Anime

Review of The Promised Neverland Episode 6: Poking the Bear and the Enemy of My Enemy

Welcome to the collaboration review of The Promised Neverland episode 6, “311045” between this site (you do know that you’re on Crow’s World of Anime, don't you?) and Irina’s I Drink and Watch Anime. If you haven’t watched episode 6, you should probably do that before reading this review. Seriously.

Because there will be spoilers!

I’ll be in plain text and Irina will be in bold.

Both in font and in words...ok just in font.

This was an interesting episode. It actually disappointed me twice, but only because of my assumptions. In retrospect, it actually exceeded my expectations -- if that makes any sense. I guess I should expect something like that from a series that has made me trust a traitor and root against a mother figure. Not only that, but this episode started out with me thinking one of the characters was a complete blithering idiot and ended with me almost tearing up at the poignancy of the character’s motivations.

That’s a lot of work for a 25 minute episode!

Before we dive in, do you have any opening thoughts, Irina?

Well, none that won’t spoil anything so let’s just dig in. There’s plenty for us to chew on.

What happened to Don and Gilda? Were they turned into demon fast food? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Do you remember the end of the previous episode? Don and Gilda had entered Isabella’s room ostensibly in search of clues, but really because Don was angry that Emma, Norman, and Ray were hiding something from him. That episode ended with the door creaking open. Were they about to be discovered? What would Momma do to them?

But it wasn’t Momma. It was Phil. He was playing hide and seek, and he needed someplace to hide. This was the first time the episode seemed to disappoint me. It made the ending of the previous episode feel almost contrived. Almost. Irina, did it seem that way to you?

To be honest, I fully expected it to be one of the kids. It was still daytime after all. We know Mom and Sister keep on the rounds usually during those hours.

But Phil...well let’s get back to Phil.

Can we wait a bit to talk about Phil? I’m on a roll about Don. I mean, did Don learn his lesson? Was he done flirting with death? No! This is where Don convinced me he was a blithering idiot. The first time he snuck into Momma’s room? I thought he was brash and reckless. I thought he was an idiot. But after narrowly averting disaster, with Gilda in tow, he did it again! So in my mind, he graduated to blithering. He pick-pocketed the key from Momma and snuck into the the secret compartment where Momma communicates with base.

At this point he’s a lost child. Emma, Ray and Norman have been super vague about the threat but insistent on the urgency. Of course he needs to know more. Besides, for him the stakes are still a vaguely ominous “I don’t know”. I can see him figuring it was worth it.

In retrospect, it's easy to see why Don would react the way he did -- what with Emma, Norman, and Ray playing everything so close to their vests! Well, "retrospect" for me. Irina saw it right away! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

You’re absolutely right, but before I fully admit it, and before we trace Don’t blithering-ness, I want to introduce you to my second disappointment: Emma’s fascination with bookplates. It turns out that Emma had noticed several of the books in their library had been donated by the same person, William Minerva, and that the bookplates were subtly different (actually, Phil was involved, but more on that later). All of his donated books had an owl within a circle, but Emma had noticed the circles were subtly different. They depicted Morse Code! There’s someone in the outside world who seems to be aware of their plight, and it seems like that person wanted to help the kids escape!

Maybe. If they interpreted the Morse Code right. The messages seemed to tell them to distrust the status quo; that they were on a dangerous farm. It seemed that someone was trying to warn them!

It wasn’t the Morse Code that disappointed me. Kids often learn it to communicate in ways that some adults won’t catch; that’s fun for kids! What disappointed me is that the kids might receive external aid, and I was looking forward to seeing them succeed on their own!

Irina, do you think I’m being unrealistic?

The way I see it it’s not so much help as hope (which may be the same thing at this point). The only thing they really got from it is a faint notion that humans *may* still live beyond the walls. This could still turn out to be a trap.

