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The Promised Neverland Analysis

Jexhius

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Oct 25, 2017
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[Promised Neverland: Anime vs Manga]
Should I just read the comics for The Neverland? It seems most people are saying it is better to read it.

What do you guys think?
The notion that the manga for Promised Neverland is inherently superior to the the anime is a talking point that I've seen argued for most strongly since the 3rd episode aired. My initial reaction was to dismiss it outright because manga fans nearly always say that the original source material is superior to the anime adaptation. I've heard the same arguments raised when discussing hundreds of different anime, argument such as: the character designs are poor, the art doesn't match the manga, the adaptation make changes to the story/visuals/plotting/characters etc. Sometimes there's some validity to these complaints but they often strike me as knee-jerk reactions to anything being changed in an adaptation. I believe that when you translate a story from one medium to another you should be making changes to the reflect the differences between manga and anime.

As a result of this perspective, I wasn't really paying too much attention when the same arguments were trotted out for Promised Neverland. More of the same rubbish, I nonchalantly assumed. That is, until someone said that the inner monologue from the manga was turned into exterior dialogue in the anime. This struck me as such a bizarre change that I needed to investigate further. After a bit of digging, it soon turned out that this move was the least of the problems with this adaptation. There's issues with characterization, with world building, with the mind games, with the tone and with the very logic of the writing. Some of these changes feel like compromises that result from attempting to compress the manga down in order to get through the story faster, which is something that I can at least understand. However, some feel truly bizarre and wrongheaded. Let's take a closer look at some specific changes.

Part I: Cut Scenes

The anime has a problem communicating information to the audience in a way that makes logical sense. This problem arises because the anime chose to cut certain scenes from the manga and the result is that some scenes makes no sense, important information isn't relayed to the audience or and certain characters appear less intelligent than they are in the manga.

Logical Consistency Part A: Time frame
There's a scene in episode 3 where the protaganists are discussing the tracking devices they believe to be implanted in their body. They're trying to work out how the tracking devices work so that they can overcome then as part of their escape. Ray makes this completely offhanded comment about the tracking technology which should baffle anime viewers:



Why is Ray talking about 2015 technology? I assumed this is was a mistranslation, because the show has clearly established that the present in year 2045, as seen in this shot of a calendar from episode 1:



This isn't an insignificant detail, it's a key piece of information. In order to get to the bottom of this, we have to look at the manga to an earlier scene. This is when Ray confronts Norman and Ellie and learns the truth about the farm. In the anime, Ray is clearly shown holding a book, but it's significance is not clear, because Ray never discusses or opens the book.

In the manga:




This seems like fairly significant information to me, information that the the audience and the characters should know. It suggests that something has happened to humanity during the last 30 years, which allows us to start building a timeline to better understand the world. Cutting this brief scene may have saved a minute of runtime, but it means that the scene in episode 3 no longer makes sense, as it's referencing something anime viewers do not know.

Why is this a problem?
First and foremost, the writing should make logical sense. When it doesn't I'm left wondering if I've just missed some important information or if there has been some mistake. It basically pulls me out of the experience of watching the series.

Secondly, The Promised Neverland is a thriller but it has 'mystery' elements to it. There are big questions about "what's really going on" (what happened to humanity, are the kids on Earth, who set up the farms etc). Both the audience and the characters should be on the same page in terms of the knowledge they have about the world because they both start knowing nothing. Paying attention to the clues and uncovering the mystery along with these characters should be part of the pleasure of watching the series. By removing information about the world, the anime viewers have reduced some of the fun of watching the show and made it harder to work out what's "really gong on", especially as all the characters in the series seem to understand the significance of 2015.

Logical Consistency Part B: Ray's Knowledge
In the same scene in episode 3 as above, Ray makes this comment how he believes the tracking technology might work:



How has Ray come to this conclusion, when as far as we aware he knows nothing about technology. It seems like a huge logical leap based off of nothing.

In the manga, as we've seen above its established he has read this book on technology:



And that he's actually been studying it:



Now everything makes more a lot more sense.

Interestingly enough, the title of Ray's book* is seen briefly in episode 2:



Those of you who watched episode 2 might not remember this particular shot and for good reason. The title of the book is fully visible for only half a second. This isn't an exaggeration, its onscreen for 0.4/0.5 of a second and as a result there's a decent chance that you missed it. Considering that Ray's comment in episode 3 only makes sense if the audience has seen the title of the book in episode 2, you'd think that it would be a good idea to hold on the above shot for at least a couple of seconds. Instead it's practically a cryptic clue that you can only locate by frame-skipping through the episode.

