At the end of season 1 of the CloverWorks anime The Promised Neverland, 12-year-old Emma and Ray and their young foster siblings managed to escape from Grace Field house – a farm where they were being raised as cattle to be eaten by demons.
However, their best friend, the genius Norman, wasn’t so lucky. Following a long series of misadventures and failed attempts to outsmart the adults in charge, Norman was still able to concoct a slow, detailed plan for the children to run away and survive. Unfortunately, Norman’s plan didn’t involve himself.
In a heart-breaking twist towards the end of the 1st season, Norman was shipped off by the children’s foster mother, Isabella. While it was hard to believe that the show’s smartest character managed to save everyone apart from himself, he was sent off in a very emotional, believable way, and Emma’s heartbreak was nothing if not genuine.
Naturally, then, most fans presumed that Norman was killed, like his young foster sister Connie earlier in the season, to be later eaten by the demons – even if this did not happen on screen. At least, this is what anime-only fans thought. Those who have read the manga already knew otherwise.
But last Friday, even manga fans were shocked at the twist of the latest Season 2 episode. If you haven’t watched it yet, we suggest that you do so on Funimation or Hulu before reading this article, as there will be spoilers.
Episode 5 of The Promised Neverland Season 2 saw Emma, Ray, and the other children learning to navigate life in a demon city. Disguised as demons and staying at a temple inhabited by a blind demon priest, the children survive for a year, eating what food they can find.
This plan works well, until Emma agrees to bring two of the youngest children along and let them search for food with her. Soon enough, the children’s disguise is found out and they’re all pursued by demons. When all seems lost, they’re miraculously saved by a hooded demon, who immediately unmasks and is revealed to be none other than Emma’s best friend, Norman.
The twist shocked both manga readers and anime-only fans. In the manga, written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu, Norman survives too, but the reveal comes much later, after both he and Emma have been through a lot and have developed completely different worldviews. But what exactly happened to Norman?
Even for those who have never read the manga, Norman’s last scene in Season 1 was a little suspicious. Isabella told him to wait for a room, and we never get to see just what happens to him after that. In the manga, rather than being killed, Norman is taken in by a man called Peter Ratri and agrees to help him with his research in an experimental facility that attempts to achieve mass production of human meat. From there on, Norman is held in seclusion and required to solve puzzles and take IQ tests.
He finds allies and learns about the origins of the demons and of the plantation orphans and reaches the conclusion that the only way for the children to live happily without fear is to annihilate all demons. E
ventually, Norman can run away from Ratri and the facility and carry on his plan, taking up the name of William Minerva. He still gets an emotional reunion with Emma and Ray, their friendship can’t be as uncomplicated as before.
Already from season 1, we’ve seen that Emma is an idealist who wants to save as many people as possible and do what is right, even if it seems impossible. Back then, Norman was willing to do anything for her, but his time in the facility hardened him.
Emma and the others had had difficult experiences of their own; having been rescued by the demon Mujika who doesn’t eat human meat, Emma will never again be able to see demons as an all-evil race, so she could never agree to a plan to exterminate all demons.
According to many fans of the manga, the reunion of Emma and Norman, though arguably emotional, felt rushed and marked one of the adaptation’s biggest changes to the source material. It was already known that the Goldy Pond arc of the manga was cut from the anime, a change that was not necessarily seen as negative, given that some fans liked the storyline less after the children escaped from Grace Field.
Even so, one is bound to wonder why Norman only appeared now, in the most convenient moment as a deus ex machina. And how did he get enough power over the demons to save his friends?
Any big change an adaptation makes to a book or manga’s source material is bound to be controversial. Norman’s return isn’t entirely plausible at this point, and many fans will lament the absence of Goldy Pond and the children’s new allies.
But having already met Sonju and Mujika, perhaps Emma has already seen enough of the world to be opposed to Norman’s extermination plan, supposing his plan in the anime remains unchanged. We can only hope that the next episodes will provide some satisfactory answers.
The sixth episode of The Promised Neverland Season 2 will air on Friday the 19th of February on Hulu and Funimation (for premium users) and on the 26th of February for non-premium users. Other anime by Studio CloverWorks that are ongoing this season are Horimiya and Wonder Egg Priority.