The Promised Neverland's Sister Krone is a complicated character — in every sense of the word. Black characters have been notoriously tricky for anime and manga, courting controversy for any number of reasons. Because of this spotty track record, any given Black character will put even the most indifferent Black viewers on alert. Sister Krone is definitely no exception, in fact, she might be the poster child for this entire issue. So it makes sense that casting for the Promised Neverland live-action film, released last week, would want to avoid prompting any Krone-based outcries. Unfortunately, the way they decided to do that heaps on more problems than anyone in charge likely saw coming, ultimately doing the mediocre film no favors.


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In the series, as in the movie, Sister Krone is introduced as a villain, brought in by the scheming Mom Isabella to intimidate and sus out the Grace Field kids that're plotting to escape the "orphanage." As far as minor villains go, Krone is a great one: smart, clever and with a fun personality that keeps everyone — viewers included — on their toes. She's comical and terrifying and, as a recent bonus chapter explained, tragic in her own right. Krone's existence in the story is perfectly indicative of the vicious cycle everyone in Promised Neverland is tied up in. She isn't bad because she wants to be, but because she feels there's no other choice — a complex antagonist if there ever was one.

But, while the good of Krone is great, the bad is definitely...frustrating. As a villain, Krone is intimidating for a variety of reasons. Her mere presence is a major problem for Emma and company, but her savviness, paired with a towering figure and unnatural strength, make her a seemingly indomitable adversary. Having a tall, super-strong stranger breathing down your neck to ensure you die is terrifying enough, but series artist Posuka Demizu understandably wanted to communicate that visually as well.

Unfortunately, the way they decided to do this was by exaggerating Krone's racial features. Krone's shifts into "scary mode" are often marked by her eyes going beady and her lips getting positively giant. It's an unfair way to depict such a well-written character, and a downright disrespectful way to depict a Black person in general. It's not blackface, but it's not exactly out of the ballpark, either.

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Fans that check out the live-action adaptation will notice that Krone is played by renowned comedienne and fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe. Watanabe, obviously, looks absolutely nothing like Krone, but it's typical for a Japanese movie to have an entirely Japanese cast, even if the characters aren't, as with Attack On Titan's live-action adaptations. But, even with that in mind, Watanabe's casting is still an issue.

For one, there are plenty of Black Japanese actresses that could've portrayed Krone. Sure, none have the name recognition of the Naomi Watanabe, but Japanese Black people exist and act. For another, if the goal was to avoid the controversy of Krone by not making her Black, then the movie fails in that regard, as well. Some would argue that not having a Black Krone is the better solution, considering the character's racist aspects. But total erasure shouldn't be the answer when improvement is an option. A good Black Krone should've been the movie's answer to the manga's Questionable Krone.

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Beyond that, Black people are all too often cast as one-note villains and, while Krone avoids this by being well-written, it's understandable that some would roll their eyes after learning her main role in the story. And, while Watanabe isn't Black, she is a larger woman, and fat people are also constantly cast as antagonists. Sister Krone is stocky, but notably not fat. Looking at Watanabe in the film, one can't help but feel casting decided to exchange one visual shorthand for "bad" for another. In fiction, being larger is often meant to signify some sort of hidden moral failing on the character's part (American Horror Story: Freakshow comes to mind), meanwhile Blackness is often used as a cue for suspicion (literally any cop movie). Instead of avoiding the latter, casting just tumbled headlong into the former.

The Promised Neverland film is, as all live-action anime films tend to be, alright at best. It adapts the first major arc of the manga, doing an ok job, but not much else. The odd casting goes beyond just Krone — Emma and the others have all been aged up to teenagers — and, honestly, the movie suffers for it. Promised Neverland shone because it was children that managed to outsmart two adults and live despite everything. While it sounds like a nitpick, without them it's just not the same. But the needs of the franchise outweigh the desire for quality, so the film avoided anything that could've let it standout, playing it safe so it could make its money back. Of course, no one actually expected a Black woman to be cast, but it's that they didn't even try that hurts the most.

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