Yay! Happy ending! They escaped! But then again, of course they did. This is the last episode of the season, and as much as I’d be amused if Yakusoku no Neverland ended with the children summarily rounded up and made to gingerly sit in time-out for burning the house down just for the sheer bathos of it, it probably won’t make for a very good story. Since I presume Neverland wants to both avoid an anticlimax and secure a sequel, this finale was basically the march towards a foregone conclusion. So let’s waste no more time and jump right into some holistic thoughts on the series.

It’s always been a bit curious to me that Yakusoku no Neverland is supposed to be ‘shounen’, even though it doesn’t really hew to the shounen stereotypes. Of course, this says more about leaning on shounen stereotypes and the inadequacy of categorising manga by the target demographic the magazine it’s published in aims for (let’s not even get started on the sports genre), but we can still uncontroversially say that Neverland stands in contrast to the well-known shounen classics — the Dragon Balls, the Narutos, the One Pieces (…), etc, etc. I would call those manga and the shows they spawned action anime, and Neverland is decidedly not one of them. This doesn’t make Neverland inherently better or worse — the action shounen shows are great and I’m looking forward to the fourth season of Boku no Hero Academia as much as the next superhero fan. But these ‘traditional’ shounen shows have their own storytelling methods that their audience are familiar with. Being action-oriented means that most of the narrative has to revolve around action, which means that most of the conflict has to be tied to some physical conflict as well. The plot does not progress without people beating each other up in the name of whatever cause or philosophy they represent, and character growth is tied to physical growth. They are often also power fantasies, simply because the main tool to resolve conflicts, action, requires physical prowess. In contrast, Neverland is not about action (aside from the stunts and the impressive throwing arm). Neverland is largely a thriller, almost approaching horror sometimes, and that’s a whole different ballgame. The obstacles our protagonists face are things that they cannot directly fight against or have no hope of winning against and rather than a power fantasy a lot of the time Neverland wants to make us feel powerless in the face of incomprehensible terror. To Neverland‘s credit it understands the kind of story it is and doesn’t confuse itself with action shounen fare. You all probably know an example of Hollywood confusing horror with killing zombies and creating a generic action-thing that fails to be compelling, or played a videogame that made the same error (Resident Evil, anyone?).

That’s not to say that Neverland is not without its share of flaws in the storytelling department. It is definitely very good at playing the thriller at times and skilled at building tension. But to what end? While Neverland knows full well it’s not that kind of shounen and its conflict is not about action, at times it doesn’t seem to know for sure what its conflict should be about. It builds a bunch of tension… and then what? Often, it simply dodges. Consider how little problem solving Emma actually has to do. Norman hands her a completed plan from beyond the ‘grave’. Most of the training for the escape, winning over all the children, and efforts to keep it all concealed from Isabella are done off-screen so Emma (and the audience) don’t have to experience the hardship of it. And even when finally Emma has to decide to leave the youngest children behind she doesn’t really have to grapple with the moral dilemma of potentially sacrificing them, instead framing it as trusting them to follow in her footsteps. Perhaps Neverland overindulges in the reveals and once in a while prioritises it over substance. Consider the cliffhangers that lead to nothing. Or consider this episode’s flashbacks to Isabella’s past, which was a perfectly good scene and does humanise her by drawing parallels to Emma, but in the end feels mostly there to justify Isabella being a good sport about having all she wrought destroyed. Even the reveal that Ray is her biological son doesn’t really add anything; Isabella was already a maternal figure and I can’t say this reveal really changes the way we see their relationship. Perhaps all of this will be used in a sequel, but judging only this anime on its merits (as we should) it feels like there was some measure of unused potential within the story and certain lack of ambition in places.

There certainly will be a sequel though, and Neverland deserves it. Overall, it was a pretty good show, and it being different from a lot of the usual fare certainly helps. I don’t know if I’ll want to blog any future instalments — you know how these Young Adult Fiction stories go — but I’ll definitely be watching with great interest.


  1. Interesting change at the end where they had Isabella meet Emma eye-to-eye. That didn’t happen in the manga. Isabella was a second late and found only the ropes swaying in the wind. I wonder why they made that change.

    1. I think the adapters wanted to show a contrast between Isabella and Emma
      and their distinct choices they made to survive. Emma could certainly gone
      the Mom route like Isabella and maybe that scene was supposed to show how
      they’ve steeled themselves to their own beliefs to survive. All in all,
      looks like season 2 should be a pretty decent adventure especially now
      we know what the “things” look like.

      Not too shabby and a great segway for season 2.

  2. They had hinted eary in the manga at her being Rays mother, having asked her a question that shocked her. You get to see what he means with this flashback. which is pretty clear why she gives him gifts and everything for doing work for her. Even showing how cruel grandmother is that she gave Isabella her child to raise for the slaughter. The anime did do a nice job of showing how having her child to survive left her dead inside wih the empty eyes she had, and likewise her having mementos she keeps of all the kids shes had to raise and watch dis.

