Barely in time for the next round of First Impressions!

Isabella isn’t aware of it, but Emma’s plan has been continuing smoothly this whole time, and her pretending to have given up was part of it. With Isabella monitoring her, she knows that she isn’t monitoring the other children as much – and they are the ones she’s relied on to put all the final touches in place. However, one trick that ties the entire plan together is the fact that she not only has to trick Isabella…but Ray, too.
While Ray decide that they will start a fire in order to cause a distraction under which they can escape, a letter Norman left before his departure reveals that Ray had been planning to kill himself from the start, right before his birthday, as a final ‘eff you’ to Isabella and the demons. Emma is able to stop him from setting himself on fire, but Isabella doesn’t know this – and with the children’s help and a trusty knife, the stage is set for a ploy that would trick Isabella into thinking Ray perished in the blaze he started. Of course, while the dummy Ray is fake the fire is real, and it engulfs the entire orphanage – although everyone has already escaped, revealing to Ray that they had been planning it all along! All the kids are well aware of the truth behind Grace Field now – and most of them had already heard way back when Krone was still around by eavesdropping.
Now, as Isabella watches Grace Field burn, everyone is ready to leave for good…but Phil is still at the house.

Ray noooo

I know this was a serious moment and all but Isabella’s face here is kinda priceless.

It’s difficult for me to say much here as things were more or less the same as the manga, but, in terms of writing, this really does stand alone as one of the strongest episodes so far – it’s certainly the most suspenseful. It does an excellent job at being the climax of the core themes of this arc of Neverland – that is, keeping one step ahead of the enemy and outsmarting them with mind-games. And it succeeds so well here because Emma not only outwits Isabella, and not only outwits Ray, but outwits the audience as well.

We’re first lead to believe that Ray successfully sets himself on fire, putting us directly into Isabella’s shoes. After that, the pieces fall into place and we see what really happened – as well as catch up on what had been going on behind the scenes the entire time. The triumphant scene where the other kids reveal they’ve been helping Emma out all along really ties the entire thing together, and it all just works so much better, and is so much more satisfying, than telling the story in a completely linear way.

It’s great writing, but….. I completely forgot about this in the manga somehow, but Emma and Ray cut a huge chunk of their ears off with the trackers inside?! I know, I know I need to stop nit-picking details like this but that…that’s gonna bleed a lot. That’s gonna hurt a lot. But they just press some hankies to their heads like its nothing. These kids really are way tougher than they look.

There’s so many kids in Neverland, and yet I feel like we don’t really get to know much about most of them. Also lol Ray.

‘Ah, oh well.’

Out of 5,

 

 

Episode 12

Phil is one badass 4-year old.

Phil is fine, by the way! Him – along with all the other children around his age and younger – being left behind was also according to plan. Emma was forced to admit that it wasn’t practical to take them along for many reasons – but she swears that she will come back for them later. Since the kids aren’t harvested until they are at least six years old, that gives them at least two years to find a safe place to live and then come back for the others. Of these young children, Phil is the only one who is told the truth…and he takes it like a champ.
Meanwhile, the other children show off exactly what they’d been training for these past few months – crossing the chasm using well-thrown home-made grappling hooks and coat-hangers. All of this was according to Norman’s plan, who rightfully assumed that all the security would focus on the bridge. As the children make it one by one and two by two over the cliff and to the freedom of the other side, Isabella begins to panic and start searching for them. However, she is too late – she reaches Emma on the wall just in time for Emma to bid her farewell.

Accepting defeat, Isabella recalls her own experience as a child in one of the farms, how the boy she loved was killed, how she became a Mama… and how she discovered that Ray was her biological child. Isabella then takes back the ropes the children made in order to hide the evidence, gives the escapees her blessing, and goes back to look after the smaller kids while Grace Field continues to burn. Emma and the others take their first steps into a whole new world…which will continue in season 2, 2020.

Glad Don got his chance to be cool again.

you tell him, Hallucination-Norman.

Well, there it is! The final episode of Neverland – adapting the finale of the ‘escape from Grace Field’ arc, was just as exciting and suspenseful as it was in the manga. But it’s a different kind of exciting that the series has relied on until now. At least, to me, there was none of that creeping dread, that sense that something was about to go wrong at any moment (as it so often does). Just nothing but the exhilarating feeling of a well-made plan going off without a hitch, of seeing everyone’s efforts come to fruition. There was no doubt that the kids were going to succeed, but I feel like that doesn’t really matter. At this point in the story, after seeing so many of their plans get ruined and so many things go utterly wrong, all I wanted to see was things going right for them. And seeing it all done so dramatically with that amazing music actually made the whole thing feel more rewarding and exciting than it did in the manga.

