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.