Whether it's a trap or not, someone's trying to send our heroes messages via Morse code. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I wasn’t disappointed at all by this. This type of Scooby Doo antics is the stuff I live for. This said, the show continues its tradition of being almost ridiculously on the nose. An Owl for Minerva. Clues left behind by the goddess of strategic warfare…

This is where subtext rises to the level of straight forward script. Mind you, I have never reproached The Promise Neverland’s lack of delicacy.  I’m impressed that the series continues to shock and captivate me in spite of being completely obvious in execution. That’s a tribute to timing, writing and characterization.

And for me, here’s where the episode started to turn things around (and I explain how I was wrong before and you were right!). Don and Gilda, using the pilfered key, found Momma’s secret room. They found Conny’s stuffed rabbit. They found toys the other kids were supposed to have taken with them when they had been "adopted." Both Don and Gilda knew what this meant: Momma was lying to them. And it was even worse; Emma, Norman, and Ray had been lying to them, too! At this point, I’m still thinking how idiotic Don was, leading Gilda into that room, but here the narrative clearly had other ideas.

It’s like the narrative knew what it was doing or something!

You know what struck me about that scene? There were a lot of toys, books and mementos there. A lot. Clean, well preserved, carefully lined up on shelves. Those could easily have been disposed of or if it was too much trouble, left in a neat heap or something. Why bother dusting them?

I'll never look at a stuffed bunny the same way again... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The way I see it there are two ways to read a room like that.

Sentimentality and guilt is driving Momma to keep these souvenirs as a tribute to the lost children. Like an altar to the dead...OR

These are something like the trophies occasionally kept by serial killers. A way to mark her progress and accomplishments.

I’m not entirely sure which is worse.

The more I try to decide, the less certain I feel...

Don and Gilda aren’t stupid; they were following the clues with unfortunate speed. I say “unfortunate” because they didn’t take into account any wider considerations. But you know what? They’re kids. Of course they didn’t think strategically. I should not have expected otherwise. But I did underestimate Don. He had left the key out among the kids, knowing one of them would return it to Momma and perhaps hide what he'd done. It saved his life: Just as Momma was about to open the door and discover Don and Gilda, one of the kids bounded into the room and gave the key to her, saying he’d found it on the floor.

Talk about dodging a bullet! Momma was still suspicious, but it still gave Don and Gilda time to escape. They showed up in the lunchroom. But Ray? He asked the obvious question: Where had they been?

Don was smart enough to arrange for another kid to innocently return the key to Isabella. She didn't quite buy the explanation, though... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

They assembled after hours in the lunchroom, and Ray was furious that they had acted without thinking it through. He asked what if Momma had cameras or alarms? In that moment, I was right there egging Ray on! I was firmly of the mind that Don had been an idiot -- a blithering idiot -- for taking that risk, even though I had a lot more sympathy for him by now.

I was surprised Ray hadn’t realized that this was exactly what was going to happen. Obviously they were going to go straight for answers. And as you mentioned - they are 11.

Then the scene transformed itself into my favorite of the episode!

Before I dig into it, did you see this coming, Irina? This confrontation between Don and Emma, Norman, and Ray?

I knew a confrontation was coming. I think we all did. I did know THIS confrontation was coming...

I think I should have, if I’d had more faith in the story, or if I wasn’t so swept up in events that I wasn’t even trying to think of what was coming. If I’d had the faith the story has earned so far! What happened was that Don threw the gauntlet down. He tore through their lies, and Emma immediately apologized -- which only emboldened Don. So the three core group came clean.

Don didn’t just throw the gauntlet, he laid out their hypocrisy in no uncertain terms. He shamed them for their hubris in unilaterally anointing themselves saviors and keepers of the truth. He pointed out that they robbed him of the most important choice of his life by not giving him the information to make it. And he was perfectly right.

History is filled with atrocities committed for the greater good

Of course Don may have regretted finding everything out. This information rocked him.

Don demanded to know everything -- which is perfectly understandable. So was his reaction to the information... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Well, they are just kids, and they haven’t learned their limitations yet. But you’ll notice I have to agree with you, you being right and all...

