The Promised Neverland 045-048 – 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. Norman gets shipped out, but not before giving Emma and Ray the means and plans to escape with. Emma and Ray manage to escape with many of the children, leaving only the youngest behind. Now as they make their way from the Demon’s farm they find themselves in a whole new, and dangerous world.
Chapter 045 recaps a bit as Ray is again saved by the masked individual. From there, as the demons resolve to find the children, Ray wakes up in a cave and finds Emma with him. The two briefly fear the worst but then wonder who saved them. As the girl from before arrives to check on them and guide them to the others, Ray realizes something is off and that the girl, and the man from before, are not in fact humans, but demons.
I have very little to comment on with this chapter. It’s overall fairly solid, and my only quibble is how misleading the panels are for when Ray realizes something is off about the girl. As we discover in the next chapter the panel focusing on the lantern is a massive red herring and has nothing to do with what tipped Ray off. I think it’s pretty weak in all honesty. It’s a poor attempt to redirect the reader away from what is, I think, a rather obvious twist that their saviors are in fact demons. Heck the very aesthetic for the man/demon who saved Ray is a dead giveaway.
Ray and Emma immediately fear the worst, realizing their saviors are demons and the one who saved Ray, Sonju, is carrying a big weapon only furthering their unease. This chapter is where I started to become annoyed with a particular aspect of the manga, one that really ends up grinding my gears in just a bit: The faces. Promised Neverland frequently depicts Emma and Ray with pained, anxiety filled faces. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it feels over the top or forced. There’s a disconnect here and it’s something I’ll talk about more in a minute.
Otherwise Emma and Ray regroup with the kids, they have dinner with the demons, and we learn a little about their two saviors, Sonju and Mujika. Finally they ask the all too important question: Just what is going on?
These chapters are slow, but necessary and I’m glad for a break from all the adventuring and action. We haven’t had much of one since they left the farm and I think the manga really needs this slow down to dish out information now that we’ve entered the larger world.
Chapter 047 is a game changer as we learn that the world hasn’t been in the hands of the demons for a mere thirty years, but rather thousands. It’s here the manga reveals it’s more alternate history than alternate future, with the manga having an entirely different world building than our true history. It also takes the opportunity to smack down the alien planet theory that’s been running around.
We get quite a lot of history here, although most of it is vague and on par with Attack on Titan in terms of skimming details. Thanks to that there’s no telling how much of what is said here is true, and how much of it is sidestepping other developments. It provides answers without giving too much away and that’s solid.
But this chapter does something I’m coming to increasingly hate in this series: Forced emotional manipulation. And it does it twice in the span of four pages. The Promised Neverland has a penchant for reversals. It’s quite common in shonen manga, but the thriller genre’s version: making us think our characters are gravitating towards despair but then turning out to be actually on top of things is more common with manga like Death Note.
It’s a tricky thing to pull off, and something that should never be overused and yet Promised Neverland does the most lame, try-hard, painfully obvious manipulation two times in a row here.
First is when Ray and Emma have just heard all the history. We think they’re wallowing in despair but turn the page and they’re jumping for joy over the fact that, while it is the worst case scenario, that means they can escape the world of demons to the world of humans. It’s a pointless about face and reeks of lazy manipulation for the reader.
When recounting the history Sonju makes it clear there’s the Demon ‘world’ and the human ‘world.’ Most anyone could figure out the next step is to travel from the Demon world, escape it, and reach the human world for safety. To try and bate us into this “oh no they’re despairing again, wait they’re not’ is lazy and offensive writing that treats the audience like fools. We all know it’s going there, we all know as soon as the human world is mentioned they’ll try to escape to it, there’s no need to try and pull the wool over our eyes.
What’s perhaps even more offensive is the second twist immediately following it, where Sonju reveals that you can’t cross over to the human world as the path is blocked. Again Emma and Ray despair before turning the page and pronouncing that they’ll be fine. It’s lazy and doubly offensive because we literally just did the exact same fake out.
Thriller manga like this need to feel clever, but there is a point when they become insulting to a reader’s intelligence, when they pretend they know more than the audience does. In cases like this Promised Neverland becomes real grating to read because it underestimates the reader and assumes they’re too stupid to piece things together. We know they’ll cross to the human world if they can and we know nothing will stop them, it doesn’t need to try and fake us out of that.
Irritation with the last chapter aside, Chapter 048 does the other thing that’s been getting on my nerves with this manga: Repetition of Conviction. After briefly watching the demons attempt to find Ray (and it seems they’ve made no progress as they’re still all the way back where he carved a note into the tree) we snap back to the gang as they get ready to head out. There’s a lot of discussing the developments, the changes to the scenario, but what really irks me is the need to reestablish Emma and Co’s commitment to escape.
This happens way too often and is bound to be a more obvious problem once/if Promised Neverland gets an anime adaptation. Reestablishing conviction seems to happen once every 3-4 chapters. We don’t need it. We just don’t. It wastes page time, it bogs down the story, and it just retreads what we already know about the kids: They won’t give up. And that perseverance is great, but it doesn’t need more than a short line, or two if even that.
Outside of that this chapter addresses Emma and Ray’s reckless endangerment of themselves, and teases the Wingdings-esque name bad guy/s again. I’ve seen some speculation as to what the word really stands for. A lot of people seem convinced it means Humans and that the humans they’re desperately seeking to escape to are actually the bad guys. If I thought The Promised Neverland was a more clever manga I might shoot that idea down, but it seems to fit with what we know and could explain why super smart children, like Ray, Emma and Norman are so sought after. The demons have to produce and hand over the smartest of children to the humans as a type of appeasement or something.
After Chapter 047, and the way it treats the reader, I don’t have a lot of confidence that all the clues to the true identity of Wingdings villain aren’t in fact here and in plain sight. I’d love to be wrong though as The Promised Neverland was a favorite of mine until recently, but certain developments, missteps, and choices here are really starting to sour me.