WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Promised Neverland Season 2, now streaming on Funimation and Hulu.
The Promised Neverland was an incredibly well-received manga, slowly building in popularity to become a sales and critical juggernaut. This led to a 2019 anime adaptation that was well-received by fans old and new, at least in its first season. The same sadly couldn't be said for its second season, however.
For a variety of reasons, Season 2 of The Promised Neverland failed badly to live up to the potential of its first season or its source material. A few of Season 2's problems involved skipping or changing entire swathes of the manga, poorly pacing what was used, and making a bad ending even worse. Here's a deeper look at why the final season of one of the most acclaimed recent anime was such an incredible disappointment.
Skipping the Manga
The Promised Neverland Season 2 is most notorious for wholly skipping several stories from the manga. These weren't simple filler parts either, but pivotal moments that further developed the plot and characters. One example was the Royal Family, the true villains of the series shown in the manga. Their revelation was huge in itself, but so was their eventual demise at the hands of Norman. This was a crucial moment for Norman's character development going forward, but it's completely missing from the anime.
The controversial anime version of Norman's development completely excises the Royal Family from the picture, and the lack of the villains' introduction makes the power vacuum toward the series' end all the more jarring. Another change from the manga was to assign Isabella the task of finding the kids, a role she didn't originally have. This potentially interesting change amounts to absolutely nothing, however, as the plot point goes without any proper expansion.
Another problem was the change of making Vincent the traitor of the group. Many suspected this from the start, making the potentially shocking change lose a bit of its punch. To make matters worse, however, Vincent didn't even get any significant screen time, making it even less impactful. Another manga concept that wasn't included in the anime was the truly cruel reality experienced at the Factory Farms. Changes to the source material weren't necessarily a bad thing in theory, but none of these changes were even half as effective in the anime.
Even when the second season of The Promised Neverland actually uses the source material, it's rushed and condensed into a shadow of its former quality. One of the best, or rather, worst examples of this issue concerns the aforementioned Norman. In the manga, he seemingly sacrifices himself and is believed to be dead by everyone else. This is in fact not the case, though it takes over 80 manga chapters for Norman to finally reunite with the others. This emotional roller-coaster and drama is shortened significantly in the anime, being spread over a mere seven episodes. The unnatural and inorganic way that it's played out makes it ever worse, with none of the characters getting the development they received in the manga that helped make their reunion so powerful.
There's also a substantial time skip in the manga, which in the anime takes place between Episodes 4 and 5. This eliminates much-needed character development and robs the time skip of any impact. When plot points from these arcs in the anime are mentioned, they're essentially hand-waved away as mere bullet points. This makes the story feel like it's just trying to get from one set piece to the next, with nothing having any real cohesion or reason for happening.
Making a Bad Ending Worse
For all its problems, perhaps the worst part of The Promised Neverland's poorly received second season was the season finale -- which also served as the series finale. Like many other Winter 2021 season anime, the show experienced notable production delays and difficulties. The Promised Neverland is easily the worst offender however, with much of the final episode being comprised into a clip show. If this wasn't bad enough, the show's dreadful pacing rears its ugly head once again, randomly inserting new events into this glorified highlight reel as if they are supposed to mean something.
The manga's ending, which was also criticized for pacing issues, still featured ample sacrifice and less-than-happy endings for many of its characters. For instance, both formats include what is seen as a forced redemption for Isabella, but at least the manga version somewhat earned this redemption as she sacrifices herself against a demon. In the show, however, when all is said and done she lives along with the kids and has a seemingly happy ending.
Likewise, the manga version of Emma makes a crucial sacrifice by forgoing her own memories to allow her friends to return to the human world. No such sacrifice is made in the anime, but a horrible attempt at something similar is. Emma initially stays behind in the demon world to try to save more kids, and is eventually reunited with the others in the human world. For as criticized as the original ending was, the anime's ending -- in which Emma makes no such sacrifice -- is far worse and wraps up what was an increasingly terrible season.
Sadly, because Season 2 was so rushed and had such a poor adaptation of the ending, there will never be another chance for The Promised Neverland to potentially right its wrongs. Needless to say, fans of the first season are better off reading the manga to see the best ending.
All episodes of The Promised Neverland are now streaming on Funimation and Hulu.