What was the effect of Emma, Norman, and Ray explaining the real threat? Don and Gilda were absolutely, completely terrified. I’ve become almost numb to the horror that this show represents. Don and Gilda, however, just now faced it, and it nearly crushed them. Don did with half of the males of his age would do: he punched Norman and Ray in the face (the other half would have run screaming from the room). He even threatened to punch Emma, but her expression broke his resolve.

And loosed the real issue.

He was crushed that they saw him as a burden; that they didn’t feel like they could rely on him. When they had originally confided in him, he was terrified. But their trust also gave him purpose. Now, he felt like he was not only second class to their intelligence. He felt like they had determined he was weak and in need of protection. What Emma, at least, had intended as kindness, had been a brutal cruelty.

I felt like Don was talking directly to me when he said, “We’re not as smart as you three. We’re not, but still… aren’t we family? Aren’t we siblings? I just want you to have a little faith in us!”

He was sobbing as he asked. I called Don an idiot, didn’t I? A blithering idiot, in fact. I was wrong. He was a child -- a child -- trying his best. And I judged him harshly.

What did you think of Emma’s reaction, Irina?

You know, I’m not a child at all but I’m not sure I would have done any better. As for Emma’s reaction… well.. It was par for the course.

Don was doing the best he could. He wasn't "blithering" at all. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I think Emma is hanging on to desperate if vague notions of “right” and “family” - in fact I also think that actual word is what got to her and not the crushing realization that she may not be entitled to make this decision for all the children.

Emma is creating this persona and when it cracks, it’s going to be rough!

Don on the other hand was great.

What made it even worse was Don’s admission that he was in anguish because he couldn’t help Conny, or Gilda, or anyone. His breakdown was the emotional turning point of this episode. Emma blessed that interpretation when she just laid it all on the table and apologized for misjudging them. Norman did the same, prompting both Don and Gilda to say they were sorry for rushing into a bad decision on their own! Heck, even Ray apologized! It was a beautiful moment, and it served the narrative by reinforcing the conviction of all five of them to get through this alive.

Really, it had the opposite effect on me. Like oh yeah one is definitely gonna die SOON.

To be clear, I’m not saying it was the narrative’s conviction -- it’s the conviction of the characters! I have an increasing sense that the narrative has very different ideas...

The scene was sweet but the music did NOT work in my opinion. This is the first time I found it intrusive and it really dampened the mood for me.

That is unusual for this show, given how the music’s usually spot on.

After that emotional high point, the last three plot details almost seemed anticlimactic. Almost. But only at the time. Because in retrospect, they might change the show’s entire direction.

First, Norman and Ray have some up with a plan to distract Momma. Ray told Momma that the punch he received was from Norman, not from Don, and that they had fought over Norman’s plan to kill Momma -- using a hammer, herbicide, or other means. “Chemicals can be troublesome,” Momma said thoughtfully.

Second, Momma tells Ray that the next shipment will be in two months -- in January. Ray’s twelfth birthday.

The birthday where he’ll be shipped out.

Whaaaaat?

Wait, wait wait! What happens on his 12th birthday? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

You and I have different notions of anticlimactic. Ray’s wry and just slightly sorrowful smile as he said, it’s finally my turn, will haunt me.

The harsh, almost menacing insistence that Emma and Norman spent every last second safe and comfortable no matter what. Even in his double play you could feel the edge in his voice. He may in fact care a lot more about them than either do for him.

He also seems to have started some preparations to help Emma and Norman even if he’s not around….

Well, I did say “almost seemed anticlimactic!” I was still digesting the emotional ramifications of the apology scene, so I might not have been thinking clearly the first time through.

The third thing that make change the direction happened when Norman was telling Emma, Don, and Gilda about the plan to keep Isabella/Mom out of the way. Then he starts talking about the plan to keep Sister Krone likewise occupied. However, he didn’t noticed that as they strolled through the woods, Krone was listening to them. She’d also seen their argument in the lunchroom last night -- complete with the punches. But instead of saying she’d turn them into Momma, what did she do?