    Isabella was always intended as a parallel to Emma, even the relationship she had with Leslie like Emmas with Normans. But unlike Emma she only believed in herself after losing the boy she liked, and like Krone decided to survive and thrive in the system they didn’t believe they could escape. Its why she waseven trying to get Emma to become a Mama.

    Show Spoiler ▼

  3. Even the reveal that Ray is her biological son doesn’t really add anything;

    Well, at least it explains where all the foodstuffs orphans are coming from in the first place. But that then raises more questions, like do each of the mamas in training have to get pregnant in order to qualify? And if so, how do they do it? We only saw girls there, so are the Normans of this world (because he clearly wasn’t going to get eaten) responsible, maybe? Does that mean the mama training school is also the breeding centre? But if you’re only creaming off the best children to breed from, then each one is going to have to have lots of children. Not a problem for the boys, but are we in a Handmaid’s Tale scenario for the girls?

  4. This episode really got the ball rolling (even though it’s the finale), and it felt like watching season 1 of SnK somehow?? I understand how the journey and process itself is really important and appreciate that, but it really is quite slow (and I agree with you, it plot often relies on big reveals to do the storytelling and progressing), and so I really enjoyed this “action” packed episode.

  5. Just a terrible thought — Was the paring of Ray with his mother an accident?
    Did the monsters know that she was his biological mother — and what would that
    do to her psyche raising you child to be food… Man – that just hit me.

  6. LOVE the twist that Ray is Isabella’s son, though I had thought for a second they would say Emma was her daughter. Either one is a great addition to the characters’ development. The content of the chapters they were able to adapt in the short run here didn’t do them any favors. I can see people say it was boring with no action, but hey we got a second season coming! So I look forward to seeing why the world is the way it is, and if these kids really are safe outside the walls.

    … oh and Toonami’s gonna air this with a dub next week!

  7. When Yakusoku no Neverland first came out, people compared it to Death Note(another unusual entry for “shonen” manga) because of the psychological battles and mind games.
    I thought it was an interesting change that Isabella caught up to Emma and all she could do was beg her not to go. In the manga it was a nerve-wracking scene of Emma being the last to make the jump and it looked like Isabella caught up but nope – everyone made it. Emma, hidden in the shadows of the forest, looks up at her “mama” one last time and bids her farewell.

    Happy to see season 2 is on its way! Looking forward to seeing how they reveal what the “frindle” does and Minerva’s role in the story!
    Once again hoping for a full adaption.


  8. Looks to me like the anime adaptors wanted to balance the nostalgia between Ray and Emma.

    The anime’s reveal with Ray seemed less impactful and manipulative than it was in the manga; Emma got some of that emotional burden by giving her a face-off with Mama that she didn’t get in the manga.

    I think it was an improvement.

    It helped to show that Mama was truly helpless to stop them. Without the face off, she failed only because she barely missed them. The anime also makes Mama more honest: she can return to the younger kids and be honest in saying they all made it safely. If she hadn’t seen them, she couldn’t have known for sure everyone made it across the gap.

    Balancing attention and focus between Emma and Ray is probably a good place to temporarily halt the story; it gives both of them equal places to “rest”; if the story weren’t likely to continue, I’d say it gives them both a needed sense of closure.

    The digression into what “shounen” means seems unnecessary; as mentioned,Japan categories by audience, not type of story. Someone who thinks shounen means large-cast, repetitive fighting stories like Bleach or Naruto is likely either unexposed to enough anime to encounter Neverland or not knowledgable enough to know the term. Manga titles are cheap and easy to produce and slap into a narrow-audience magazine and, in that format, shounen is very diverse. Relatively few shounen manga ever get animated. Those that get the biggest reading audience become likely to get animated and those which have the largest casts and will run into high chapter counts are guaranteed to drag in the most bucks. Stories with tons of attractive (trope) characters draw large diverse audiences despite predictable, trope plotting.

    But that is not shounen. It’s a subcategory of shounen. I’d place Neverland on the opposite side of the spectrum, for sure, but in between fighting shounen and Neverland are adventure shounen like Soul Eater (closer to fight type) and FMA (definitely not a fight shounen). I’m not sure what audience Made in Abyss targeted (seinen?) but I’d say Neverland fits in there, genre-wise. But Neverland was clearly written with a younger audience in mind, which is why the overwrought plotting passes; if this story were aimed at an older audience, I’d expect fewer obvious, glaring, hair pulling plotholes.

    1. Seasoned anime watchers, like you and me, obviously understand the diverse nature of the shounen umbrella. But considering how many anime testimonials start with, ‘I watched Dragon Ball as a kid…’ I’m sure you appreciate that the big fight-y anime do shape many’s perception of the medium.

      And a great deal of shounen does involve fighting in some form or another, because that’s a very easy to understand kind of conflict. I got the feeling that Neverland was not always entirely comfortable with that, considering how it sidestepped various arguably more complex or subtle plot points.

  9. I wonder we’ll see Isabella again? Despite her action and facial expression, she nothing but sad lady with no hope for herself or anyone, putting a false masks, until the children escape. I wonder if she secretly hope the children escaped from same despair from the beginning and maybe truly care from including her own son?

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