The Promised Neverland’s Special Pilot Chapter Gets VERY Existential

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Chapter #181.4 "We Were Born" of The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shiri, Posuka Demizu, Satsuki Yamashita and Mark McMurray, available now in English from Viz Media.

Before Emma and before Grace Field House, The Promised Neverland initially had a different premise. That's what we've learned from the recently released "pilot" chapter, revealing just how many changes The Promised Neverland went through before it became the story that we now know and love. Gone are the demons and gone are the farms impersonating orphanages, but it doesn't make the pilot chapter any less terrifying. In fact, it's even more disturbing when we see just how cruel adults can be to children.

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Despite how different the pilot is, the core themes found in The Promised Neverland still resonate in the special release, and this extra installment of the series isn't afraid to delve into some big, existential questions.

The Pilot Chapter's Parallels With The Promised Neverland

In The Promised Neverland's pilot chapter, we meet two new protagonists. One named Leo, who is a gang member, and another named Rita, who is a young orphan. Rita was abandoned at a church where she lives for years until, one day, she prepares to leave with a newly acquired new foster family. Leo, meanwhile, has never not known violence and death is a constant in his life. The two find each other when Leo is badly wounded, leading Rita to take him to the church.

There, Leo meets Rita's caretaker, a kind pastor whom we only know as Father, while Rita meets her new foster father, who tells her that she'll have a younger sister soon named Margo, who is bedridden. At first, it looks like Rita is going home to a loving family, until she overhears a conversation between Father and her foster father, explaining that Rita's organs are to be transplanted to Margo. Although horrified, Rita still goes to her new home but after hearing what happened, Leo busts her out.

If we compare the pilot's characters to those of The Promised Neverland's, we can see where the similarities are: Rita and Emma are both cheerful and bright, always wanting to help others. The pastor and Isabella are both parental figures and primary caretakers who ultimately betray the girls. There isn't a farm in the pilot but we can see where the inspiration for the setting came from in it by the fact that Rita is regarded as merely a subhuman vessel.

Both Rita and Emma also find out the truth of their existence only by overhearing their caretaker. Leo, on the other hand, has a bit of Ray's harsh pragmatism and Norman's heart but perhaps the characters he's most similar to are Mister and Lucas -- both of who have become hardened adults after seeing how cruel the world is.

The Pilot Chapter Shows Us Humans Are as Cruel As Demons

promised neverland father rita

The pilot chapter doesn't contain demons who feast on children but the adults in its world aren't any better. Isabella was one of the villains in The Promised Neverland anime's first season, and although we know that she was also a victim and did love her children, it doesn't change the fact that she still lead many to their deaths. Not only did Father knowingly allow the foster father adopt Rita for the solely for purpose of keeping his other child alive, but he did it for money. He saw her as "a tool to make money from the beginning."

Even when he realizes that Rita has heard everything, he shows no remorse. Using religious propaganda, Father tells her that she's a beloved child of the lord and it's her responsibility to die in order for someone else to live -- Jesus would have done it, and so should she. In fact, her death should be celebrated: she'd be returning to the Heavenly Father -- completely gaslighting her. Furthermore, he manipulates her by saying that if she doesn't do this, she's not a good person. He guilts Rita into making the horrible choice and leaves her no option but to walk, openly, to her death.

The Pilot Chapter Asks: Why Are We Born? Why Do We Live?

promised neverland leo rita

It's inevitable that people die but in The Promised Neverland's pilot chapter, Leo decides there's no meaning to life if the end result is death. He claims that he's not scared of dying, most likely because there's nothing that he's really living for -- he's just waiting for his time to die which is why he's willing to throw his life away for revenge. At the church, Leo begs to know why people were born. So, his dead boss tells him: they were born to die. In contrast, when Rita finds out the truth, she admits that she's scared of dying.

The three children, including Margo, are all trying to find the reason for their existence when it seems like it only leads to death. What they all end up realizing is that they've been focusing on the wrong thing. Instead, they should be focusing on why they want to live. You can't control how you came into and how you'll leave this world, but you can take your life into your own hands and decide how you live it. That's when you'll discover that there is meaning to life, and that's the message The Promised Neverland's pilot chapter leaves readers with.