She asked if they’d like to “join forces!”

This was one of those moments where I was overwhelmed with a sense that these poor kids were in way over their heads! What did you think, Irina?

I was fascinated. I really want to know where this is going. Krone is written almost as a caricature. Loud, exaggerated in all things, potentially annoying. Except that doesn’t fit at all with any of the writing in the show so far. And she survived. That means something, doesn’t it?

Sister Krone asked them to join forces? This seems like one of the most dangerous alliance like, ever! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I think she might be using her bombastic personality to make people think she’s less capable than she really is. I expressed sympathy for her poor doll, but you know what? Taking your feelings out on an inanimate object so you can maintain your cool in public is a solid tactic.

Also remember way up there how I said we would get back to Phil. Little Phil that walked in on Don and Gilda at the worst possible moment. The same Phil that told Emma about the morse code in the books… Ray was five when he became an informant...Just saying, Phil’s name seems to come up a lot at opportune times.

Do you think Phil might be Ray’s protege? Looks like he might need one…

I have some random thoughts: They sure have no problem plotting out in the open, which is actually pretty smart. It’s a lot less suspicious than sneaking off somewhere! Also do you put bandages on bruises? On wounds, sure, but bruises? Seems useless.

Oh, and is it 2015? The copyright was 2015 but that would mean it was a book published that very year? That makes it much more likely that Minerva is around….Then again, that book didn’t have a message.

Does the lack of message itself constitute a message? 

Also, I’m wondering if Minerva might be a demon who’s a private connoisseur  -- a demon, not human at all. That’d be a bit of a downer…

That’s one of the things I like about this show. It’s hard at the time to know which detail is important! And for all I know, they’re all important!

And once again, we have to wait another week!

13 thoughts on “Review of The Promised Neverland Episode 6: Poking the Bear and the Enemy of My Enemy

  1. This show’s too involved for me, to be honest. At the moment it plays out much like movies like The Great Escape, or less so The Sting, but it’s also SF that starts with a limited point of view (comparable to maybe Dark City). Information control, what you want the reader to know and what not, is important for both strains, and they have different requirements. If the show wants to introduce character-based hickups, you need to understand the characters, and this is yet another level with different requirements.

    Plot-wise the focus is on suspense: who knows what and what do they want? Since they keep me guessing about characters, they can’t also ask me to get too involved with them (well they can ask me, but I don’t know how to follow suit). That’s just the mystery plot, though. What about the SF?

    Take Irina’s observation about the plushy collection, and the two proposed interpretations. Going off from the scene in the first episode where Isabella took down Conny’s painting from the door, I lean towards thinking that she genuinely cares for the kids. Personally, I think she’s convinced herself that what she’s doing is good for the kids, as they get good a life before being shipped out, and they might not if she didn’t do that (we haven’t seen any of the lesser-quality meat farms, have we?) If this show were focussing more on the SF aspect, we might get an interesting story once the curtain’s pulled back. But the focus is squarely on suspense, so expect the show to just guide sympathies one way and play Isabella as a tragic villain/victim. Taking the SF route, such a revelation would humanise the aliens a little, but would shine a light on what we are as a species we might not like to think too much about. Is what the aliens are doing here really so different from what we are doing on organic farms?

    It is with one respect: they communicate with what they eat and even employ them. In a SF show, this could lead in different ways: Is the communication more assymptotic than we think (e.g. Are they just using stimulus-response conditioning from their perspective, using our social impulses against us without understanding properly? Then the way in which they misunderstand us and we them could be part of the SF-angle.) Similarly, they could have radically different morals (maybe the aliens have no taboo against cannibalism, and they actually think of humans as their equal [except in terms of power]?) There’s a lot you could do with just this little difference. But my impression of this show so far is that it’s all window dressing. The aliens eat us, and we don’t want to be eaten, and that’s it.

