Ria is an avid anime and sci-fi fan who loves gushing about her latest favorite shows.
Cloverworks Animation is creating an anime adapation of the Weekly Shonen Jump manga Yakusoku no Neverland, which VIZ Media has licensed and is releasing in English as The Promised Neverland. The story's main characters are trying to escape from an orphanage with dark secrets while figuring out how to stay safe from the demons outside. It's a compelling series full of mysteries and intriguing young characters.
Since the anime's second season won't air until 2020, though, fans are stuck anxiously waiting for new episodes. Here are some similar shows you can watch in the meantime.
From the New World
From the New World (Shin Sekai Yori) follows the journey of several children who venture outside their village and encounter the demonic truth about their world. The story covers nearly a decade, and not every character survives the brutal setting. The worldbuilding is engrossing, and while it sometimes ends up requiring a lot of suspension of disbelief, it's certainly more original than most fantasy series. The characters' relationships are also well-written and don't fall into the usual tropes.
At just 25 episodes, From the New World tells its tale and ends in a satisfying manner. Just don't expect a perfectly happy ending.
Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss has cute children as the main characters, and for most of the series' 12-episode run, they remain cute and funny while running away from their orphanage to explore their mysterious world. However, things eventually turn dark - really dark. While this isn't the same level of nightmare fuel as Higurashi or Tokyo Ghoul, it's still pretty heart-wrenching and bloody at times.
This adaptation of a beloved web manga is currently awaiting a movie sequel, and the anime ends in the middle of the story. If you can deal with that, though, this grimdark fantasy offers incredible worldbuilding and characters on a riveting journey.
Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions
The young characters of Grimgar are thrown into a game-like fantasy setting, and at first, they're mostly okay with it. However, the novelty wears off as soon as they realize that it's kill or be killed. Without any "quit" button or adults coming to save them, they quickly have to learn to work as a team and fight monsters in their hostile new environment.
Grimgar's ending leaves a lot untold, and fans of longer epics will likely be disappointed in the show's 12-episode run. The series does a lot of things right, though, and its characters are compelling and believable.
Seraph of the End
Seraph of the End (Owari no Seraph) places much more emphasis on the action side of its fantasy world than Neverland does, and its anime adaptation is somewhat disjointed and abbreviated. That said, though, its premise makes for some compelling television. The main characters start out as orphans raised as food for the vampire regime, and they eventually grow to be soldiers in a post-apocalyptic fantasy war.
If the 24-episode TV series isn't enough for you, the ongoing manga shares a magazine with Neverland! New chapters come out weekly, and the plot has thickened nicely since the story debuted in 2012.
Hunter x Hunter (2011)
The premise of Hunter x Hunter is significantly different from Neverland's, but the core themes and character relationships are similar. It's also a Weekly Shonen Jump serialized manga, so it's written for the same demographic and with the same eye for adventure.
Hunter x Hunter tells the story of a boy who wants to be a Hunter, a trained adventurer and fighter who travels the world as a mercenary of sorts. His optimism is tested as the mysteries of his world reveal their answers, but his companions provide him support while pursuing their own goals.
The 2011 remake of the anime is better than the 1999 version, as the 2011 is nearly twice as long (148 episodes) and tells a much more complete version of the story. The manga is also ongoing, though it has been interrupted due to the author's health multiple times over the past twenty years.
Darling in the Franxx
If you hate mecha shows and slightly ham-handed romance tropes, then you probably won't care for Darling in the Franxx. However, Darling in the Franxx offers much more than most mecha shows, in large part thanks to its well-rounded main and supporting characters. The young cohort ends up at odds with their caretakers at times, and their world has secrets that could end their lives very prematurely.
Though it had a full 24 episodes to build a plot, the series' final battle was disappointing. Darling in the Franxx ends up being satisfying overall, though, and it's a fun show to marathon while waiting for new episodes of Neverland.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka is all about putting cute characters through hell and denying them the happy childhood they deserve. It lacks the buildup and tension that Neverland's manga has, especially since Madoka's initial anime only ran for 12 episodes. Even with the sequel movie, Madoka's worldbuilding and overall adventure pale in comparison to Neverland's.
That said, though, Madoka is a fantastic addition to the magical girl genre. It's visually stunning, has a great soundtrack, and doesn't shy away from drama and emotional depth. It's well worth watching, even if you normally avoid magical girl series. If you end up enjoying it, there's an excellent spin-off manga that goes into Mami and Kyoko's story.
Like many other entries on this list, Bokurano's premise shatters the illusions of its young protagonists and forces them into a fight they never wanted. The story's psychological focus means that there's less time for action and adventure, but that doesn't make the show any less gripping. Even fans who normally avoid mecha anime will find this to be watchable.
Over the course of 24 episodes, Bokurano manages to tell a tale that's horribly grim but still feels realistic and worth watching. There's character death and plenty of dark secrets among the characters, some of whom are outright unlikable. This dark tale is definitely not recommended for pre-teens at the younger end of Neverland's target demographic.
Both Fullmetal Alchemist and its remake Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tell the story of two young boys who get themselves in over their head when they attempt to resurrect their dead mother. By the time the story actually begins, they're now young teens, and their experiences have made them a little world-weary - a far cry from the young protagonists of Neverland.
Still, both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist tell of an adventure where the world slowly and agonizingly reveals its secrets to the protagonists. Moral dilemmas, betrayals, murderous plots, and mystical powers beyond the protagonists' wildest dreams shape the course of their long journey.
If you're new to the franchise, Brotherhood is arguably the better of the two versions. The main plot divergence occurs around episode 24 in both series, so if you watched the original but haven't seen Brotherhood, you can probably skip the first two dozen episodes.
Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea
Nagi-Asu (Nagi no Asu kara) doesn't have any direct similarities to Neverland's premise. It's included on this list because it's a story of youth in a sometimes-scary world, and it tugs on the heartstrings without being horribly depressing - unlike most of the series on this list. If you like fantasy stories with young protagonists coming of age alongside their friends, this is a good story to cleanse your palate between darker shows.
Nagi-Asu is the story of children who live in the sea, but attend school on the surface. The worldbuilding is rich and lovingly detailed, with fantastic animation bringing the story to life. The plot meanders a little, but it's a solid exploration of how children and their caretakers react to adversity and discrimination.