Why is this a problem?
As above, the series should make logical sense. If a character knows something information and is referencing it, then it helps if the anime viewer is also aware of it (especially when it's something so specific that children generally wouldn't know). In this case, my complain may strike you as a nitpick (especially as the book's title is briefly shown) but it's worth noting that this whole issue only occurred because they decided to cut a scene from the manga which contained world-building.

Kid Geniuses: The Map
A crucial factor in buying the premise of the show is that the protagonists are geniuses. They have to be, because otherwise there's noway that a few kids can go up against scary adults and a world of alien monsters. The protagonists must repeatedly demonstrate their abilities and skills in order for the premise to hold water. It's not enough to just be told that they're clever, we need evidence. Unfortunately, the anime removes certain scenes from the manga which demonstrates the cleverness of kids.

Lets go back to apparently my favourite scene in the anime, where the kids are chatting in the library. Please pay attention to the background (and not the weird triple-chair blocking that makes this shot a mess):



It's a world map from 2010! What a rich source of knowledge. You can see that apparently the world of Promised Neverland is indeed our own Earth (and not some alternative world Earth with other continents). You'd think that someone would pay attention to this map and comment on it. Well, in the manga:




In the manga, this short scene demonstrates the following about the kids: they're observant, they're knowledgeable, they're always looking for a way to gain an advantage. In the anime, they just ignore the map which if you're a charitable means they have already discussed it (off-screen) or if you're less generous it suggests that the kids aren't as bright as they should be.

Mind Games and Mom

Mom is set up as the key antagonist who the children must somehow defeat (either physically, mentally or both) if they are to escape the farm. We're supposed to gather that she's ruthless, intelligent, determined, observant and cold-blooded. We see her testing the children (through her tracking device and also direct questioning) to discover who has uncovered the big secret of the farm. Our protagonists have outmaneuvered her by feigning innocence and keeping their heads down but as time goes in we get the impression that they'll have to take more direct steps to best her.

This core conflict is largely a mental one, because neither side can directly attack the other (the kids are too weak, Mom doesn't know who has learnt the secret). When characters engage in this kind of mental battle of wits, each side has to try and understand the other so that they can guess what they're thinking. From these assumptions, characters to try make a mental image of their adnversary and they use those predictions to try and outmanouver them somehow. Eventually we learn if those guesses were correct and then the person who best predicted the moves of their revival tends to come out on top. The fun is in seeing characters trryign to best each other through trickery, creativity, intelligence and knowledge.

Unfortunately the anime naturally has far less of these moments than the manga because it removes most of the internal monologue which serves as the home for much of this content. I feel that Mom is hit hardest by this because she literally has no-one to talk with explain her thoughts to. It also has less of these moments because they cut this scene from the manga:





It's a shame that this scene is missing from the anime because it conveys lots of important ideas in a succinct fashion. It shows that our heroes are building a mental image of Mom to try and understand and outmaneuver her. It also demonstrates that the kids are smart because they've picked up that Mon's approach is strange. We, as the audience, understand that Mom is trying to keep her mistake under-wraps rather than tackle them directly but it's good to see that the kids have the intelligence to potentially pick up on this. It helps to sell the idea that the kids could stand a chance in their battle to escape the farm.

Part II: Changed Scenes

While some scenes have been cut, other scenes have been changed. Change inevitable in any adaptation but I feel that some of these changes are really distracting and make the show worse than it should be.

Sister Krone
Sister Krone isn't someone who has been changed between manga and anime, it's more like her character has been assassinated. Here's the changes:
- She doesn't sing in the manga, and she certainly doesn't sing loudly
- She doesn't talk to or coddle a toy baby, that scene is pulled out of thin air for the anime.
- She doesn't discuss her plan out lout loud like an idiot
- As a result of the above, she doesn't come across as a jolly, deranged figure of fun. She's calculating, observant and ruthless with schemes of her own - just in a different way to Mon.

I really don't understand how this:




Was changed to this:




The anime version of Sister Krone is peculiar, manic character that really doesn't mesh with the tone that the series had established up to that point. She doesn't feel nearly as serious or threatening as the cold and calculating character in the manga.

Internal Dialogue

The manga for Promised Neverland frequently makes uses of internal dialogue. I understand why the anime has removed it: what works in one medium doesn't work in another. Internal dialogue is common in books and comics, not in films and TV. This does, however create two problems. Firstly, we miss information that helps to develop our characters, especially those who don't have anyone to speak to (Krone, Mom.) Secondly, when the show realizes certain information is vital to the plot, the way those ideas are communicated leaves a lot to be desired.

Part A: Characterization
There's too many examples of the first kind to list them all, but as an example consider the below scene:



I love how Mom wasn't just observing Emma visually, but also subtly checking her pulse. This suggests that she's calculating and observant on a whole other level and really elevates how dangerous she is.

