The Promised Neverland 033-035 – Review
The Promised Neverland:
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 plot an escape. But Mom closes in on them and thwarts their plans. With Norman shipped out and all hope seemingly lost, Ray takes it into his hands to thwart Mother and give Emma the opportunity to escape: By taking his own life.
I’m going to be upfront. I really soured on the series with this chapter. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of positive elements and twists here that keep the series interesting, but it’s with this chapter I lose faith that The Promised Neverland is any different from every other shonen currently running. At least when it comes to Death.
We open with Mother, who seems confident in her victory over the children. That is until she hears a scream calling for Ray. Mother rushes to the dining room to find it ablaze and Emma on her knees. The visuals here are great and really sell the shock and power of this moment. Learning Ray is within the fire Mother rushes to try and control it. But the sprinklers aren’t working and the extinguisher she has is no use. She turns to warn Emma to stay back but finds her gone.
Running into one of the bathrooms, following the tracking device in Emma’s ear, Mother finds Emma’s severed ear, but not Emma herself. Everything is going great at this point. Ray is dead, which feels powerful and compelling, and Emma has sprung into action. But the manga undoes, what I feel, could’ve been its single most defining moment, not just for the series, but even the genre itself.
Snapping to the outside, Emma and the rest have escaped, including Ray! Yes, as it turns out Ray didn’t die. Flashing back we learn that Emma stopped Ray just before he set himself ablaze, and revealed that Norman knew Ray would try to kill himself. It turns out Emma had an even grander plan than Ray realized, one aided by the deceased Norman.
This development is hugely disappointing in my eyes. While on the one hand it’s an excellently executed fake out, it defangs the manga completely. Now, to be fair, there’s still a chance the manga will regrow its fangs, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but we’re only thirty-three chapters in and the manga has ‘blown its load’ when it comes to teasing us with major character deaths. I strongly feel that if Ray didn’t die here, we really don’t have to worry about any of our major players dying in the future. I hope I’m wrong, as I’d prefer to be kept on the edge of my seat as to whether our characters will live or die.
We open with a little more explanation for how they faked Ray’s death before flashing back further to when Norman began constructing this plan. The manga gets a bit flashback happy here, although it’s still fairly easy to follow. Norman discovered Ray’s plan himself, which helped him to construct his own. Although I really have to wonder if it was so easy for Norman to find where Ray hid materials all these years that they really never went discovered by Mother? He left a message for Emma in the trees near the edge of the farm. Pulling even the younger kids in, Emma made that plan a reality. We flashback to a few more instances before Norman died, like when they met with Sister Krone and learn that many of the younger children learned the truth that day by spying on the meeting.
I guess a small thing that bugs me about this revelation is it really portrays some of these children as being more together than children in that age bracket really could be. I’m willing to suspend disbelief that Emma, Norman and the others are old enough to handle major revelations like this, and keep that hidden from the adults, but the five year olds? For two months? Without Mother noticing? It all feels a bit more convenient than the series has really been up till now, but I also feel like we wouldn’t get a happy ending if there wasn’t this level of convenience.
Reaching the wall Emma prepares to get everyone climbing. However Ray notices something. At the same time Mother decides that she won’t let them escape. She’ll merely recapture them all. Just then little Phil tugs on Mother’s dress as Ray wonders if everyone is really there with them.
This is a solid moment and I saw a LOT of reactions and speculation online as to what Phil being left behind really meant. It’s one of the moments that I think stands out, even if you’re someone like me that’s sick of death being a non-factor in shonen.
Emma reveals to Ray that they aren’t taking the four-year olds or younger with them. We flash back to when Emma decided this as Gilda and Don talked with her about it in private. They realized a flaw with saving everyone also included abandoning everyone else in the other plants. Unsure of how to proceed Emma decided to reveal the truth to Phil, who heartbreakingly already figured as much.
As I said before I have trouble believing some of these younger children could really keep it so well together. That said, I’m okay of the idea that Phil is quite brilliant for his age and more put together than the rest. I think that concept works in small doses and if it was just Phil and a few others really processing these revelations on a higher level I’d be down for it. As it is, a lot of these kids feel way older/wiser than the average children. And while this is a farm predicated on breading geniuses, I believe there’s only so much education can do in the face of natural biological growth. It’s a minor quibble though and hardly a main issue for me.
Asking him for his opinion on how to proceed, Phil decides it’s best to wait for Emma to come back for him and the other little ones, as they won’t be shipped out for at least another two years. This seemingly confirms my suspicions, that the next arc, or at least a future arc, will focus on Emma breaking back into the system to save the rest of the children. Though how and when that comes into play depends on how this arc wraps up.
Back in the present Emma decides she’ll return in two years and save everyone else then. Despite Phil and the other little ones trying to keep Mom with them, out of fear for the situation, Mother rushes off to try and stop Emma. She radios in the alarm and the demons prepare to mobilize, given orders to kill any who aren’t the finest quality and capture the rest immediately.
I’ve seen a fair amount of fear for these characters making it out alive. That Emma and the Children are about to take some loses from the demons in pursuit. I’m not as convinced. While I would like that, from a story perspective, I don’t have a beef with kids, honest, I no longer believe The Promised Neverland has any intent on killing these kids bound for escape. I think the manga has revealed it’s entirely without fangs and it’s only a matter of time before we learn Norman isn’t, in fact, dead either.
Overall I’m still reeling with disappointment. Even so there’s a lot to praise here. The action has ramped up, the art does the increasingly frantic atmosphere justice, and there’s plenty of hidden twists and turns to guide us to this arc’s conclusion. But if you were hoping this would finally be a shonen manga with fangs, The Promised Neverland discarded that card with Chapter 33 and that really tempers my expectations going forward. It is possible that Ray’s survival is just to lull readers into a new false sense of security before a massacre, but only the coming weeks will tell. I do think that if no one dies in this escape plan, we’ll know for sure what kind of manga The Promised Neverland really is.
Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland 033-035 in the comments section below! Feel free to include your own speculation on how the series will conclude its first arc!