Picture this: You're a young child frolicking around a gorgeous home called Grace Field House. You're an orphan, unfortunately, but you live with dozens of laughing children who spend their days together learning, playing, and growing up. You're all dressed in snow-white uniforms, fed delicious meals day in and day out, and are united under the watchful eye of a beautiful caretaker you all call "Mom." You can do whatever you want all day, for the most part, as long as you don't leave the compound or head beyond the gate.
You all dream of leaving this perfect home in the near future, to finally be adopted by an amazing family, and see the rest of the world. Dozens of children leave Grace Field House to go live with their new loving mother and father, though they've never written or visited to check on you. It's a bit odd, but you think little of it. One day, one of the most adorable little girls you've befriended leaves to be adopted. She leaves her favorite pet rabbit behind on her trip to meet her new mommy and daddy, and you decide to take it to her... only to be met with a shocking realization. The world outside isn't quite what it seems, and you may very well have been living on a human farm your entire life. A. Human. Farm.
Sounds absolutely abhorrent, right? Buckle up, because that's the kicker of The Promised Neverland, a fascinating new shonen series to hit streaming services. First serialized in Japanese publication Weekly Shonen Jump, this story has just received its first anime adaptation, and believe us, it's a real gut punch to the stomach. Following a group of orphans — led by headstrong and courageous 11-year-old Emma, the soft-spoken but charming Norman, and the loner Ray — it chronicles the desperate attempts by the orphans in Grace Field House's care to escape without meeting an absolutely terrible, grisly fate beyond the orphanage's gate.
With that in mind, don't let it stop you from watching The Promised Neverland if you're thinking it's a gore fest. Tone and style-wise, it's more of a tense thriller with some occasional reveals that the weak of heart may want to look away for. It's a great cross between shows like Deadman Wonderland and Seraph of the End, with dreadfully creepy characters (that "Mom" character certainly isn't one to be trifled with) and a narrative that keeps you guessing the whole way through. From one moment to the next, you'll be trying to calculate how Emma and crew could possibly leave the house and get out from under the watchful eye of their caretaker, and how things got so dismal in the first place.
The show's gorgeous animation and unique character designs help it stand out even more. These aren't your generic anime kids, with pink hair and zany costumes. The lead protagonist, Emma, hardly looks like your typical anime character at all, thanks to her shock of reddish blonde hair and her wide eyes. Elegant Norman looks fragile but has a calm demeanor and quiet strength about him. Ray is an isolated child who typically shuns friends, but he's got a sharp intellect and a keen eye for his surroundings, a necessary skill in this bizarre world the group of orphaned children finds themselves living in.
Though the show has only gone through its first three episodes as of the writing of this post, it's pulling from a long-running and ongoing manga series that's amassed 12 volumes so far. It's being translated for the English language market by Viz Media, so you can catch up if you don't want to wait for the new episode to stream each week on Crunchyroll, but there's something about letting the tension ratchet up each episode that makes the wait worth it. Our advice? Don't skim through the manga until the anime gets caught up after the first season, at the very least. You'll thank us in the end.
If you're ready to see what the world outside Grace Field House is like and want to watch Emma, Norman, and Ray mount their escape before they also meet the same grisly fate as Conny (which you won't believe until you see it), be sure to tune in to The Promised Neverland via Crunchyroll. Just make sure you don't go in expecting anything nearly as cheerful as those kids leave you feeling in the first half of the first episode. You'll be in for a real shock.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.