Both Variety and Deadline reported yesterday that Amazon may be planning a The Promised Neverland live-action series. Whatever your opinion of the enterprise may be, this is undoubtedly big news: Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu’s fantasy-thriller series has been a phenomenal success for Weekly Shonen Jump, and now one of the biggest companies in the world is taking an interest in it.
Yet, for many fans, there will be some trepidation. This is entirely understandable. We’ve had our hands burned many times over the years by subpar adaptations and disrespectful approaches: one of the most recent examples that comes to mind is Netflix’s 2016 Death Note movie, starring William Dafoe as Ryuk, which completely missed the point of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s original story and transformed it into an edgy teen comedy. But a Promised Neverland live-action series could be different. Here’s why.
Posuka Demizu’s Realistic Aesthetic
One of the reasons why many, including myself, lament the western media industry’s constant obsession with producing live-action adaptations is because not everything works in that medium. For example, another series in development for a live-action series is Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece – the prospect of trying to convert Oda’s wild, cartoonish action to the real world doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement. To use a famous phrase: the medium is the message.
Nevertheless, the leap from manga to live-action could be made much easier in the case of The Promised Neverland because of its realistic aesthetic. Of course, there are things that appear in the series that are not real – such as monsters and demons – but artist Demizu’s style can, on the whole, be described as realistic. As a result, the more realistic design of the series’ world, action and characters could work quite well in live-action.
The Promised Neverland‘s Mainstream Appeal
From a business point of view, it already makes perfect sense for Amazon to turn The Promised Neverland into a live-action series. One of the reasons why adaptations are so prevalent in the film and TV industries across the world is precisely because they have a proven track record, presenting less of a risk for a studio or an investor. In this sense, The Promised Neverland is an obvious choice: not only has it surpassed 20 million volume sales in Japan, its English volume releases regularly enter into the top 20.
But The Promised Neverland is suited for live-action in more ways than simply for profit. In fact, there has always been a strong similarity between author Shirai’s story and the king of young adult ‘YA’ novels that are found in the west: a strong female protagonist, kids fighting against evil adults, overthrowing the old system and replacing it with a new one… Anyone who has any experience with YA novels will know what I’m talking about, and I don’t envy them.
Nor would I be the first one to make that point. No doubt Amazon is fully aware of these two facts, which is precisely why they are developing a Promised Neverland live-action series in the first place. Nevertheless, these two points prove that, if executed right, it could be something special – or better than Netflix’s Death Note, at least.