Anime Thoughts · J-Pop/Anisong

[OST Spotlight] The Promised Neverland: A Series in One Soundtrack

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.

月姫 / Kaguya

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.

isabella's lullaby leslie promised neverland

Did you watch the anime? Do you know any similar OSTs that tug at your heartstrings? Feel free to drop some links below!


17 thoughts on “[OST Spotlight] The Promised Neverland: A Series in One Soundtrack

  1. I feel like the storytelling deserves a mention here too. There’s no use of exposition and very few monologues in this series that do make it stand out from other shonen out there. I find this rather impressive.

    Your point about music is also good. I feel that’s also one of its stronger aspects.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Moyatori,

    The Promised Neverland (Season 1) was probably my favorite anime TV show that I saw last year, my brother GC and I watched it on Toonami, and we were both surprised.

    The trailer for it looked interesting even though I was not a big fan of the art style when I saw the trailer, the first episode got me (I was shook, and I wanted to enter the anime and help those kids), especially what happened to one of my favorite characters that episode; and from there I was surprised with how a show animated like this with a focus on children could be this smart and serious and suspenseful.

    Unfortunately I did not pay attention to the music as much, and so thank you for bringing it to my attention; Isabella’s Lullaby gave me chills, yes it was cold in the room, but it brought back some feelings of the show and of the soundtrack for the video game Chrono Cross.

    This anime reminded me of the anime From The New World, which left me shook at the end, what they did with their villain(s) was brilliant (probably one of the best); and it made me think and some of my opinions of certain characters changed.

    Thank you for sharing,
    -John Jr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Promised Neverland was definitely my favourite anime of that year, though admittedly, I’ve only seen 5 titles from 2019. It was definitely quite the shocker, and I watched it a second time soon after the initial watch – which I rarely do with any anime.

      Glad to introduce you to the nice music! Isabella is my favourite character in the series, if I haven’t mentioned it in the post already.

      Haven’t played Chrono Cross (I don’t game all that much), but From the New World was excellent! Btw, it has great soundtracks that I’d recommend you check out too. Dystopian societies with villains who do what they do to survive (or so they tell themselves, not without good reason), until some ill-fated children break a few major rules. I didn’t see the parallel until you pointed it out, but now it’s quite clear!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Moya,

        Nice, I was starting to wonder if I was the only one because some other anime were winning best of the year awards (some that I did not like even like Demon Slayer); I wonder how I will feel about it if I watch it again like you did.

        Isabella was an interesting character on several levels, she played more than one role, and she was more complex than characters on most shows.

        Right after reading this post I listened to Isabella’s Lullaby, and I had to stop myself from crying 😀 :

        That video game was a classic for me, brings back some good memories playing this as my little brothers watched, and sometimes played as well; and the game before it Chrono Trigger on SNES (Super Nintendo) I played many years after its release after one of my classmates had told me about it several years before then.

        I am glad that you have seen From The New World as well, I would not have known about it if it had not been for a certain YouTuber, and my brother GC.

        Thanks for the recommendation, that is another soundtrack I must check out.

        That certain characters final words after failing and what was done to that character as punishment, was pretty powerful, and it opened my eyes to a different way of seeing things with what had all happened in that show; and my feelings for that character and that character’s people changed somewhat, I may not have agreed with a lot that they did, but I understood why and what this failure could mean for them now forever.

        Thank you for responding,
        -John Jr

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I found Demon Slayer way overrated myself, though I do have a collaborative review series for it on my blog. Standard shounen.

        “Isabella’s Lullaby” is a tune that stood out to me in the show, even before its importance was revealed. I downloaded the sheet music and played it on my piano, haha.

        Guess I’d have to add Chrono Cross to the list of classic video games that I’ve never played. I’ve never owned a PlayStation or gaming device before, and never thought about owning one for most of my life!

        It’s cool that you watch anime with my brother. I watch stuff with my younger brother too, but he’s more reluctant to these days. We also watched From the New World together. My brother bought the novels that the anime was based on too.

        After your comment, I realized that I really owe From the New World a re-watch. I found it so memorable, but I’ve already forgotten so much!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hello Moya,

        Thank you for sharing that, I would like to suggest maybe adding the Search widget on your blog to make it easier for visitors to find posts by keyword. 😉

        Cool, I wish that I knew how to play a musical instrument, back in my public school days I wanted to learn guitar or piano; but they did not teach those instruments unfortunately.

        And the video game before it, Chrono Trigger, was even more beloved by critics.

        Here is the Chrono Cross soundtrack:

        I am fortunate that at least one of my brothers will watch anime with me at times, I am glad that your brother also watches some anime with you (and that you both watched From The New World together), and I hope that he will continue; nice, I never read any works that an anime was based on as far as I know.

        My brother GC and I almost gave up on From The New World during the first few episodes, fortunately we kept watching it, and then we were hooked as many episodes ended on cliffhangers; I have forgotten some things as well, and I even went back to see how a certain very powerful character had died.

        Thank you for replying,
        -John Jr

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks for the excellent suggestion, I’ve since added that widget!

        I believe you linked me something else, but I did go look up Chrono Cross, and am enjoying its music as I watch this!

        I’m watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes with my brother now and it’s been quite a delight.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You are welcome Moya, and thank you.

        Interesting, the Chrono Cross playlist shows up for me, but I am glad that you found it; the music is from an old Playstation 1 game so it is limited, without context of the game it might not work as well, but it brings backs some memories for me hearing some of the songs.

        Speaking of songs from anime, here is one I stumbled upon when I was looking for a trailer Angel’s Egg (which I saw once years ago):

        I have not seen Legend Of The Galactic Heroes before, nice, have fun. 🙂

        -John Jr

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Nice, Angel’s Egg is probably the most artsy and surreal and symbolic anime or movie that I have seen, and it is barely over an hour long; it is more a work of art than a movie in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

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