The Promised Neverland 029-032 – Review

The Promised Neverland:

Chapters 029-032

Reviewed by: Tom

Synopsis: Emma is an 11-year old girl living at an orphanage along with thirty-seven other children. They spend their days playing in the yard, the nearby forest, and taking test over their headsets in the house’s school room. When they turn twelve the children leave the orphanage, going beyond the gate they’ve been warned to never venture near. However, despite how quaint and comfortable this life has been for Emma and the other children, there’s a much darker truth awaiting them beyond that gate.

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)

While exploring the gate one night, in hopes of delivering a forgotten stuffed toy to a departing friend, Emma and Norman, one of the smartest boys within the Orphanage, discover the horrible truth: The orphans are being raised as mere meat for horrific demonic creatures.

Joining forces with the other top kids, Ray, Gilda and Don they begin to plot an escape. Ray is/was secretly working with Mother and the group decides to use that against her. However Mother calls in additional help, Sister Krone, another caretaker. As the kids work to form a plan of escape before the day they’re scheduled to be shipped out arrives, Mother and Sister begin to close in around them.

Review:

Chapter 029:

There’s a lot of strong developments in these chapters and what’s here has only elevated my love for the series. Like I speculated last time we learn the plan to have Norman disappear doesn’t entirely go as planned. The chapter opens with Norman seemingly making his survey and scaling the wall, all in preparation for his disappearance. However, much to the dismay of everyone but Mother, Norman returns just as sundown hits, all but sealing his fate. Even for readers who saw this coming, it’s a hard hitting moment as it looks like Norman is walking right into his death.

Norman explains to the group that he never intended to run away and hide, for fear that Mother would then ship out one of them instead. So he surveyed the area instead. We learn there’s a sheer cliff right outside the wall, hence why Sister Krone said she was so sure they don’t even bother to patrol. He also details the entire layout of the facility, as well as their one opportunity to escape: a bridge leading from the main complex to the outside world. The manga drops the emotional weight of Norman’s ultimate fate for a minute in order to set up the upcoming escape attempt. I feel like there’s a bit of damage done here in the emotional flow of the chapter, hence I think why we sort of ‘reset’ Norman’s departure in the very next chapter.

Sure it is, you can jump down from anything, as long as you have no intention of surviving.

Norman gives a tearful goodbye to Emma and Ray, despite their struggle to understand his actions. As Norman leaves his stunned friends, we get an internal monologue that explains Norman sees this as his one effort to prove that they can form a plan where no one needs to be left behind and they need not give up on such a lofty goal. Norman then leaves with Mother to meet his fate. Or well, not really. The next chapter moves us back a bit in order to better hammer home the emotional impact of Norman’s decision. While I generally like the twists of this chapter, I feel like the execution is a bit odd with how they’ve chosen to play these events out.

Chapter 030:

Snapping back and drawing out the goodbyes, we return to the big farewell just before Norman left. Emma and Ray have extreme difficulty accepting this turn of events, although Ray mostly is just stewing in his own anger for having failed. Emma causes a big scene downstairs in front of everyone, as she tries in one last ditch attempt to get Norman to run away and hide. It ends in a heated screaming match and Mother starts to become concerned, clearly irritated that the children might start to learn the truth.

As Norman refuses Emma’s last ditch attempt to get him to save himself, Mother interrupts and tells them its time for him to go. Mother also whispers to Emma to give up and allow herself to accept her fate. I love this scene. It really plays like a perfect ‘all is lost moment’ as we see Emma lose it as despair and fading hope overwhelm her.

Mother leads Norman through the gates and she reiterates her belief in him, knowing that he’d always choose to allow his siblings a chance to live out their remaining days than sacrifice them for his own life. But as Norman is lead to a special waiting room, Mother opens the door and the resolve on his face fades away into a look of confusion and shock. This moment intrigues me the most. The series clearly paints the idea that Norman is gone and most likely dead, although considering we don’t actually see him die, it’s possible he’s a different fate in store. And I do think that’s the case here. Norman’s look of shock and confusion is the author’s one clue to us that our understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes isn’t quite the truth. This moment has made me very interested to see the reveal later on down the line.

