The Promised Neverland 036-038 – Manga Review
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.
Picking up from last time Chapter 036 follows Emma, Ray and the rest of the children as they complete their escape from the Farm. Despite the demons mobilizing, with some truly impressive, hulking, horror-esque designs, everything goes off without a hitch. As it turns out Emma and Norman’s plan was never to use the bridge, where everyone assumed they’d have to escape through, but across the chasm surrounding the complex.
While the plan is, almost, derailed by one of the children getting a touch of the nerves, no one is lost and they escape with what feels like relative ease by this point. I can’t say this chapter wasn’t disappointing and this arc’s conclusion pretty much is exactly what i feared– everything ends in a triumphant, near perfect, zero deaths fashion. While some children are still indeed stuck inside, the demons are made to look like complete fools here, having built a complex with a chasm that can be overcome by a slingshot and bottle rockets.
There’s also the idea that mere children could perform this stunt. While I can believe that Emma, Ray and Norman, the brightest of the bright, could execute such a plan, there’s a lot of ‘suspense of disbelief’ asked of the audience concerning the children’s athletic ability to physically pull this off. This is hard stuff to do for adults, let alone kids.
But in all honesty, despite The Promised Neverland’s earlier, darker tone that doesn’t entirely fit with a near perfect happy conclusion such as this, it’s entirely in line with Shonen of today. And it’s also not out of left field. It’s clearly meant to be a positive message in the face of adversity, especially if Neverland is read as an allegory for being trapped in life’s system where you life, study, work and die. But I still feel, as far as narrative stakes go, I can’t help but feel now like nothing ever truly bad will happen to our main characters.
Pulling back from Emma’s successful escape we’re introduced to Isabelle’s history through a brief flashback that helps to explore her mental state, why she is the way she is and the kind of affect Emma’s successful escape has on her. Like how the escape goes off near perfectly, Mother does a entire 180 on her beliefs and the way she’s been operating, realizing she’s been in the wrong this whole time. She ultimately sides with the children.
I’m of mixed feelings with this chapter. On one hand I enjoy the character development for Isabelle, but I also feel it’s extremely heavy handed with very little nuance. While there are also some nice touches here, like touching on the idea that Ray is actually Isabelle’s true son, they don’t do much to obfuscate how perfect ending this whole thing feels. And while I don’t disagree with the message The Promised Neverland is propagating, to hold on and continue to fight for your true ideals and goals, even in the face of adversity, and to never compromise; I can’t help but feel like the series would’ve been better serviced by stretching out a victory like this, letting it take multiple arcs, if not the entire series to achieve a perfect win. Of course, my complaints could be satisfied depending on how the next arc plays out.
Chapter 038 sees the aftermath of the children’s escape, namely with Isabelle berated for her failure, as well as the demons setting about mounting an operation to retrieve Emma and the rest.
The chapter mainly follows Emma and the gang as she remains resolute to protect everyone, as well as a bit of character development for Ray as he finally comes around to side with Emma in the idea that they will protect everyone and sacrifice no one. We also learn what the next objective is: to meet Mr. Minerva, to which the pen offers up coordinates for his potential location. The chapter does a u-turn and has all of the children, save Emma, Ray and Rani, disappear without warning.
Overall I’m not convinced we’ll see any of these children die. Right now it feels like the manga is more interested in trying to put Emma and the rest in danger, but never actually remind us of the stakes by killing any of them. My guess is the manga will never again do more than flirt with the idea of death for our heroes. I’d love to be proven wrong however as currently I’m very let down by The Promised Neverland’s overly positive conclusion to its very first arc.
Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland 036-038 in the comments section below! Feel free to include your own speculation on where the series will go now!