Anime, Foreign, New Season, Rant, Show

“The Promised Neverland” Season 2 is just terrible

How do you mess up an anime adaptation this badly? Actually, let me rephrase that, ow do you mess up a season of television so badly? Especially when the first season was praised for being so well-written and paced? How do you go from being one of the best animes out there to…basically being written off the face of the Earth?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen shows outlive their welcome and fall from grace. But never have I seen a show do it as quickly as The Promised Neverland. It is actually impressive how fast this show fell from grace.

Season One was brilliant, well-paced, with interesting character dynamics, a compelling storyline, and lots and lots of suspense. It was some of the best anime I had ever seen. 

I loved it.

But Season Two? Which deviated from its source material for no apparent reason, cut out major arcs including a fan favorite, and rushed through literal seasons’ worth of plot in mere episodes? And with an ending that doesn’t really feel…fulfilling in any way?

It feels like a totally different show.

Now, I haven’t read the manga yet, but I did my research and I know the ending wasn’t great either. A lot of the later chapters of the manga weren’t great…so it’s odd that the creative team didn’t take the anime as an opportunity to fix this.

And even stranger that they made it worse.

Hang in there, because this is going to be a long one. Spoilers ahead for both the anime and manga.

Convenient Contrivances

So…let me get this straight – in the anime there’s an old demon character. He seems just to be a one-off at first, showing that demons aren’t all bad. He’s blind so he doesn’t necessarily recognize the children are human.

Or does he?

I thought maybe he’ll play a small role in the future. That would be cute.

I didn’t think he would somehow hold the key to rescue the other children from Grace Field House, which would somehow also have the cure for the debilitating seizures some of the Norman and his new friends are having, despite him holding on to it for over a decade. Nor did I think he would somehow have Mujika’s “evil blood,” which means he didn’t have to worry about degenerating AND that he has a granddaughter named Emma…

Like what the literal fuck? At this point, the old demon is just a walking talking deus ex machina.

If it were just him holding onto the key to the human world or knowing the guard’s schedule or having a granddaughter named Emma, and that would be fine. A little cheesy but perfectly decent writing – and it would make him an interesting enough character.

But having them all?

That’s just bad writing all around.

Oh yeah, Norman’s alive. 

Rather than being sent to become someone’s dinner, he got sent to a secret testing facility, experimented on, and eventually broke out. Cool. Interesting! That’s a twist I wouldn’t have seen coming if I hadn’t spoiled myself beforehand.

Us finding this out by Emma and Ray just so happening to run into him in the middle of a demon village, with no foreshadowing or even reason as to why they’re in the same place? Bad writing.

In the manga, Norman tracks his siblings down – which you know makes sense for the story and his character.

But it’s just so sudden in the anime like they needed a plot twist there. Nearly every episode ends with a plot twist that is immediately fixed in the following episode. It’s so…bland.

And it’s especially out of place since the previous season was so focused on strategy and misdirection by all the characters. Tension would last for episodes at a time. We never knew who knew what and who might be a mole. (I was convinced for the longest time that Phil was a mole for Isabella.) But in this season, all of that is forgotten. There’s no more strategy.

Just luck. 

All the solutions and answers fall into their laps at the right moment.

How the hell is this the same show? Last season they spent episodes building up to the fact that they were secretly training the other children to escape. It was interesting and intense. There was legitimate suspense.

Now?

It’s just Emma giving a convincing speech or waiting just long enough for the answer to appear. Everything happens when the characters need it to. Time is no longer an issue. 

It’s like the demon god wanted this to happen and manipulated the events. But we don’t get to see the demon god except for one still image in the final episode (without context), so I guess that idea was too complex for this season.

All the coincidences and contrivances erase all the good aspects of the story. And the constant skipping over swathes of the story really fucks up the pacing.

Problematic Pacing

What happens when you try to burn through 100-plus  chapters of manga in 12 episodes? 

If it’s something like Naruto, you’re likely not gonna miss too much. But if you’re The Promised Neverland, it’s not going to be pretty.

You’re going to skip over some key events, rush or get rid of character development altogether, and have to condense the timeline by a lot. And you get rid of the fans’ favorite arc. 

Even without having read the manga beforehand, it’s clear that the season is unbelievably rushed. I couldn’t keep track of what was going on.

