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Jan 13, 9:13 PM
Going into episode one of Yakusoku no Neverland, I expected the show to have potential due to its rather intriguing premise, but to overall fall flat due to the show not properly utilizing the tools it is given. What I mean by that is that the show has a lot of great ideas that can be expanded upon to make for a riveting story. Since the show so far is about the farming of humans as livestock for another race’s consumption, the show can bring up concepts like the morality and ethics behind the farming of animals. Moreover, showing us how the characters will react to the morality their oppressors use in order to justify their confinement. However, after finishing this episode one, I think it is safe to assume this show will never tackle any deep ideas and that it will just be edgy jump scares, kids suffering just because, and one dimensional villains.

To give the show some credit, the opening scene before the credits was actually quit gripping. Showing the children inquiring about the gate was a great way to establish a location that will become relevant in the final act of the episode as well as giving us genuinely good child dialogue, which is quite rare in anime. Watching this scene gave me chills on how strongly it reminded me of the scene from the anime Kaibe where Popo, Cheki and Nairo are looking up at the cloudy sky as Popo proclaims he wants to be king and live above the clouds. Both these scenes serve the same purpose in showing the innocent childish yearn for the unattainable--like how many kids dream of becoming astronauts. Popo’s childish motivation of wanting to become king is no different than how Emma simply wants to ride a giraffe, and it is quite sweet to see.

However, the scene from Neverland is not perfect. The performance on Emma’s part was perfect, but the same cannot be said for the edgy boy in the room (Ray). Edgy boy’s dialogue was anything but childish. He spoke very declaratively, as if he had all the answers despite growing up in the literal exact same environment as the other children. Also, this declarative rhetoric made him feel like it was an adult in a kids body talking rather than a child. It is natural for a kids to be skeptical of adults. A much better way to write this scene would be having edgy boy say something like “What if that’s a lie?” instead of “that’s obviously a lie.” The former shows that he is thinking outside of the box and not taking Mom’s words as gospel. And with this line you make edgy boys true opinions more ambiguous. He could be asking the question with his opinion that it’s a lie already made up, only asking for validation that he is not alone in his opinion, which would make him feel more like a child in how he wants gratification from a group for having an unpopular opinion. Or you can have this line just be a literal question. Either way it would be an improvement from the latter because the line the writers did go with kills all forms subtly. Having this character by so blunt makes him feel like he is just a tool for shoving foreshadowing down our throats rather than subtle foreshadowing the second act. Just having the characters standing in front of the gate that they are not aloud to go in is foreshadowing enough. I don’t need edgy boy telling me mom is lying when we already have enough reason to assume that.

Something else that is a little pet peeve of mine is having the opening theme in episode one. I don’t know any of the characters so why would I care about a glorified AMV with them in it. On top of that, if there is not an opening theme in episode one, it becomes a good excuse for people to want to watch episode two. So even if episode one was less than par, people might stick to episode two just to see if the opening is good, and if it is then you got viewers. So instead of the episode one opening, after the opening scene, I would’ve cut off all audio and thrown up the show’s title and then went right into act one: straight and to the point.

Act one of the show consisted of the characters going through a day in the life of a Grace Field House orphan. The first scene of them all getting ready to go eat breakfast consisted of some of the most forced dialogue I’ve ever scene. The characters found every excuse to say someone's name, some facts about the characters, facts about the orphanage, and any other important information that the writers wanted to throw out there. Instead of forcibly telling all this, you could have a full episode of world building and show all this in a natural way. Moreover, the character interactions were not any less forced. All the children were so blissfully happy it was hard not to cringe at it. Especially since they are only showing this hyper joyful state only to make for a greater tragedy in the second act. Regardless, how Emma chased after the two boys then proceeded to hug and laugh with them looking like ever conservatives’ dream family was hilariously bad. If you want to write good childish joy, just watch any ghibli movie and take notes.

I really don’t want to talk about the test and tag scenes because they did not do anything other than establishing that the Harry Potter trio (Emma, Ray, and Norman) is the best at everything, and they didn’t even do a good job at that. In the test scene, never did they establish what the test was about, except for the nine seconds they had to answer whatever the questions were. For all we know they could've been playing WarioWare and calling it a test. And since we do not know for sure, saying the Harry Potter trio did the best at this “test” is completely arbitrary. A much better example of a test being used to learn about character strengths and weaknesses was surprisingly from Naruto. Round one of the Chunni exams did a great job placing clear rules and limitations on a test and depicted each characters way of adapting to their new surrounding. Needless to say we didn’t see any of this from Neverland. As for the tag scene, we got to see that Borman is good at strategy. That’s honestly it, he knows the tag meta so he might as well be a military admiral fighting for humanity. All kidding aside, Borman is pretty dry; his dialogue is so robotic it is hard to see him as a person. They could potentially make his character into a Shinji Ikari kind of dry, where he will go on to make strategies just because his friends need him too. But I’m not getting my hopes up.

