The Promised Neverland Season 2 makes me sad, however not because the story or characters made me feel that way but because of how low this season’s quality has gotten to. It is simply hard to believe that this is the sequel to one of the tightest, best-written, and well-executed stories I’ve seen in an anime. It continues to fail at meeting the standards of its predecessor and this episode is a prime example of that. This is basically Emma, Rey, and Norman discussing their plans on how to defeat the demons. Be warned, there will be some spoilers here.
The first scene, the one with Emma, Norman, and Rey discussing their plans on how to deal with the demons. Emma suggests using Mujika and Sanji to make peace with demons while Norman plans to wipe out all the demons. For me, this scene made me confused and not in a good way that there’s moral ambiguity but because I legitimately didn’t know what to feel. First, is Norman the bad guy now? I don’t know because the story thus far has failed to characterize him. He wants to wipe out all the demons but as I’ll point out later the show does not do a good job at making them sympathetic. Also we never actually get to see his character transformation from this kind-hearted boy to this person he is now. We’re only told that he became like this when he disappeared from the show. It makes it harder to believe that a character became like this without seeing the process.
And to be quite frank Norman just feels like a knock-off Eren from AOT. Both are main characters that have turned to the dark side due to circumstance. The thing with Eren is that we were able to see his character development over the course of 3 seasons which is why we understand his motivations. This makes his actions both believable and more compelling. In contrast, Norman basically disappears at the end of Season 1 as the good guy and reemerges in Season 2 as a pseudo villain all of the sudden. Yes, he told us that demons hurt him, but that’s the thing we were told not shown. All of his important character development happened off-screen. This makes his character so uncompelling since we didn’t get to see the events that he talks about therefore it is far harder to sympathize with his thoughts and actions, unlike Eren.
Second, I simply can’t understand Emma’s point of view that demons should be sympathized with. We only got to see the demon society that Emma talks about in episode 5 and even then it’s rushed. Remember those two demons who chased after the kids because their child needed human meat. They just ki*led them off in the same episode and never revisit that plot thread again. We don’t even get the aftermath of this event such as the child suffering due to lack of human meat or mourning the loss of its family members. We don’t even get to see this demon society again in this episode. If you want us to sympathize with the antagonists that’s great but you need to put more into giving us a reason to care for them besides a few scenes and the main character saying that we should.
The one good scene was with Norman is with the rest of his gang of other escapees. The scene where Barbara is unhappy because of a suggestion that humans and demons be friends and the scenes of all the demon parts in bottles were neat. However, it still suffers from the same problem that I talked about before which is “show don’t tell”. Barbara’s outburst would have been far more compelling if we had been shown her sufferings. What do you think is more interesting, hearing that a character was tort*red in some off-hand comment or actually seeing the pain and suffering of a character and his/her transformation?
It is then revealed that Norman and the rest of his gang are suffering due to the effects of the demon’s experiments. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if Norman is gone for good this time. Mainly because his original “de*th” just feels so cheap now. He was gone for 6 to 7 episodes and then he’s back. It feels like it’s not enough time to have his de*th sink in for the audience. Not only that but he just shows up without any sort of build-up or set up to his return. Now that he is dy*ng, I don’t feel worried about his safety or the reactions of his friends when he goes but rather ” was gone before so will it really matter if he’s gone now”.
And to be honest, I just feel a general sense of apathy towards these characters now. I can’t precisely articulate why but I do think it is a combination of all the factors I’ve stated above. When the kids were together discussing their plan to find Mujika and Sonju, I felt like I could care less about some characters that we’ve only seen for a couple of episodes. Yet, this show likes to pretend like they’re some big deal. Maybe from the kids’ they were special but from our point of view, their relationship felt shallow and underdeveloped because it seemed rushed.
A Glimmer of Hope
There was one final really interesting scene at the end of the episode which was a flashback where we see Norman when he left the farm which teases us that the next episode will be a flashback. This gave me some hope that we would actually get some real storytelling and answers to our questions instead of dull exposition next episode. However, I just had the feeling that this is what should have been done at the beginning. For me, it’s too little too late because whatever interesting bits the next episode will put on the table has been drowned out already by so much mediocrity these past episodes. Maybe I’m wrong and the next episode might be amazing but this season’s track record has made me very pessimistic about the future.
Overall, I think that the root cause of all the problems I have with this episode (and the whole season) is that it just feels rushed. There was no adequate build-up to any of the major plot points in the story. It feels like a whole season’s worth of content was skipped over. All of the dialogue and expositions used to fill gaps in the plot is one of the laziest and most boring ways of storytelling I have seen in an anime. I don’t know what is happening at Cloverworks Studio right now. Maybe they’re struggling to work due to the pandemic or maybe they’re too busy with other shows like Horimiya (a far better show and one worth your time). With only a few episodes left, I have no idea where this story is going or how they’re going to salvage this mess. From what am seeing and what the show has shown me, this season can only go downhill or forever be imprisoned in mediocrity.