    Don’s been really loud in the middle of the night: Does the writing work with this? Do the kids have a plan? Were they luring Krone out? That’s the sort of thing that goes on in my mind while watching the show. Entertaining in the moment, but I won’t be retaining much from the show. I’m not that into suspense shows and the characters don’t engage me, really. I like them enough to carry the plot, but I won’t likely remember them much after the series is done. With every episode so far, I’ve lost a little interest. It’s still a show I enjoy, but it’s not a top show any more (It was initially). Well, so it goes.

    1. “Since they keep me guessing about characters, they can’t also ask me to get too involved with them”

      I think the only character that I’m not guessing about is Emma. I think she’s as genuine as she can be. Ray and Norman? Or even Don or Gilda? Don’t know. And don’t get me started on Phil… Only partly kidding about Phil!

      “Take Irina’s observation about the plushy collection, and the two proposed interpretations. Going off from the scene in the first episode where Isabella took down Conny’s painting from the door, I lean towards thinking that she genuinely cares for the kids.”

      I think you’re right. Your conjecture about her motives matches mine, too. I _really_ hope the show does something with that. Their suspense technique is really strong, so even if they don’t, the show could succeed. But I’m really hoping they push it over the edge.

      “It is with one respect: they communicate with what they eat and even employ them.”

      The show keeps reminding me of my time on my family’s farm. Because of how I was raised, I didn’t flinch when a dairy cow that I’d genuinely liked feel and broke her leg. She was some of the best-tasting hamburger I’d ever had. More to your point, we relied on a horse to keep our sheep in line. We didn’t eat mutton, but the idea was the same: one farm animal helped us with the others — in effect, we employed the horse to do our dirty work!

      “Entertaining in the moment, but I won’t be retaining much from the show.”

      I’ve learned to turn my writer’s brain off when I enjoy fiction. If I don’t, I find it hard to enjoy anything. Looking back at the episodes we’ve watched through a writer’s lens, I see the technical skill of establishing and maintaining suspense. They took short-cuts by using children, but it works. The aliens were sufficiently alien to be a real threat without a lot of explanation.

      But if the show doesn’t try to do something with the science fiction concepts you’ve mentioned, I don’t know that this will have much rewatch value for me.

      Still, I think it’s a fun ride, and I have to say that I almost always learn something reading Irina’s insights. Somehow, she’s managed to maintain the writer brain’s analytical insights while maintaining a level of enjoyment. I’ve never been able to do that!

      1. ***
        The show keeps reminding me of my time on my family’s farm. Because of how I was raised, I didn’t flinch when a dairy cow that I’d genuinely liked feel and broke her leg. She was some of the best-tasting hamburger I’d ever had. More to your point, we relied on a horse to keep our sheep in line. We didn’t eat mutton, but the idea was the same: one farm animal helped us with the others — in effect, we employed the horse to do our dirty work!
        ***

        Yeah, I know. I was wondering if I should address this, but my reply was getting long as it is. The difference between the aliens and humans, from what we’ve seen, isn’t as big as between humans and horses, or (what I thought of) humans and sheep dogs. (The show had the aliens, for convenience’ sake, converse in Japnase amongst each other. In my mind, they didn’t really speak Japanese – but they did sit at tables and communicate with sound, and generally felt more familiar than alient to me. If they’d replaced the outlandish look with something more primate-like I wouldn’t have flinched.)

        I’m not watching shows with my writer brain turned on. That gets turned on when I post, where I use what I know about the show and myself to try and explain intuitive responses I have to shows. I don’t think I’d want to watch something I could have written, anyway: what’s the point?

