Released in Winter 2019, studio CloverWorks
' TV adaptation of the dark fantasy manga, Yakusoku no Neverland
(The Promised Neverland
), currently sits as MyAnimeList's 39th highest rated anime of all time. A second season is in production
and is slated to air in 2020.
Courtesy of Aniplex of America, MyAnimeList had the honor of joining a group interview at this year's Sakura-con with four members of The Promised Neverland
's team: director Mamoru Kanbe
, producers Shinobu Ono and Kenta Suzuki
, and voice actress of Emma, Sumire Morohoshi
Western audiences responded very well to The Promised Neverland. What are your thoughts about the widespread acclaim that the show received and how Western fans reacted?
: This is my first time being invited to a convention outside of Japan; The Promised Neverland
gave me the first opportunity I've had to come to a convention like this one. I have never had the opportunity before this to directly experience the ways that overseas fans are enjoying anime and attending conventions because of the anime they have watched. Seeing all this has allowed me to realize for the first time what a wide world it is, and I am very happy to be able to come here and experience that directly.
: We created the show with the Japanese audience in mind, so we had created it in such a way as to appeal to Japanese sensibilities. So we were a bit surprised that it actually became so popular and came across so well, even to the overseas audience.
: We created a story that we believed would be pretty popular in Japan, and of course, when we were working on it, we aimed for very high animation quality... and I think we achieved that; however, hearing that it was very popular in the U.S. as well... I was very pleased.
: I was also very happy to hear that it was that popular. Because we had the opportunity to read the manga first—this was, of course, based on a manga—we were thinking of it in that way. But I think a lot of the viewers, especially overseas, may have experienced the anime first, and only then realized that there is an original manga that it's based on. And so I wonder if watching the anime first was a more shocking way to enter the story for them, and I'm sort of enjoying imagining that.
It was! The contrast between the opening scenes and the final reveal was shocking, to say the least.
The animation quality was very high, and we were amazed by how you blended 3D and 2D animation—in particular, how natural the result felt. Was it very difficult to achieve this? Did you use any new techniques created specifically for this show?
: So first of all, all of the scenes that take place in Grace Field House make use of 3DCG. We modeled the entirety of the inside of that house in 3D, and we used that model for the interior scenes. We also did modeling of all of the backgrounds in 3DCG, and that allowed us to use all kinds of camera angles; we were pretty free in what we were able to accomplish with the cameras because of that 3D modeling.
: Regarding the difference between hand-drawn animation and 3D animation, they are always going to look a little different. There's no way around that, really. But in order to decrease the visual difference between them as much as possible, we actually applied some really specific filters to the hand-drawn animation during the filming stage of production, so as to make them match as closely as possible.
What would you say was the biggest challenge in making this show? And for Morohoshi-san specifically, was there anything you had to pay special attention to in your portrayal of Emma?
: Because I was Emma, I was aware—from the time I accepted the role, because the manga is quite popular—that many of the readers would already have their own imaginings of Emma. And so, I had to think about how I would embody her, how I would voice her, in a way that would match as closely as possible to what people were already thinking of. I had to think about how I could match the visions and expectations that the readers of the manga already had, in a way that they would accept. That was a big challenge for me, and it was also a lot of pressure to live up to those expectations.
A big point about playing Emma for me was that I wanted to be as straightforward in my portrayal of the character as possible. She's a very straightforward character—that's a big marker of her personality. And as opposed to having one fixed way in which I wanted to play the character, I also thought it was very important to be flexible and to change how she was portrayed as the series progressed. Because the story has so many twists and turns—it's a really interesting story with a lot of developments to it—I wanted to be able to act out those developments in my portrayal of Emma, and to give a performance, then, that would be very interesting and very fun for the viewers.
: For me, I would identify two biggest challenges. The first one had to do, again, with the mixture of 3DCG modeling and 2D animation. Because we had created a large 3D model of a lot of the set before we started, I needed to plan how we were going to use that 3D model as we continued on through the episodes. And especially with the camera work—when you are talking about 2D animation—the camera can really only pan linearly. You can't have a pan and a zoom mixed at the same time. But with 3D animation, you can pan and zoom at the same time, and so that added ability was something that I had to plan around. We ended up using a lot of that kind of camera motion, and I had to make sure that it did not look unnatural.
The second biggest challenge, for me, had to do with the fact that the original manga is extremely good and extremely popular. And this might sound a little bit weird, but, because the original work was so good, I didn't try to insert myself as the director into the animation version of the story, that is, not very strongly. Instead, I wanted to stay detached from it, to pull myself back a little bit, and make sure that I was gathering opinions and input from as many different sides as possible, to look at the animation in its entirety as we were creating it. Because of that, I actually don't have a very strong sense of it being my work anymore.
