It’s been a while since I finished the anime and I still can’t get over how good the music was. Takahiro Obata’s soundtracks were largely responsible for getting me hooked on the series since Episode 1. In particular, I want to offer my interpretation of “Main Theme 1,” which encapsulates the series wonderfully:
***This post contains spoilers! If you haven’t seen the series, give the song a listen anyway. 🙂
Each of the three main characters, as well as Mother Isabella and Sister Krone, have their own themes, and you can hear fragments of some of them in “Main Theme 1.” I had the passing thought to make a post on how the different themes interact in “Main Theme 1,” when I read a comment underneath Norman’s soundtrack on YouTube where someone compared each character to an instrument used:
I like to imagine this song with Norman representing the cello, coming in alone and playing a sorrowful tune, representing how he struggles on his own and sacrifices everything for his family.
I imagine the violin representing Emma, harmonizing with Norman’s sorrowful tune and making it into something even more beautiful. It’s still the same tune, but Emma has caused his outlook to be brighter because she had changed a few pitches on his own melody. Their minds are in sync, along with their hearts, and though the notes are different (their personalities), they still play together .
Finally, I think of Ray as the soft piano in the background. He supports them from beneath and grounds their ideas and plans with logic and analysis. He doesn’t play along with Emma and Norman. In fact, he plays an entirely different melody all together.
I quite like this interpretation! “Main Theme 1” is joined by many more instruments, most notably vocals. I like to think that the haunting vocal line represents Isabella.
0:00: Much like the anime’s initial setting, the music starts out slow and quiet, with a fuzzy intro and smatterings of tinkling high notes on the piano. It almost sounds like the start of a “5-hour Calming Ghibli Music for Studying” YouTube video. And then a clock starts ticking and it all goes down from there. Tension–signifying the start of the chase.
At 0:50, hollow moaning vocals take over whatever scattered fragments of established melody there was. It takes a while before the piano finds its balance again at 1:08, joined by steady percussions and a leading viola. I see this as where the children begin devising a central plan and recruiting others, while evading Isabella’s pervasive influence and smiling wrath.
At 2:18, the main theme is delivered at full blast after a momentary but decisive pause. This segment of the melody overlaps with the high point of “Isabella’s Lullaby,” and at this point, it replaces the ominous trailing vocals altogether. This is where the children achieve provisional triumph over Isabella by putting their escape plan in action. The vocals are stunned into silence, but the motif of the lullaby is carried on and woven into the epic main theme of escape and survival.
From 2:53, there’s a bit of dialogue between the vocal line and the strings, in which the former is mournfully yearning and the latter is possibly a bit cunningly taunting. Though the power dynamics are somewhat different, it reminds me of the defiant conversation that Emma has with Isabella, or the children’s late-night scheming sessions.
At 3:30, the tone shifts completely, and the vocal part gets a chance to shine with minimal accompaniment. Of course, the melody sung is “Isabella’s Lullaby.” This is the gentlest part of the song, and is later joined by tinkling percussion, harp, and the mandolin (which hearkens directly to Isabella’s backstory).
4:27, the theme from earlier makes a strong return, taking over from where the lullaby left off. The vocal line retires to a more minor part, this time an octave or so higher and more harmonic. I imagine this to be when the children are at the other side of the wall, and have received Isabella’s blessings: “Go on. Please be careful. And I pray that you will find light.”
I just love the incorporation of the lullaby motif throughout the series’ soundtracks. The livestock system in The Promised Neverland is designed to strip human children and adults alike not only of liberty, but also of the possibility of forging lasting bonds. The lullaby thus transgresses the system’s unspoken fundamental rules by being passed down against all odds, and by memorializing Leslie and connecting Ray to his birth mother, Isabella. It’s Leslie’s song, then Isabella’s lullaby, and finally, the escaped children’s anthem.
Did you watch the anime? Do you know any similar OSTs that tug at your heartstrings? Feel free to drop some links below!