The Promised Neverland season 1 was a self-contained masterpiece. I accidentally stumbled upon the show, binged the 1st season in its entirety overnight, recommended it to every living soul I knew and eagerly awaited the 2nd season. The second season aired earlier in 2021 and by the 3rd episode, I wanted to apologise to everyone I’d recommended the show to. I could barely make it till the end of the show myself.
The buzz for the show kept slowly crumbling away with each episode of the 2nd season. By the time the last episode aired, everyone had collectively moved on and no one talked about The Promised Neverland ever since. It isn’t uncommon for an anime to have a great first season and terrible subsequent ones. Tokyo Ghoul fans know a thing or two about seeing a great anime fall into the depths of terrible mediocrity. You’ll never hear the end of how disappointing the latter two seasons of Tokyo Ghoul were, even though it’s been more than 3 years since its final season aired. With all that said, let’s dive into what went so wrong with The Promised Neverland that the fans won’t even talk about it?
The Promised Neverland season 1 had 12 episodes that covered chapters 1-37 of the manga. Season 2 warps through chapters 38-181 in the span of 11 episodes. The first few episodes of Season 2 are decent enough. The "Norman is alive" reveal could've been handled better, however, the rest still resembles what we were given in season 1. Granted, the anime abandoned the manga plot after the “Promised Forest” arc and followed an anime original plot, however, that is its own disaster worthy of its own subheading. The main takeaway here is that this season's pacing is TERRIBLE!
The singular arc that the fans were most excited for, "The Return to Gracefield" is condensed into a single, horrendously terrible episode. Super important world-changing events take place in less time than it would for you to finish reading this sentence. Where season 1 was a nail-biting thriller filled with chilling horror and provocative allegory pieced into a brilliantly paced and scored anime, season 2 had Emma negotiate the fate of the world with The God (literally) in less than 10 seconds.
The Promised Neverland season 1 had unanswered, intricate yet solvable mysteries, keeping the viewers on the edge of their seats in every single episode. The series has great re-watch value, as every time you watch an episode you might discover a new delightfully hidden detail and/or clue. The script was tight, the animation detailed and pretty, the sound design was impeccable. I’ve personally listened to Isabella’s lullaby a thousand times. There's a lot that can be said just on the beauty of the song and its significance for the story but that's the subject for another article.
Contrast this with season 2. While the animation is decent for the most part, the script loses its edge immediately when it deviates from the manga. The idea of anime-only storylines isn’t a bad one as long as the execution is good. The Promised Neverland abandoned crucial plot relevant arcs and added terribly written and executed original storylines. An example of this is Isabella getting the charge of getting the kids back. While this could’ve been a potentially interesting change, the show doesn’t go anywhere with it and it amounts to nothing.
In episode 8, the show does an interesting thing where Norman has to dirty his own hands in the process of killing the monsters. At one point in the story, Norman is about to strike a deathly blow on a little monster girl. However, he stops in the middle of it because, and I kid you not, the little monster girl was named Emma! If anything you're watching reminds you of Batman vs. Superman, something has gone terribly wrong there. However, the show still goes downhill from here. Each subsequent episode keeps plunging deeper and deeper into the abyss until it can’t go any further down, and then the season finale comes!
A little background here; the second season was officially announced to be in production on March 29, 2019. The second season was originally set for an October 2020 release. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to air from January 8 to March 26, 2021. The production delays affected a lot of 2020-2021 anime. The Promised Neverland, however, has got to be the worst of the lot.
The season finale is an anime original and it ISN'T EVEN ANIMATED for a good chunk of the time. The show ends its story on a slideshow! A SLIDESHOW! Stills that were probably meant to be initial sketches for a possible 3rd season were used to sum up a season's worth of storytelling! Who greenlit the decision of ending such a popular and big anime on a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation is truly a mystery to me. However, if there's anything that is possibly worse than how the finale was shown, it has to be what happened in the finale!
The show planted a seed of excitement when we see Isabella plan revenge on the kids that betrayed her. I was thrilled by this anime-original plot point of Isabella hunting the kids down and Emma, Rey and Norman outsmarting her. The next time we see Isabella, she is shown as a threat to the kids. However, within a minute or so it is revealed she is actually there to help the kids. The show started with an original storyline but it ended up giving it the same ending as the manga, just executed in the worst possible way. Other character arcs are pretty much dealt with in a similar manner. If fans of the manga weren't satisfied with the manga ending, the anime ending would have made their heads physically implode.
In the season finale episode, Peter Ratri’s backstory, the revelation of the existence of the Demon aristocracy, the kids forgiving Isabella, the kids reaching the magic portal, the kids entering the human world, Emma’s companions staying behind the demon world to help the revolution (that gets resolved through a single still art), Emma meeting God, Mujika becoming the new ruler, Emma and friends reaching the human world is all condensed in 22 minutes. If the last sentence did not make any sense to you, well tough luck, neither did the show’s finale.
Things in The Promised Neverland Season 2 just happened in an awfully dull sequence while the writers struggled to tie them all with even a single thread. The anime is trash whether or not you’ve read the manga. Even if you were to ignore the ill-executed deviations from the manga, the anime on its own is just plain bad. The pacing is terrible. Each episode feels like a one-off instead of an overarching and continuing story. Season 1 had a continuing central narrative of the kids escaping the Gracefield house. Season 2 was devoid of a central theme that made the story really hard to follow. The characters seemed to have lost their brainy brains that carried them throughout the thrilling horror-fest of the first season. Instead, they just seemed to get lucky a lot and cruise through fairly easily while seemingly important things occur in a slideshow montage.
The stakes seem to have lowered down to rock bottom in this season and nothing feels important even though the story keeps screaming at you about how high stakes everything is. Things go so well for the children it retroactively trivialises every crucial thing that happened in the first season. All in all, The Promised Neverland Season 2 was a disjointed mess on crack and it gets 1 PowerPoint out of 10. To conclude, The Promised Neverland Season 2 was beyond disappointing and should never have happened. As a YouTube comment I saw quite a while ago sums it up, The promise never landed!