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The Dark Fantasy Anime Hidden Gem You Can Watch On Hulu

When most people think "Neverland," the first thing that comes to mind is probably J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, the flying, swashbuckling boy who never grows up — literally and metaphorically. There's a certain appeal to the adventurous lifestyle he and the Lost Boys lead, but Neverland visitor Wendy Darling is grounded enough (even at such a young age) to decide that the idea of growing up doesn't sound so bad, and returns home. It's a fun story, one that makes you think: What would it really be like to never grow up, forever a child in body and mind?

Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu's manga The Promised Neverland explores that same question from a much different — and much darker — angle, the latter part of its title evidently inspired by Barrie's work. The well-received series was first adapted into an equally well-received anime in 2019, and is now available to stream on Hulu.

What is The Promised Neverland about?

In The Promised Neverland, red-haired, green-eyed Emma (Sumire Morohoshi/Erica Mendez) is the picture of youthful innocence. As bright and sunny as she appears, she gets along swimmingly with her fellow orphans at Grace Field House, where Isabella (Yūko Kaida/Laura Post), their "Mom," raises them with all the love and care in the world. Spending each and every passing day with her best friends Norman (Maaya Uchida/Jeannie Tirado) and Ray (Mariya Ise/Laura Stahl), Emma really couldn't ask for a more wonderful life.

As wonderful as it may be, there wouldn't be much of a story if paradise wasn't lost somewhere along the way. And so it is that the deeply disturbing truth of Grace Field House's existence is uncovered one night, when Emma and Norman tail one of their seemingly adopted friends, Conny (Ari Ozaws/Jackie Lastra), as Isabella walks her to the gate. The orphans have always had free rein to go where they wish, but the gate has been an exception for all of their young lives. Discovering what actually happens at the gate changes everything Emma and her friends thought they knew, but no spoilers here. Suffice to say, there's no way the children are going to stay put given their newfound knowledge.

Is The Promised Neverland for you?

The Promised Neverland is hugely popular among anime fans, and boasts extremely impressive critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. But is it for you? The story doesn't shy away from morbid psychological themes and violence, despite what it fronts and the child-centric cast of characters. Indeed, just because they're kids doesn't mean the creators aren't willing to put them through physical, mental, and emotional trials and tribulations that would cause the most hardened adults to quake in their boots. There's no way to truly prepare yourself except to be aware, so... be aware. The Promised Neverland isn't going to hold your hand.

Not all hope is vanquished from the get-go, of course, thanks in no small part to the characters. Though it could certainly be argued that they're a little too young to be as intelligent as they are, that's a matter of suspension of disbelief. If you're willing to let it go, then you're in for a lovable cast indeed. The series' focus on action does little to put a damper on character development, so you get the best of both worlds.

When all is said and done, The Promised Neverland is also a technical marvel. It looks and sounds top-notch, replete with unique character designs, excellent voice acting in both English and Japanese, and a memorable soundtrack. Production company CloverWorks really brings Shirai and Demizu's manga to life. If any of that sounds up your alley, then Hulu is the place to be. Dark fantasy storytelling doesn't get much better than The Promised Neverland.