The final act of the episode is when all the foreshadowing edgy boy has been spoon feeding us becomes relevant. And surprise, surprise, the eleven year old crystal ball that is edgy boy was right. When Borman and Emma go after mom and irrelevant loli to the gate, they see that mom is lying about the orphanage and that it is actually a farm with children as livestock. They see first hand from under a truck (because the monsters drive trucks) that revolting, un-empathizable monsters run this farm and want to eat them. I find it to be a terrible narrative choice having this farm being ran by these monsters. For one, these monsters are depicted as cruel with one of them saying “it looks so delicious, human flesh is the best,” showing that they are worse than people in the context of this show. It is kind of ironic that this farm ran be these monsters, that are seemingly crueler than humans, keep their livestock in better living conditions than humans on earth do. It is no secret that humans treat animals horribly--just look up meat processing plant on Google and try not to turn vegan afterwards. So why aren’t people also keep in horrible conditions to produce as much meat as quickly as possible? The excuse I am likely going to get is “meat tastes better when it is raised happily.” Even then I expect there to be mass produced human meat somewhere in this universe. And I think that would make the story more interesting. Like how in Gurran Lagann team Gurren had to save pockets of humans all around the world, the kids at Grace Field House will have to do the same. And then they will have to endure the guild of knowing that they were the lucky ones who got to live in luxury while other people suffered. Again, I don’t find that likely to happen, but I would be pretty cool.

As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, I would love to see the morality and ethics of livestock to come up in this show. The argument I uphold when I am debating vegans on livestock and animal production is that animals should be utilized for the benefit of humanity in the most optimal way possible. This means that if an animals most useful function in serving humanity is that of livestock there is nothing wrong in pursuing it. And since the cognition of animals is that much lower than humans, then are their lives really of our concern? I would argue no. And the monsters in this show would agree with me. On the contrary, the characters in this show, if they are going to try to escape from the farm and be free, need to disagree with this line of reasoning. I would love to see the Harry Potter trio come to realize that the monsters treating them as food is no different than humans stepping on a bug or eating meat (even though I didn’t see any meat in the breakfast scene), and have to come to terms with their inherent hypocrisy to move forward. However, I got a strong feeling that none of this will be discussed in this show. I predict that these monsters will just be used for jump scares like how they were used in the final act.

The scene after the big revelation consisted of both Emma and Borman’s reactions to what they have witnessed at the gate. After just having found out that they are livestock by monster, via dialogue that forcible explains everything (just like the breakfast scene), you would think they would be petrified in fear--to scared to move from seeing a friend die in front of them and finding out that they will be next. But no, they somehow managed to get out from under the truck--without being noticed--and run away, and then proceed to have the scheduled mental break down when they are safely away. And the show didn’t show how they escaped, the show gave us a jump scare with a monster look at where they were, then next shot showing Emma and Borman magically being safe.

After Emma and Borman’s initial mental break down, they both made their way back to their house in silence, only being greeted by edgy boy. Who being as omniscient as he is, suspects something is up. I am actually interested in seeing what edgy boy’s reaction to the truth will be when he finds out. If he acts cool like he suspected it the whole time, then the show is a 0/10, but if he does literally anything else I’ll probably be fine with it. After this brief encounter with edgy boy, Emma and Borman then talk alone and decide to run away. How will they do it? With strategy! Just like in tag! This plan is pretty juvenile. This is not inherently a bad thing though. Gurren Lagann is pretty juvenile, yet that show manages to use the motivations of its characters to act as an allegory for the libertarianism versus authoritarianism debate. But I do worry that this show will fall down the same path as the anime Now and Then, Here and There did, were the main characters constant juvenile optimism acted only as a distraction to the harsh reality around him. Unfortunately, I see this show going down the path of Now and Then, Here and There.

Despite my harsh words, I do think this show has potential. I don’t like trashing a show without trying offer solutions to make the show better, because anyone can just say things aren’t good without offering solutions to make it better. So what I’d like to see going forward is the characters actually getting more time to actually be characters. There is only 38 of them and if Legend of the Galactic Heroes taught me anything, it is that there is never a cast too big to be explore. The horror in this show should be less of shock value and more from the mental strain of being trapped on a farm. This part I am most confident that the show will do right--unless they all quickly get over the horror of being livestock and start playing tag with the monsters. To reiterate, I would also like the show to dive more into the great ideas it has. That means humanise the monsters more--because to cows and chickens who get torture and killed everyday for our pleasure and consumption, we are the monsters from this show. Consequently, I want the monsters to be made more empathizable.

Inconcultion, this first episode was full of potential and nothing else. The characters where dry, and some of them were adults in kids bodys. The dialogue was used for forced info dumping rather than natural exposition and oftentimes came off as laughable. The scenes that were meant to showcase the kids different strengths could of been fleshed out more, or even made into whole episodes. Because, if the characters are interesting, people will want to watch more episodes with them in it. And the nail in the coffin was the one dimensional monsters and lame jump scares. So with all that I would say this episode was a failure. However, it did succeed at making my curious enough to want to watch episode two… and maked me want to write this long review of just one episode.
Posted by infinite_Fiend | Jan 13, 9:13 PM | Add a comment