: My answer is going to be a little bit similar to the director's, but it also has to do with 3D modeling, particularly the extensive 3D modeling that we needed to do before beginning work on the rest of the episodes. Because roughly 70% of the story takes place inside of Grace Field House, creating those 3D models proved very useful; however, it was my first time working on a show where we had to do that much 3D modeling, and where so much of the story took place inside the same building like that. So, I'm answering from a little bit of a different point of view from the director, but it was difficult for me to judge in advance how much time that 3D modeling was going to take at the start of the schedule. And of course, I wanted to keep everything on schedule and running along smoothly, so I had to pay extra attention to it to make sure that that happened. It was a large unknown at the beginning of production.
: From my point of view, the biggest challenge would be from the promotional side. My biggest challenge really was how to promote this show and make it seem extremely interesting, to get people wanting to watch it without mentioning that there are monsters in it—because we wanted to keep that secret.
As you mentioned earlier, there's a big contrast between the setup in the first episode, of a nice house and a happy lifestyle with all these children living together, and then the twist at the end. I needed to always keep that in mind. It informed how we created the promotional trailers and how we released information about the show as it was airing. It was very important for us to control what information we released and when.
As Ono-san mentioned earlier, 70% of the series takes place inside of Grace Field House. Outside of that, the world that viewers have seen so far seems rather small. Did you ever feel limited by how restricted the world was?
: On the contrary, actually. Because we were producing this story, we knew how it was going to end, how the twelfth episode was going to end. We knew that this world was narrow and restricted, and that the story we were telling was how these children were going to escape from this narrow and restricted world. So it actually served the story to have the world be small. And we, on our side, did not feel that we were particularly limited by that fact. It actually felt just about right.
A second season has been announced, despite the rise in visibility that the anime has already given to the original manga. Are there perhaps plans to adapt the story through to completion?
: This is hard to answer! (Laughs) So right now, we are in the middle of working on the second season of The Promised Neverland
. And the original manga is also still being written; it hasn't reached the end yet either. The first season of the anime was pretty much the same as the first part of the manga. When we created that anime, we didn't deviate from the manga very much. But in the second season, I think we're going to have more flexibility in how we portray the continuation of the manga story. Of course, we can't say for sure exactly how any of that is going to work because we are still creating it right now; none of it is quite fixed at the moment. But we will have that possibility of deviating a little bit more from the manga, possibly. We know that there are viewers who, after they watch the anime, want to continue on and read the manga, and there are viewers who have read the manga first and are now watching the anime. We would like to create an anime that is interesting because of its differences and its different approaches from the original manga. For example, the art style was a little bit different, and the way that the story was revealed to the audience was slightly different because of the decisions that the director made.
So... I cannot at this point say that we are going to animate the entire story to the very end. We are not at a point where we can say that. Sorry. (Laughs) We actually can't answer your question one way or another at this point, yes or no, but we are working very hard on making an anime that will be very interesting, enjoyable, and fun to watch, both for its similarities and its differences to the manga. That we can guarantee, so please enjoy it.
There is a large number of characters in The Promised Neverland, and even the most minor characters are often integral to the plot in some way. How did you go about making sure that all the characters received the screen time they needed?
: We might need to have the director answer that one. (Laughs) It's the three main characters against all the supporting characters.
: This is a difficult question to answer, so sorry if my answer is not exactly what you're looking for. But, first of all, the three main characters—Emma, Ray, and Norman—are truly geniuses, and they are the central characters. The story mostly unfolds around them. In contrast are the supporting characters Don and Gilda, who actually serve the most character development during the first season. And so they're actually partly representatives of the rest of the supporting characters, in the growth that they show over the course of the first twelve episodes. After that though is, of course, Phil, one of the little kids. With Phil and the other little kids, what I tried to do as director was to include them in as many scenes as possible. Even if they didn't get the central role in one of those scenes, I still wanted to show them within it so that Emma's resolution to be sure of saving all of the children makes a lot of sense. The reader is then on her side, not wanting any of the little kids to die, even the ones who were only shown in passing. I made an effort to do that as much as possible.
©KAIU SHIRAI,POSUKA DEMIZU/SHUEISHA,THE PROMISED NEVERLAND COMMITTEE
Interview was conducted in a conference setting through an interpreter and has been edited for clarity.