This is not the Neverland we were Promised.
It’s impossible to talk about The Promised Neverland S2 without comparing it to the manga. And that’s not just because it diverges from the source material. An adaptation can do its own thing and be a perfectly fine alternative, although that rarely happens. It’s also not just because the anime is worse, although it most definitely is.
The manga started off good, and more or less stayed that way for about half its length. But after that pont, it gradually started going downhill, and by the time the final arc was coming to an end I had all but stopped caring. I don’t have to explain its flaws, because they’re all right there in the anime.
So it’s not quite right to say the anime ruined the story. Rather, the anime took all the worst parts of the story and condensed them into 11 episodes. The plot conveniences? The sudden introduction of a underdeveloped main villain in Peter Ratri? The instant face turn of Norman’s buddies? The Lambda disease getting swept under the rug? All of these were in the manga. Except now they’re worse. By cutting so much, you’re not just removing the remaining good parts, you’re also robbing the viewer of vital context and wrecking the pacing. In both versions, the kids find the abandoned bunker and are eventually driven out by an enemy attack. The difference is that in the manga they were there for a long time, instead of just one episode. Instead of making you feel sad that they’re forced to abandon their new home, it makes you wonder what the point of it was. And that’s not even mentioning the completely different way the attack itself was written, where a meaningful character sacrifice is turned into a Saturday morning cartoon where a SWAT team is no match for a bunch of kids.
Some of the anime-original scenes had the potential to improve the story, but the writers lacked any sense of subtlety. Having Norman actually face the consequences of his plan to kill the demons was a good idea, but scene went to ridiculous extremes for drama, to the point where the demon he’s personally trying to stab to death has a granddaughter who is also called Emma. Is that really the only way you knew to evoke sympathy?
Speaking of Norman’s plan, that whole plotline was bungled in both versions. You know you’ve done a poor job when your viewers are complaining about a character not wanting to commit genocide. Emma’s refusal to sacrifice others or settle for less worked in the earlier arcs and was always offset by Ray’s pragmatism. But in this final arc it turns into pure wishful thinking with no way of making it happen other than convenient plot devices showing up at the right time. The solution doesn’t feel earned, but rather gifted to them. It’s a far cry from what they had to do to escape the house back in the first season.
But the biggest insult of all has to be the ‘epilogue’. The anime leaves a bunch of plot threads unresolved, and so the solution was to have the three main characters stay behind, solve all those issues in a short compilation, and then rejoin the others. If you haven’t read the manga you’ll probably have no idea what happened. If you have, you’ll probably be staring incredulously at the screen. There was no point to it! If you want an open end, leave it open, don’t just fast-forward through the things you couldn’t fit in.
There were some good parts the second season, but it’s not really worth pointing them out. If you’re really curious, read the manga. It doesn’t have a great end, but overall it’s still much better than this.