The Promised Neverland 055-059 – 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.

Review:

I’ve been pretty hard on The Promised Neverland in my last few reviews. I’ve taken issue with the lack of consequences, the defanging of villains, and more that hinders the series from making me feel the children are actually in any real danger. I don’t particularly like beating a dead horse, so it’s great that these chapters pretty much avoid any of that criticism thanks to their more prep-focused narrative for sending Emma and Ray into the heart of danger as they search for Mr. Minerva. I’m sure my issues will crop up again, but for now I can safely put them aside and talk about other things (mostly anyway.)

Chapter 55 primarily focuses on allowing our heroes a break from the harsh world they’ve been traveling through and an air of comfort. It’s a nice moment, one I however think undermined by how recently everyone took a break with our two friendly demon characters from the last few sets of chapters. While they weren’t living it up in the lap of luxury, they were generally safe from threats, so it feels a little too soon for me to spend yet another chapter relaxing and decompressing.

What the hell you clanging for!? Can’t you see some of them are trying to sleep already!?

Thankfully it’s just one chapter though, and we’re back onto discussing how the group will move forward with Chapter 56. We get a little world building, learning a bit more about the farms, some speculation about how to get to the human world, and a need to find Mr. Minerva thanks to a letter long left behind, urging the children to come find him at yet another set of coordinates. The poachers briefly get brought up again, primarily as a reason to leave many of the children behind on this journey. Personally I’m glad we’re parring down the group. While I never found it believable a large pack of kids like this could really make it through the wilderness unscathed, I’m thankful my imagination isn’t going to be tested so hard again. In fact, it sort of retroactively makes the last arc easier to swallow, as we won’t be time and again suggesting the group can survive the harsh realities of this world.

As the old escapee comes to confront Emma and the rest for tying him up and taking over his shelter, Emma suggests they make a deal. Emma wants him as her and Ray’s guide to the outside world, and Chapter 57 focuses on trying to convince him to side with them. I don’t have a problem with the concept of using this character as a guide, but I do find issue with the execution. We saw this guy literally suffer a mental breakdown, before collapsing unconscious. You’d think such mental instability would give Emma and Ray greater pause for dealing with him, but these chapters make no mention of that incident, or suggest that something like that could happen again. It feels very odd to me no one seems concerned that this guy could lose it when things get tough. Instead it’s just accepted and even ret-conned that he’s little more than an unfeeling bad ass rather than someone deeply traumatized by events from his past.

The cookies really are the greatest injustice.

And it’s not as if the series forgot that, I mean, it’s brought up later with Emma asking him what the poachers are, and what happened to the man’s friends, but there’s no acknowledgement that it scarred him horribly. Outside of that Emma manages to talk the ‘old geezer’ as they call him, into helping them out, although it really comes down to Ray threatening to blow up the shelter more than anything else.

Chapter 58 works at exploring/establishing the new dynamic between the ‘old geezer’ and the children. For all the build up of how strong and dangerous he is, there’s real effort here to make it clear that the kids aren’t really in any true danger with this guy, that he’s sort of a Tsundere: He’s all bark and no bite.

Later in the chapter the classic shonen theme of ‘perseverance against adversity’ rears its head as Emma has a talk with the ‘old geezer’ hoping to get more information out of him. We get very heavy handed with how the ‘old geezer’ hates Emma and the rest for being such a cheery, loving group, mostly because he lost his own family. It’s clear the manga is setting up the idea that Emma will be forced to try and remain true to her ideals in the face of adversity. The issue I take with this is most shonen don’t actually provide much adversity to its heroes for a message like this. It’s easy to say you’ll hold to your ideals, and save your entire family, when the threat to it is so lukewarm. I’d find it much more compelling a confrontation if it felt like Emma might actually lose people and have to try and remain true to her ideals despite failure. Failure is what actually tests a person’s resolve, rather than merely confronting possibility. But I’ve harped on this before and that’s enough of that for today.

What is this? A network game show?

Pulling back from that there’s a very surprising twist as the ‘old geezer’ introduces the kids to a secret arms storage hidden beneath the living space of the bunker. I’d seen a lot of speculation for how this story might go: Super powers? Chi? Battle Manga tropes, etc. Instead we’re treated to the tease of guns, guns, and more guns, kind of implying a more real world ‘power level’ for our characters and shunting away the idea that Emma and the rest will develop any kind of supernatural abilities in their fight for survival. Personally I like this development and while I’m not a gun obsessive, I think it’s an interesting direction we don’t normally get in these kinds of manga.

The final chapter we’re discussing today is Chapter 059, and I think my favorite chapter of the bunch. The chapter initially pushes the idea that bows and arrows are better due to less weight and ‘unlimited’ ammo, but they ultimately end up taking some form of traditional firearm. There’s a tease that there’s something special about this gun, but the art and dialogue don’t make it clear exactly what, likely a reveal for the first time they fire it.

Harsh but fair.

After some discussion about best courses of action, we’re on to heartfelt goodbyes and the chapter ends before our trio actually venture out. Overall these chapters are okay, not great in my opinion, but decent enough. The biggest hang up I have is how the chapter title pages remind us, like with Chapter 059, that the ‘old geezer’ (God I wish they gave him a name) is traumatized by his past, but no one seems to acknowledge that in the actual pages. It feels so weird for a manga that’s so methodical, much like Death Note, for none of the characters to address that again after he mentally collapses right in front of them.

Otherwise I’m excited to see what new threats and perils this next arc will bring. While I’m never actively afraid for our heroes anymore, I am still curious to learn about The Promised Neverland’s world, which I think remains an overall compelling component.

Let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland’s latest chapters in the comments below!

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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