Anime Taste Testing: Yakusoku no Neverland and Grimms Notes

One of these is trash. The other would clearly make for a great bedtime story.

Yakusoku no Neverland/The Promised Neverland

First, if you haven’t already seen the first episode of this show, I recommend that you refrain from reading any further until then. I take care to keep these Anime Taste Testing posts relatively spoiler-free, and have done the same for Yakusoku no Neverland. Nonetheless, it really is a title you should just dive straight into; the less you know about it beforehand, the more impactful the experience. If you’ve somehow been lucky enough to avoid reading the premise so far (essentially a synopsis of the first episode), that’s fantastic. I’m wildly jealous and you definitely shouldn’t change that. Now go watch episode 1 – my review begins in the next paragraph.

The best shows are always the hardest to write about – and make no mistake, Yakusoku no Neverland looks set to be a really, really good show. Horrifying without tipping over into loud melodrama, gruesome while not crossing over into gory shock value territory, ominously creepy without giving away too much too fast, it’s exactly the kind of show that’s hard to come by precisely because it’s so difficult to strike these kinds of balances. They depend so much on not just plot or setting but also timing and execution – and Yakusoku no Neverland delivers on all these things and more. If the exposition is a little clumsy in places and the lead-up to the reveal a little obvious (it’s hard to be subtle when everyone has a number tattooed on their necks), these issues do not detract from the well-crafted atmosphere, which puts me a bit in mind of Made in Abyss. What’s more, the art style and direction is confident, the choice of music smart, and the voice acting on point.

If you’ve not read the manga (which I haven’t, so please, I’m not asking for any additional info or even for anyone’s opinion on it), it’s difficult to know where the series is going to go from here, or more importantly, whether it’s going to be able to maintain the very high standards it’s already set for itself. However, I’d like to believe in its storytelling prowess, so for now, I’m cautiously labelling it my favourite title of the season.

Grimms Notes The Animation

I love me a decent, straightforward fantasy piece from time to time. They don’t need to be deep or complex to be fun – provided the plot is executed competently enough, they don’t even need to especially original to be enjoyable. The problem with Grimms Notes is that, while the concept itself is perfectly serviceable, the writing is so poor that even its utter generic-ness is a secondary issue in comparison to the completely inane dialogue, the lack of any meaningful characterization whatsoever, the uneven pacing, or the incredibly dull action sequences. I haven’t seen anything this boring and lacklustre since… well, since the last fantasy-themed mobile game adaptation was released, whatever that was. At a certain point they all just start blending together for me; as far as I’m concerned, very little tends to differentiate them, at least when it comes to anime format.

Lest you hoped the production values might be enough to eke out some enjoyment out of Grimms Notes regardless, let me burst your bubble there too. The character designs are wholly uninspired, particularly for the ladies – short shorts, garter belts and stockings, laces and ribbons everywhere there shouldn’t be, I’m sure you know the type. The series avoids any major instances of fanservice only because the budget was clearly too low to animate it well enough for anyone to care. Sticking to this general trend, the backgrounds lack any kind of detail, most of the colours have a washed out appearance, the music is nearly all of cheap synthesizer variety, and frankly, I’m pretty sure even the voice actors are phoning it in by the end of the episode. I barely made it through this snoozefest, and I suggest you don’t bother trying – the fact that there’s nothing egregiously offensive here is about the only thing going for it.

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13 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Yakusoku no Neverland and Grimms Notes

  1. Disappointing to hear about Grimms Notes. It is next on my list to try. That said, the Promised Neverland had an excellent first episode and I am really looking forward to seeing what it does next.

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  2. “The best shows are always the hardest to write about”

    Quoted for truth!

    You’re not the first to compare *Neverland* to *Abyss*… It’s an apt comparison, the horror doesn’t really come from the sudden shocks, but the slowly building atmospheric dread.

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  3. Promised Neverland was pretty good. Only two niggles: the direction could be more subtle, and the camera sometimes comes close to triggering my motion sickness (it’s the panning and rotating speed in the slower scenes rather than the usually more dangerous action scenes, so that also caught me off guard). But characterisation is awesome, and the atmosphere is great. Looking forward to more.

    Grimm is grim. It’s better not to think about the plot at all (I don’t usually care too much about plot, but when it’s this inane…). That’s one show that doesn’t understand meta. It’s actually not the most boring premier this season (there was a show which I dropped when girls were hunting for a manga, but I already can’t remember the title). I did like the ending song, and I sort of chuckled at the scene where grandma talked about how scary and smelly it was inside the wolf, so there’s that. No interest, no charm, no appeal. Just the occasional sign of unmined potential.

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    • I agree, the direction wasn’t super subtle. That said, anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie in their lives could probably tell something was up from minute one, so more subtlety probably wouldn’t have helped to make the reveal near the end of the episode.

      I don’t doubt there are far worse shows than Grimm this season. It’s just that I tend to go out of my way to avoid them, so Grimm just happens to be the worst of the shows I actually watched. Sure, there are sparks of potential there, but I sure don’t see the series living up to any of it.

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      • The lack of subtlety isn’t about hiding the twist for me; it’s about mood. There’s this shot where Emma lies on her bed, and you can clearly see the number tatoo on her neck. It’s a great shot that drives home what sort of place this is. A couple of minutes later, the camera lingers on the tatoos during an eating scene. This does two things to me: first it distracts from the scene at hand, and second it’s a mood breaker (“Oh, and in case you missed it earlier…”). There are couple such moments in the first episode, and they sort of hinder full involvement for me. It’s not a big deal, as they’re single moments here and there, and generally it’s great.

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  4. Neverland’s source manga is one of the Weekly Shounen Jump’s popular titles of the 2010s.

    Its author mentioned that to stand out from the usual sea of WSJ shounen titles with head-on fights and hot-blooded speeches, they chose to focus on the suspense and psychology more. ( WSJ is quick to cancel new series that don’t get a minimum standard of reader interest early in serialization, no matter how good the story and art is. Neverland it seems, scratched that reader itch. That said, the editors very nearly rejected publishing Neverland for not conforming enough to shounen expectations.)

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    • Yes, I’m aware. But as I’ve said multiple times on this blog (as well as in this post itself), I don’t read manga and don’t particularly care to know anything about this specific one.

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  5. I’m so excited about Neverland! My friends and I just watched it a couple days ago and even though the plot beats hit exactly as you expect them to, it’s still so engaging, which shows how well executed it was. I’m hoping as it goes along, it won’t be as predictable as it dives more into its own world-building, characters, and plot.

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