History of Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland is a manga written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Damizu. Published in Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine from 2016 to 2020. The story follows a group of orphans and their plan to escape from the children’s farm. The farm masquerades as an orphanage but is actually used to breed children as tribute to demons, in fulfillment of a peace treaty which ended a war between humans and demons. Being “adopted” is a euphemism for ending up as demon food.
As of September 2019, the manga has a circulation of over 16 million. In 2018, the manga won the 63rd Shogakukan Manga Award in the shonen category. In 2020, the publishing house “Istari Comics” announced the licensing of the manga in Russian and releases it in the format of 2-in-1 omnibuses.
The premiere of the film adaptation of The Promised Neverland in the form of an animated television series from CloverWorks took place in January-March 2019 in the Noitamina program block. The premiere of the second season took place from January 7 to March 26, 2021
The Secret of the Orphanage
The central concept of Promised Neverland, that the idyllic existence hides a sinister end for the inmates of the orphanage, has been used in other non-manga contexts. For example, in the 2005 movie, The Island, starring Scarlett Johansson the characters do not realize that they are clones being raised for the sole purpose of providing a transplant body for wealthy, aging, clients. While they wait to be harvested, the clones enjoy a seemingly happy life, but they are little more than farm animals. Eventually some of the clones figure it out and seek to escape.
The Promised Neverland uses a similar plot device: a group of children are being raised in apparently happy and idyllic surroundings, but a very bad fate awaits them. Every so often some of the children are adopted, which means they leave the protected sanctuary of the orphanage for the world beyond. Little do they know that being adopted means being fed to demons, as a form of tribute to keep the creatures from eating the rest of humanity.
A Philosophical Question
In this sense the Promised Neverland asks an important: do the needs of he many outweigh the needs of the few? Should the survival of the human race be bought at the expense of the suffering of a few children?
This is a moral dilemma which has challenged philosophers and religious thinkers for centuries. Utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham would certainly agree that the benefit derived sacrifice of a few children to save the rest of the human race outweighs the cost.
But what about the moral taint which sticks to the survivors? Is there a price that cannot be measured in lives spared versus lives sacrificed?
Is there a price which should never be paid no matter what the pay off? Is gaining the whole world at the expense of one’s immortal soul too high a price?
Considering that the universe of Promised Neverland takes for granted that there are demons, we have to assume that there is a moral dimension beyond achieving the greatest good for the greatest number. In other words, some things are inherently good or bad, so perhaps the central concept of the manga answers the question..
For example, is the murder of an innocent person ever okay even if it saves more lives than are taken? Would it have been okay to kill Hitler as a baby, before he had ever done anything evil?
These are questions that perhaps can never be answered conclusively because they depend on your moral perspective. Whatever the answer is for society in general, we know what the victims would say:
Whatever you do, don’t get adopted!
Updated June 18, 2021. The section setting out the publication history of The Promised Neverland was adapted and translated from a Russian Wikipedia article on the subject. The rest is original content.