So much happens that each episode has enough material for 2 or 3 episodes at the minimum and an entire season’s worth of material at the most. Several important reveals or events occurred in every episode, or as the show went on -an episode would spend half its runtime on a flashback or montage.

It just makes it so choppy and uneven.  I don’t understand how these two seasons were made by the same people. 

Pacing is one of the key elements in any good story and this season just has no sense of time, scale, or planning. And I hated almost every second of it. The last three episodes were especially egregious.

Each one acted like an ending – and honestly had the season ended on one of the denouement episodes, and promised another season, I almost would have forgiven them. But there are no more seasons coming. Because the Season 3 promotional images and concept art already got used in a freaking montage.

Which lasts several minutes.

What garbage. I’ve seen kiddie shows with a better and more coherent finale than this. Hell – this is WORSE than what they did in Game of Thrones because at least the anime had actual source material to work out of.

Thanks, everyone. I fucking hate it.

Emma the Messiah

Last season, all three of our protagonists played important roles. This season, Ray is pretty much invisible – except for some stuff in the first three episodes he may as well not exist. Norman’s antagonism and hatred towards demons last all of three episodes if that. 

And Emma despite everything is still a relatively happy-go-lucky girl whose positivity affects everyone.

This would be okay if she had any kind of character development or growth as a person. But nope. Somehow everybody automatically likes her and just a few words can convince most people to switch sides. Ugh – at least there are no magic hugs or healing tears. There’s no strategy, only very early Steven Universe-esque positivity and happiness.

It just doesn’t fit into what this show built its world to be.

While Emma was a positive influence on her family in the first season, it was presented more as an opposite to Ray’s negativity and Norman’s logic. She was there to encourage people. Without her good nature and positivity, they never would have escaped.

And it was interesting to see how her view stood solid, despite all the obstacles she had to face. But it never really meant she saw only the good in people as she did in Season 2. Nor did it mean that she considered everybody to be friendly.

But now it’s like, as long as something is living or breathing, it’s a possible friend. Her learning to hunt has very little effect on her view on life and death. Sure, there’s an actual reason why demons eat humans and why the farms exist; not that it’s a good one but it’s there. And she has no excuse to pretty much ignore the Lambda kids’ feelings and talk down on them for wanting to hurt demons.

Not that they’re totally right for wanting to harm innocents, but at least I get their motivation.

She also forgives Mama Isabella – despite the fact the woman broke her leg and sent countless children to slaughter without remorse, saying that she knew that Isabella always loved them. Which makes no sense to me.

And letting Isabella go to the human world makes even less sense since she never really did anything to redeem herself or show she’s selfless.

But the worst is when Emma tries to forgive Peter Ratri, the man responsible for the current farm system. I’m glad he chose to kill himself and didn’t fall under Emma’s spell – but I don’t get why she would even do it in the first place.

She literally just met the guy. So did we.

But also, it bothers me that despite everything, especially in the first season, the only sacrifice Emma ever has to make is her ear. She doesn’t undergo any kind of growth or suffer or have any meaningful character development in this season.

And that’s just bad storytelling.

No Comeuppance

Nobody suffers any consequences in this season.

Like none. Nada. Zip. Zero.

It erases any tension because after a few episodes I realized that no matter what happened everyone was going to be okay. Nobody important is hurt or killed. Everybody. Literally every human, except for Peter Ratri the closest thing the season had to a big bad, gets to go to the human world and live happily ever after.

Ratri is barely a character. He appears so little and does even less that it’s hard to even consider him a character, let alone an important one. Some demons die, but most are no-faced NPCs so they don’t matter. I feel no emotional connection to them at all.

I don’t get it. I don’t get how there are no consequences.

There are no consequences for the Lambda kids who were experimented so heavily on. A cure for their illness was given to them and it worked. But we don’t get to see how they made the cure or even what it is. 

Emma easily convinces Norman and the others not to massacre the demons. Forgiving Isabella has no consequence nor is it given any weight,

I had to research all these because they didn’t make sense in the anime…and some of the lack of consequences is seen in the manga, but that’s still shitty writing. The manga isn’t fully responsible for the terribleness of this season or how it rewards its characters for doing so little.

It’s like a different creative team took over the show, only read a synopsis of the first season and the TV Tropes pages then adapted the second season based on their assumptions of what fans would like (and getting it totally wrong.)

They just forget about so much important established lore as well.

