though they are NOTHING alike in terms of premise and story etc)

  3. How it Feels to be a Cow Destined to be Kobe Beef: The Animation.


    Hopefully, anyone who watches this becomes a hardcore vegan. Heck, this is not even in an industrial scale. How many children do they have? 30. Go through the Australian outback, drive through California using the I5, or use the Transcanada Highway in Alberta, you’ll get a chance to see a sea of cattle in the same fate as these poor children here-minus human intelligence of course. Poor living things.

    Anyways, I do like the first episode. Perhaps I just see this show in a different perspective than most.

    J.D. Rockefeller
  4. Well. This is one of those overhyped mangas that was of COURSE getting an anime that I thought would probably prove me wrong in that it DOES warrant all the hype, which doesn’t happen very often.

    I was right. And it’s only the damn first episode!

    Already this is a very original scenerio for a shonen with realistic children as the heroes, and its creepiness and tension is all the more heightened because we’re only told this story through the children’s eyes, meaning we have no idea what the world outside the orphanage’s property is like. It reminds me of Attack on Titan. Horrors exist in the world that are out to get you and you are NEVER prepared for it, and it preys on the uncertainty that you may survive.

    I admit when I first saw Emma in manga pages, I thought she was a boy. It took watching the OP, with her white skirt, that made me realize otherwise.

  5. “Emma gave us lots of expressive faces”

    You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until the show introduces Sister Krone. My guess is that she’ll be introduced at the end of the next episode as part of the cliffhanger.

  6. I don’t understand this post. Nothing says anything about the episode itself. I also wonder why you assume being British is related to racism. All countries have their histories and, sure, the British have their share of it. But I think you’re being very racist writing your post in that manner. I feel shunned, hated, and unwelcome here because of you. I hope you feel proud.

  7. I’ve heard heaps of praise for this series ever since the anime was announced and I’ve done all that I could to avoid manga spoilers until now, and ho boy am I glad I did! This setup did a fantastic job of selling its central characters and the stomach-turning, bone-chilling reveal at the episode’s end.

    I’m certainly on board for more, so long as Neverland doesn’t dip into the metaphorical torture porn territory.

  8. As a manga reader, the episode seemed OK and I’m probably watching with a bias, but I feel the dramatic moments were TOO dramatic at times. Enough to betray the suspense being built. For example, Emma crying out in the field at the end is used for dramatic effect, but does she forget that she was running away to avoid being heard or caught? And one of the kids mentioning “But no one ever writes back!” is such a huge giveaway that it also spoils the twist.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *