When it first began publication in 2016, The Promised Neverland was one of the most interesting new series that Shonen Jump had to offer. The plot followed a group of orphans, who were suddenly struck with the revelation that their doting mother and isolated home were actually a cover, and they were actually livestock being raised for consumption by demons.
This premise, along with the compelling mental battle between the children and their captors helped The Promised Neverland rise to popularity, and one year before the manga concluded, it received a 12 episode anime adaptation that lived up to everything fans were expecting. Unfortunately, upon the release of season 2 in 2021, the anime saw a huge divergence from the source material.
What Lies in the Bunker
After escaping Grace Field farm at the end of season 1, the kids spend a brief period hiding out with the demons Sonju and Mujika, before moving on to their new base of operations; a bunker set up for escaped children by William Minerva.
In the manga, the kids arrived to find an adult man already living there. “Mister” as they call him, was an interesting antagonistic force for the kids. He was an escaped child himself, who had slowly lost all his allies over the years, eventually leading him to being jaded and selfish. He provided not only more conflict, but also more worldbuilding, and eventually became a great ally for the children.
In the anime, however, Mister is nowhere to be found. When the kids reach the bunker, it is completely empty, save for some manic writings on the walls. These writings imply that Mister was in the bunker at some point, but he never ends up making an appearance. Seeing as how he was a compelling, fan favorite character in the manga, his omission remains baffling till this day.
After arriving in the bunker, the entire anime starts to take a massive turn, particularly in its pacing. After the children arrive in the bunker, it takes only one episode for the bunker to be assaulted by enemy forces, attempting to capture them and return them to the farm. By itself, this means the kids barely get any time in this new location before being forced out of it. Compared to the manga it’s even worse, as they originally spent several arcs in the bunker before it was raided.
Leaving the bunker earlier also meant that Norman’s return happened much quicker too. In season 1, Norman was part of the main trio with Emma and Ray, but ended up being shipped out for consumption before the kids could escape. In the manga, fans theorized he was still alive, but he wasn’t seen again for nearly 100 chapters. In the anime, he is back by the midpoint of season 2. In general, the 11 episodes of season 2 condense over 100 chapters into 11 episodes, burning through the plot at an untenable speed.
One of the most egregious changes in season 2 was the outright removal of many story beats. Worst of all, is the complete removal of the ‘Goldy Pond’ arc, which is commonly considered the best arc from the manga.
Originally, after spending some time in the bunker, The children discover that they may be able to locate clues about William Minerva at a place called Goldy Pond. Emma and Ray set off to find it, but Goldy Pond is revealed to be a fake town of sorts, where children are hunted for sport by aristocratic demons, including the terrifying Count Lewis.
Goldy Pond introduced a host of characters, many of whom were instrumental to vital story beats later in the manga, including Lucas, one of Mister’s lost friends. Emma’s battle with Lewis was also an important moment for her character, as it forced her to confront a demon who was so despicable that even her empathy and good nature couldn’t reason with him.
Even besides Goldy pond, massive amounts of content concerning the final assault on the demon capital and Emma and Ray’s journey to ‘The Seven Walls’ was also cut.
Due to these massive plot shifts, it was inevitable that the ending of the show would also be very different from the original ending. Due to events like Goldy Pond and the battle with the queen of demons being cut out, the original ending no longer made sense to the narrative.
The ending ends up being a literal slideshow, showing Emma and a few others changing the demon world, while most of the kids get new lives in the human world, only for Emma to return inexplicably to the human world.
It goes without saying, that despite it’s amazing start, The Promised Neverland’s anime adaptation went downhill in season 2, and the copious amount of changes and cuts from the original source material leaves behind a weeping husk of a story, and possibly one of the worst anime adaptations ever attempted.
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