Connie, are you okay? So, Connie, are you okay? Are you okay, Connie?
In a cozy orphanage somewhere in the countryside, children wait patiently for their time to be chosen for foster homes but are forbidden from leaving the property. They’re all given white pajamas to wear and have six-digit numbers tattooed on their bodies. Among them are three 11-year-olds, Emma (Erica Mendez), Norman (Jeannie Tirado), and Ray (Laura Stahl), who are seen as the smartest in the group. They are looked after by Mama Isabella (Laura Post).
One day, a friend of theirs, Connie, tearfully says goodbye as she is chosen to be taken to home but leaves her stuffed rabbit at the house, so Emma and Norman go to give it to her. But to their horror, they soon find Connie’s corpse in the back of a truck. Hearing footsteps and voices nearby, the two hide underneath it and overhear the true purpose of the orphanage: the children are secretly being harvested to be fed to demons, with the three 11-year-olds likely next on the menu. And despite her seemingly caring nature, Isabella turns out to be the one orchestrating this deal.
Emma and Norman, their worldviews shattered, escape without giving themselves away and decide they’ll find a way to get themselves and everyone else away before they’re taken. Unfortunately, Isabella notices the stuffed rabbit they left behind.
Non-action shows are pretty rare for the Toonami block nowadays (the only one I can remember from recently being “Pop Team Epic”), but they’re often chosen with careful precision. In this case, it’s likely due to the fact that Promised Neverland is one of the most popular manga currently running in the famed “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine (known for other current Toonami hits like “Naruto” “Hunter X Hunter” and “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”, with this adaptation recently ending its run in Japan last month and a second season on the way.
Like with a lot of these Toonami shows, I’m not often familiar with these stories until I see their first episodes, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one in particular. And with one episode in the bag, I am happy to say that I’m eager to see it live up to that hype. The premise is an easy hook, as the story begins cheerfully enough but always with an air of tension and uneasiness long before the first major twist is revealed. With the tattooed necks and fenced off gates, there was already an eerie feeling of things just being not right, but it doesn’t give away the true sinister purpose so the reveal is as shocking as it needs to be…assuming you didn’t get spoiled by people talking about the show like I have, though I doubt it’s going to have that much of an impact on my enjoyment.
Our core cast of Emma, Norman, and Ray all easily set themselves apart in appearance (not easy when most of the characters are all wearing the same outfit), personality, and skill set. They’re all intelligent, but apply that in different ways that have their own strengths and weaknesses. Emma is kind and agile, but her kindness often overrides her rationality. Norman is strategic and forward-thinking, though seems to be a bit too cold at times. And Ray is well-read, but also a constant skeptic. The other kids, while decidedly more minor in focus, also have their own defining traits that will likely come into play as the season goes on. And unlike the more typical Shonen shows, this will require precise strategies and planning to overcome instead of the usual superpowered fist fights (which I love as much as the next guy, but it’s refreshing to get a break).
Overall, this is definitely a solid start to what will hopefully be yet another big hit for Toonami. I’m looking forward to seeing what makes this show so popular. And even if I don’t, it’s a short season at twelve episodes, so it likely won’t wear out its welcome either way.