        I see many people praising the show as if it was one of the season’s best, and that’s just not my experience (it was early on, actually). Experiment: A loose ordering of all the shows I’m watching this season; let’s see where it ends up:

        Mob Psycho 100
        Dororo
        Kaguya sama
        Doukyonin wa Hiza
        Run With the Wind
        Endro
        Kemurikusa
        Slime
        Quintuplets
        Meiji Tokyo no Ranka
        Mononokean
        Neverland
        Manaria Friends
        Egao no Daika
        Karakuri Circus
        Ueno-san wa Bugyou
        Colorful Pastrale
        Boogiepop
        Shield Hero
        Asuka
        Wataten
        Domestic na Kanojo

        Comments: Mob Psycho 100 is the clear favourite by a margin (not all episodes hit, but when it does it’s among the best I’ve ever seen). Most other series are in a very loose order. I didn’t put Ekoda-chan onto this list, because my investment in the show varies widely, by nature of the concept. It’s one of the most interesting shows of the season, but it’s highly uneven – sometimes it tops Neverland, and sometimes it doesn’t. Egao no Daika is this season’s wild card – can both rise and drop dramatically. It might easily end up over Neverland. I have no idea how to order Mononokean/Neverland/Manaria Friends, since they’re such different shows it’s hard to compare them. In terms of fondness Mononokean is clearly over Neverland, and in terms of quality Manaria Friends is also clearly over Neverland, but in terms of enjoyment they’re all about equal. Karakuri Circus downward are shows I clearly enjoy less.

        12/22 – Lower middle field feels about right.

  2. The overwhelming issue, as I see it, is what they will do after they escape. This is a world that tolerates orphanages feeding kids to aliens. There has to be some kind of “drinking gourd” to follow, people who will assist and a safe haven to reach or the whole exercise is futile. They’ll be recaptured or starve.

    Imagine a group of escaped slaves in 1855 Georgia who had no knowledge of the outside world. There HAD to be people with knowledge that Canada was free and an underground railroad to assist in getting them there.

    I am not that suspicious of the coded circles. That and a lot more will have to fall their way or the show will have a very bleak ending.

    1. “There has to be some kind of “drinking gourd” to follow”

      That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought that far ahead — the farthest I’d thought ahead was wondering how they would survive in principle.

      Their own ingenuity and bravery will only take them so far…

  3. I think the subtitle a few episodes back that stated it was 2015 was a mistranslation. The calendars show 2045.

    They’re all in for a big shock when they find out it’s a triple adoption. At least that’s what it’s hinted at several times for the feast of the demon lord who’s name they will not say.

    I really enjoyed how much this episode moved things along. It was a bit of a cop out having Phil open the door, but that’s also what I was expecting, well one of the kids at least. The most frustrating thing is the big meetings they keep having in open public places and by torch light no less. Shouldn’t these be secret meetings?

    All that said, I’m still loving it.

    1. “I think the subtitle a few episodes back that stated it was 2015 was a mistranslation. The calendars show 2045.”

      Some day, I hope to learn enough Japanese to be able to catch things like that. But even with 2045, it seems a lot will happen in the next 26 years! Almost seems like the Disas from Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka happened, but Asuka herself didn’t and we lost!

      “The most frustrating thing is the big meetings they keep having in open public places and by torch light no less. Shouldn’t these be secret meetings?”

      I like Irina’s take on this: Meeting in plain sight is less suspicious! But for Sister Krone, at least, it was both less suspicious and more accessible!

      “All that said, I’m still loving it.”

      I am, too. I am so much that I’m completely immersed in the flow. That means while the show’s running, I’m not trying to forecast what’s going to happen next. I leave my viewer mode on and turn my write mode off, and for me, that’s a sign that the show’s captured my attention!

      Maybe I should pretend to be more aloof, but dang it, this site’s about celebrating anime, and this is one that’s absolutely worth celebrating!

      1. No point being aloof. The best reviews to read are when you can tell the show caused an emotional response from the reviewer, whether that’s love or hate, it doesn’t matter. Better to have the passion in your writing that try to be impartial and boring.

          1. Yeah, the shows that are middle of the road are hardest to write an entertaining review for. I tend to be more positive so can easily get wrapped up in a good show or infuriated by a bad show and they end up being the most fun to write. I think that’s why I struggle to drop shows. Even with the bad ones, I’m thinking this is going to be a hilarious review.

Please let me know what you think!

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