Imagine, from birth, realizing that your entire happy life is a lie.
At a super young age, imagine finding out that your mother, whom you believed she loved and cared about is actually preparing you to be killed and eaten.
While The Promised Neverland’s Ray did not watch his entire clan get massacred in front of him, for a protagonist, particularly for a literal child, he still has a thoroughly messed up origin.
The first arc of the anime puts his story and creation in the spotlight, but the creators returned to send a prologue in October of this year, which further describes the origin of Ray’s trauma, deepening our understanding of this tragic hero.
Ray preserved his memories from the womb, preventing “childhood amnesia,” and thus recalls the demons when he saw them as a child.
Recognizing the contradictions in his own memories and his Grace Field House life allowed him to discover the true meaning of the House, realizing that the orphanage’s happiness was false.
The reality haunted him, and Ray became isolated in the nightmare as the only child who knew the real stakes of their condition but was unable to tell anyone.
He grew up afraid, not only for his own sake but also for the sake of his family. Knowing the power possessed by the demons and Isabella, his choices were limited when all he tried to do was save his family from dying.
To fill in the blanks, he does his own research, but ultimately, Ray comes to the frightening conclusion that he is powerless to save anyone in his place.
Ray resolves to at least save Emma and Norman, not wanting to give in to the scheme entirely. He becomes Isabella’s spy in order to do so, betraying his siblings and supporting both of their mothers so that one day he may save two of them. Ray made these observations and, when he was just six years old, came to this conclusion.
Ray is stoic and cut off from most of his siblings by the time we get to the beginning of the season, having built an emotional distance between him and his family because he knows that most will not make it past six years old.
Emma becomes determined to rescue everyone after he leads Emma and Norman to discover the reality of the orphanage as well.
Ray’s justification for fighting her so hard on this subject is that he wanted to save everyone, too, but he had to come to terms with the harsh reality that not everyone can be saved.
Yet years spent hearing his siblings say farewell happily as they are sent to their death unknowingly, almost completely crushing him.
It is not easy to bear such a heavy burden and the only thing to keep him sane was to hang on to his target. When Norman is shipped off, however, what kept Ray battling for so many years falters when he discovers that one of the two individuals he promised to safeguard failed and that his six years of training were not enough.
He never included himself in the equation, even though Ray still planned to save Emma and Norman.
Instead, Ray wanted to use himself as their final trump card to apologize for silently sending so many of his siblings to their deaths, not only to encourage them to escape but with the thought that Grace Field House deserved to burn.
He spent years planning for his death, in addition to preparing for his escape. He didn’t think he needed to leave the house, and a long time ago, he came to terms with that. Even at the time of his suicide attempt, Ray was just 12 years old.
Ray still cared deeply about his siblings, despite beginning as an aloof character with a hardened heart, as all he sacrificed was for their sake.
The years of seeing him ripped apart by the façade of the orphanage and sacrificing siblings for the opportunity to save him left him emotionally drained and shattered.
For years, he faced the fear of potentially being consumed by demons and seeing his brothers die. He has been enduring these struggles alone for much of his life.
As a victim of their inhuman scheme, he lived a life of terror and anger, convinced that he could only do the bare minimum against it, and only wanted to save his two best friends, the only bright spot of a thoroughly horrifying life.