I'm not saying that every scene from the manga should be in the anime. Nor am I saying that you should constantly hear the thoughts of characters while watching an anime. I just want to highlight that something is lost when translating one medium to another. Now, in a well made adaptation you'll see tricks used to convert the internal dialogue into something more palpable for the medium of anime. For example, you might convert the essence of the dialogue into an actual conversation between two characters, so that the audience can learn the same thing.

The above scene with Mom is somewhat trickier, but there are still ways to convey the idea using tools only found in anime. For example, when Mom is touching Emma's neck, we could have a quick cut to a close-up of Mom's fingers and we could hear Emma's heartbeat, hopefully communicating to the audience that Mom was checking for an elevated pulse. Or we could use more abstract and unusual camera angles, colours, sound effects, musical choices to communicate similar ideas. There's a real plethora of options, but I don't feel like the anime is using any of them. It feels like it's using the visuals of the manga as a base and not doing a whole lot with them.

Part B: Questionable Choices
Sometimes these manga scenes/lines are converted into the anime because its vital that the audience understands the information that was previously internal dialogue. Unfortunately whenever these lines were converted for episode 3 they chose to have the characters speak (or sing out loud) information that would get the characters killed if anyone else heard them. It just doesn't make any sense or fit the tone or logic of the series:



She's right next to the kid's rooms, they can definitely hear this!




Watch out Emma, glasses girl is literally right next to you! What are you saying? Not only are these scenes ridiculous on their face, but they're completely avoidable. Why can't characters whisper, or heck, just have them think these thoughts to themselves. It would be far less silly and certainly less distracting.

Part III: Conclusions and Staying Positive

Different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses. It's inevitable and important that a work will change when it's adapted from one medium to another. A skilled production team will draw upon the key elements of the source material: story, tone, characters, theme etc - and find a creative way to translate these to anime. It's even possible for elements to change radically from one to the other - and that's fine too, as long as the resulting work is still good.

In the case of Promised Neverland, many of the changes that I've examined only diminish the quality of the series. Some are just plain bad (the timeline, characters speaking their secrets thoughts out loud), others are creative choices that don't mesh with the tone of the story (Sister Krone) while others failure to communicate key ideas about the characters. None of it works. With the creative staff making decisions this bad so early on, I'm pretty concerned about where the rest of the season is going.

I don't want to leave on a purely negative note, so I've decided to throw out some recommendations for other works which share some similarities to the ideas/tone/genre of Promised Neverland, but which I consider to be much better:

Thrillers:
Monster - This 74 (!) episode long mystery/thriller is an all time classic and one of my favourite shows of all time. The production quality is excellent for a work of this length and the series maintains a haunting, tense tone throughout.
Death Note - This work is certainly 'edgier' and more over the top than Promised Neverland but it's still an extremely entertaining series. It's focus is squarely on the mind games between the two main characters with far less of a focus on mystery.
Kaiji - This is another work which focuses on mind games but its setting and tone is far more grounded than either Promised Neverland or Death Note.
Hannibal (TV Series) - Definitely not an anime, but I'd be in dereliction of duty if I didn't recommend people watched one of the most impressive, engaging and mesmerizing thrillers in any medium.

Prison Break Stories:
Prison Break - Even though this show went downhill far before they stopped making it, I still consider the first two seasons to be exciting, creative and relentlessly tense. You just have to pretend that series stopped at the end of the second season.
 
On The Subject of Shield Hero

Jexhius

Community Resetter
Member
Oct 25, 2017
698
I note that some people have taken umbrage with my negative comments sound Shield Hero. Let me unpack my objections to the work.

To be clear, I think that humanity would be better of if no-one watched Shield Hero and as a direct result, less things like Shield Hero were written or created. This is because the media we consume matters - it subtly shapes our outlook, our understanding of groups, cultures and more. Stories carry meanings and messages - they always have and always will. Their influence may be overt or subtle, but it exists nevertheless.

Shield Hero is a story that helps to spread the toxic ideology of male entitlement and victimhood. The same ideology that puts women at risk every day. Shield Hero is hardly the originator of this ideology, nor is it the most influential work to have been made in this space - but it is nevertheless promoting this viewpoint. As such, it should not be supported in any way, shape, or form. (Notice I haven't even touched on the slavery).

So, as you can see above, I consider this series to be extremely problematic (probably beyond 'problematic'). However, I'm not saying you shouldn't discuss the series if you enjoy it, please feel free. Nor will I directly shame you for your enjoyment. I imagine everyone enjoys works that are flawed or problematic in one way or another. - I certainly do. However, you should expect that people have some strong feelings about the series and as such they will post some very critical and negative things about it. This isn't a place where people only sing the praises of anime - critique exists here as well.
 
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