For example, whatever happened to the promise made between demons and humans? In the manga, this issue is solved by having Emma’s memories of her family erased and she is separated from them. 

The anime forgets about this completely and lets the humans go free without needing to make any kind of new deal.

The kids don’t face any kind of discrimination when they enter the human world; they’re welcomed with open arms. (Conflict could have been interesting. Surely somebody was worried about the promise. And how would the general public react when they found out about the news about the demon world?)

The demon nobility is relatively open to the change brought about by the humans despite being responsible for the system that’s kept them in power for over a millennium doesn’t make sense.

They barely get into the demon nobility or class issues at all – despite that being established as important early in the season. And getting back to the farm and breaking in is easy – done in just a minute, y’know despite literally needing a whole season of strategy last season.

This is a series full of promises and possibilities that mean absolutely nothing in the end. They’re all broken.

That Last Episode.

Finales are supposed to be big spectacular events. The culmination of everything in the series. There should be big reveals, emotional catharsis, and a satisfying conclusion where the characters we’ve followed for so long finally get to relax. 

And when it’s an event as big as – let’s say going to the human world after being raised as food, you’d kind of expect it to be epic. Especially when your main characters decide to stay behind — you don’t expect to see them three minutes later after a montage of still images entering the human world older but unscathed.

But that’s exactly what we get.

Rather than having a whole arc or hell a whole season about rescuing the children who were left behind, changing the demon world, maybe having some regrets about not being with their siblings – we get a fucking slideshow.

A SLIDESHOW.

Not even a real montage. 

A slideshow.

I’m still angry.

We get very little about the kids who went to the human world…that’s also a slideshow.

We’re not shown them struggling to adapt or facing any kind of discrimination when they entered the human world. Instead, they’re welcomed with open arms, allowed to live together, go to school and enjoy all of the things the 21st (31st?) century has to offer. It just feels so weird. All of these deserved way more focus.

 The ending is presented as though it’s this cathartic event where they finally, finally can be happy. But after a season full of coincidences, conveniences, Emma-lovers, and very little sacrifice or strategy on part of the humans – it just falls completely flat. I never thought this would be the type of anime to get an actual happy ending.

They risked so much in the first season that everything after with their easy solutions makes the ending feel unearned.

Like I know the manga ending wasn’t great either – but at least there was some sacrifice involved. At least there was some kind of bittersweetness. I feel like the kids being spared trauma robs the series of its identity.

There WERE a few good parts to this second season. I thought the first two episodes were quite good. And not having read the manga yet meant I didn’t see the huge swathes of plot they cut out but it didn’t feel like anything was missing. I liked the time they spent in the shelter and the focus on that; I liked them meeting Sonju and Mujika. It seemed like it was setting up for something big!

But so much of it afterward was shit that I just feel like this couldn’t possibly be the second season. It feels like a fever dream. 

It’s not like the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, which ran out of manga to adapt and then just went its own way.

There’s just so much wrong with this that I didn’t get to cover. Like what happened to Baby Carol? The anime just totally forgot about her…she was such a motivating force in the first season that just dropping her character is just terrible writing.

And while I’m not trying to compare the anime to manga as a reason why it’s bad, the deviations certainly harmed the show. When looked at as a standalone piece of media, Season 2 still suffers a lot from lack of pacing, context, coincidences, a rushed ending and so much more. 

The story can be followed along easily enough, but that’s the kindest thing I can say about the writing.

There is absolutely no value in watching this season. Except maybe as a lesson in what not to do. But there are less painful shows to watch to learn that.

Let’s hope that in the future – they’ll pull a Brotherhood and make another anime adaptation. Hopefully, this one will improve upon the manga and learn from its predecessor’s mistakes.

 And that’s the scoop.

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Grade: D

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Year of release: 2021

Length: 11 episodes + recap special

Director: Mamoru Kanbe

Writer: Toshiya Ono

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6 thoughts on ““The Promised Neverland” Season 2 is just terrible”

  1. I never had a chance to see The Promised Neverland, but the fact that season 2 is bad is certainly a dealbreaker (saying nothing about how questionable Sister Krone’s character design was). Sorry to hear that they rushed everything and cut so many corners.

      1. Thanks for noticing that as well. When I first saw a picture of her, I certainly facepalmed with the obvious minstrel/mammy imagery. I did hear good things about season 1 with the plot and characters.

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