And speaking of manga comparisons, there’s a few other things that seem to have been added or changed. Some of these really enhanced the mood for the better – for example Emma seeing Isabella one last time on the wall and saying goodybe to her, and Isabella untying her hair as some kind of symbolic giving-up gesture. Other changes are more curious but don’t really do much – in Isabella’s flashback about the boy Leslie, she originally learned the tune of the song she always hums when she hears Leslie singing. In the anime, he plays some kind of stringed instrument. Lastly, Isabella’s flashback about becoming a Mama is much like Krone’s – her narration is removed, which is both good and bad. While in much of it the narration is unnecessary, I also feel that – like with Krone – it shouldn’t have been removed completely as it does shed a little more light on their reasons for making the choice they did. In Isabella’s case, it was because Leslie’s death devastated and enraged her, and as she knew she was powerless to fight back she wanted to become a human that the demons could not eat. That aside, the last moments of the episode do a decent, if somewhat abrupt job of making Isabella sympathetic rather than scary – and her letting down her hair did give it an even more melancholy feeling. There’s a satisfaction in having the children outsmart and escape her, but there’s also the sadness of Isabella’s entire situation.

Her situation also serves as a mirror to Ray’s – he had also lost all hope, but is much luckier, and is entirely saved by Norman and Emma. This is probably intentional, given that Ray is Isabella’s son. This episode does reveal that at least some of the children in the farms are birthed by the ‘Mamas’ – but it’s not yet revealed how many children Isabella was forced to have (or by what fathers, although I would assume it was artificial insemination) – the implication is that if there was more than one, they’d all be sent to different farms – hence why her encountering Ray in the farm she was sent to was so upsetting for her. As for how she knew it was him – it’s because he was humming the same song she learned from Leslie, which she also sang to herself while she was pregnant – since Ray has that whole weird fetal memory thing going on. The whole concept of forced breeding is pretty unsettling, and that’s probably why it doesn’t go into much detail.

The series ends on a hopeful note, but unfortunately for these kids, outside the ‘safety’ of the farms, the real dangers are only just beginning. With Emma and Ray on their side, however, they certainly stand a chance.

Leslie’s design is so cute… and so is young-Isabella of course.

Isabella almost looks like a different character entirely.

Out of 5,
1/2

 

Final Thoughts

Neverland was a decent enough adaptation of the manga it was based, although exactly how decent was inconsistent. I think the beginning and ending portions were its strongest material, while there was significant lag in the middle. This was not only due to a few pacing problems, but there really did seem to be a lot of episodes where it was obvious that they were saving the budget for greater things. The somewhat weird reliance on the CGI POV shots – while effective in some shots – was also weird and offputting in others.
The anime adaptation does have a few notable strengths over the manga – the music is particularly strong and does a lot to enhance some of the more exciting scenes, and these characters really do lend themselves well to the medium of animation. The biggest plus is with Krone – while she’s still, sadly, a very iffy character – despite genuinely being a fascinating one – her depiction is leagues less uncomfortable than it was in the manga (even if they kind of dropped the ball with that whole weird doll thing she does). But there is of course the aforementioned weaknesses, the biggest problem being that, music aside, with notable exception a good deal of the scenes carry a lot more emotion and expresson in the manga.

Still, decent anime adaptations of Jump manga aren’t common, and this one is entirely watchable. I’d watch a season 2 for sure, although I’m also very curious about how certain developments will look and sound animated. If you enjoyed the anime and haven’t read the manga yet, I certainly recommend it. Since I have read the manga though, it’s actually surprisingly difficult to judge it as a show in its own right without continually comparing it. It definitely can stand on its own, and makes a pretty solid escape story with an extremely compelling central trio.

I think that the thing I enjoy most about Neverland is that, at least to me, while plenty of bad things may happen in the show it never feels particularly sadistic in the way that the shows its sometimes compared to – such as Made in Abyss – often do. Yes, it features young children in a life-or-death situation, but it’s not quite the same. The focus is more centered around the strength of their wills and overcoming setbacks than merely falling victim to ‘bad things’. I’ve seen people accuse Neverland of being tragedy-porn or of relying on using the ‘shock’ of bad things happening to children, which I disagree with – firstly, the central theme is ‘hope’ rather than tragedy, and secondly, accusations like that make it seem like the show is all about one kid dying after the other, whereas the reality is that in this whole season, only two characters (in the present timeline of the show) were actually shown to have died – and only one was a child. (As for Norman, while the narrative treats him as dead, he isn’t shown dying, which means he probably isn’t.)

It’s a pity that the whole uncomf business with Krone leaves kinda a nasty mark on the surface. A compelling and suspenseful story with some amazing characters (including, to be honest, one of the best female leads I’ve seen in a long time) – Yakusoku no Neverland may not have been the greatest of anime adaptations, but it’s a good way to find out if the series interests you.