You know shit is bad when even the smartest character can only respond with “huh?” at his impending fate.

The next day everything seemingly returns to normal, although Emma can’t help but start to wish Norman good morning before she realizes he’s truly gone.

Chapter 031:

Chapter 31 deals with Emma’s decent into depression at the loss of Norman and her and Ray’s collapse of drive to continue their fight. After Ray reveals that he’s done and he’ll merely accept their fate Mother visits Emma and gives her one final push to become complacent. She informs Emma that she’s going to recommend her as a candidate to become a Mother. This is the second or third time the series has brought up the progression of girls surviving by becoming Mothers for the system. It’s also interesting that we learn Mothers actually produce the children, or some of them anyway, used within the farm. Because the series keeps coming back to this, I’m wondering if this is indeed Emma’s fate, either because the escape plan fails, or she reenters the system in order to save other children.

Laying it on a bit thick there, Ray.

With the mind games taking their tole, Emma seemingly gives up and admits defeat. The months pass and the night before Ray is to be shipped out arrives. As Ray bids goodbye to the house for the last time, he asks Emma if she’s really given up. Emma then gets a look in her eyes and a sly smile sweeps across her lips. The one issue I have with this chapter is how fast everything plays. We start out with Emma still fighting, before she finally caves in, only for just a few pages later to have that undone with the hints that she’s been faking her emotional collapse this whole time. I wish the chapter had maybe toyed with us a bit more before admitting this was all a ploy.

Chapter 032:

We learn that Emma and Ray both came to the same conclusion, the only way to ensure their escape plan might succeed was to act as if their fight and will to live had finally been crushed. Both had merely been pretending to have been defeated in order to keep Mother’s suspicions appeased. Instead Emma had Don and Gilda prepare all the kids for their escape plan and Emma is prepared to initiate it tomorrow during the day. It feels a tad convenient, but at the same time I think this is near the perfect time to draw this first arc to a close.

However, Ray has his own idea. He thinks they should escape at night and lays out his plan to start a fire in the main building, as well as other places on the grounds in order to lax security on the bridge. Emma is shocked at his plan, and his acquisition of Molotov cocktails. Ray springs another surprise on her, suggesting they escape tonight!

Hey if you think the Molotov’s are shocking just wait a few pages when he springs his next surprise on you.

As everything sees to be coming together Emma realizes there’s a flaw to this plan. While the fire is meant to distract Mother, what if she doesn’t stop to try and put out the fire but gives chase after them? Ray admits that is an issue, but he has a very simple solution: And with that he doses himself in gasoline.

Ray reveals to a stunned Emma that he’s always known this day would come. He’ll force Mother to leave the others by making her try and save him from burning up in the fire. This is his last big middle finger to these demons for trying to consume him like food.

Emma tries to stop him, but Ray ignores her, handing her a book containing photos he’d taken of every child they’ve ever lived together with. He bids goodbye to her and drops a lit match to the floor, sending himself and the room up in a blast of fire.

This chapter is incredibly shocking and easily the biggest twist in the manga. It’s incredible how powerful these chapters are, and really manage to break the “no deaths in manga” mold that’s become increasingly prevalent of late. Assuming Neverland doesn’t undo itself later on, this is a stand out chapter and a wonderful way to bring this arc to a close. Now the big question is how the escape plan actually plays out. I can see the series progressing in a couple different ways.

First I can see it succeeding and Emma learning something horrible about the outside world and us continuing into what is basically brand new territory. Another option I see is the escape plan succeeding, but Emma choosing to infiltrate the system years later in order to save more children. Another option is for everyone but Emma to escape, forcing her to work her way through the system and become a mother. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes from here, but this is yet again another series of chapters that just helps to keep me invested and really grow my excitement for the series going forward.

Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland 029-032 in the comments section below! Feel free to include your own speculation on how the series will conclude its first arc!

The Promised Neverland is published weekly in Shonen Jump. The first few (001-003) chapters can be read for free via Viz.com

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