The Promised Neverland 071-075 – 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.
The Promised Neverland’s latest chapters are a bit of a mess. While the series finally tries to provide answers to some of its long-standing mysteries, it does so while dropping a wealth of new questions upon the reader, many more than it chooses to answer, while also making use of some bizarre choices to obfuscate and reveal information, all on top of an arc that feels entirely secondary to everything else. There’s a lot to talk about.
The first couple chapters, 71 and 72, are where we build towards and finally offer up a few much needed answers. Goldy Pond apparently referred to a pseudo pond beneath the hunting grounds, containing an elevator that leads to the human world. Chapter 71 is all about the journey to that elevator, and riddles the playing field with additional, though less central, questions. What’s up with Goldy Pond’s water? Why is there a monitoring room under the hunting grounds? How’s this supposed elevator to the human world work? It’s a lot of little nagging things, one of which is answered in Chapter 72, but it’s a barrage of additional questions before actually handing us any answers, presenting a YMMV element to the series, depending upon how you feel about more questions than answers making it to the table.
72 is where we start to actually get confirmation on things: Mr. Minerva was trying to save the kids and provide them a way to get to the human world. The elevator does indeed take people to the human world, or at least it did. Like was clear when the children reached the bunker, Emma and Co. are coming into this well after Mr. Minerva’s plan has been junked. We learn this happened through betrayal, although the manga again forcibly obfuscates information, for no perceivable reason. Like with the “Old Geezer’s” name continuing to allude even his best friend’s, Lucas, lips, Mr. Minerva only mentions that he was betrayed, but won’t tell us who by name. It’s another odd choice, particularly as this individual is revealed less than a full chapter later. It feels like a mystery for the sake of a mystery, as if the series is afraid people will stop reading without a little tease, even a very tiny one, to keep them coming back next week.
More mysteries are placed on top of these answers, like Minerva’s cryptic suggestion they search for the Seven Walls. The Seven Walls I don’t have a problem with. The Promised Neverland is built on mystery, and if you’re going to do some reveals you do need new, ongoing mysteries to keep the story going. That said, it’s all these little things that seem superfluous to what Neverland is trying to do. Another annoying aspect to Chapter 72, is the revelation that there’s a path to the human world located directly within the very farm Emma and Co. escaped from, making it ultimately super convenient for saving all the other kids they were forced to leave behind. It feels contrived, although I’ll refrain from passing judgment until the manga offers its reasoning for why a path to the human world would be located at each of the major farms.
At this point the best call is to get back to the Hunting Grounds narrative. Instead the manga feels compelled to answer the mystery of Mr. Minerva’s betrayal right away in Chapter 73, before introducing additional questions: like Project Lambda 7214. Overload of ideas aside, it only further draws us away from this Hunting Grounds story, which has gone from one of the arcs I was most curious by, to something that feels entirely like filler designed to drag things out.
Further pulling us away from the immediacy of this latest arc is yet another tease and then immediate reveal in Chapter 74: Adam the muscly mentally challenged kid. Adam apparently repeats a number, and even if you don’t remember where you’ve read the number before, it doesn’t take a genius to realize it likely relates to Norman. Indeed Chapter 74 pulls us back to Norman, who is alive as many suspected, and apparently tied directly to this new Lambda tease. We spend much of Chapter 74 exploring what’s been happening with Norman (although it’s through a flashback so we don’t know what’s happening to him currently.) Why Adam ends up repeating Norman’s number though isn’t really explained. Sure Adam saw the number on Norman’s neck, but there doesn’t seem much great cause for why it became something so important to his simple mind.
My point is this all feels messy. A bunch of good, fun ideas, jumbled together detracting from one another. The Hunting Grounds arc plays second fiddle to this compounding of mysteries, meaning by the time we get back to it in Chapter 75, it’s very much in “who cares” territory. It doesn’t at all help that all of these children are little more than warm bodies for the slaughter, with next to no exploration for familiarity. Because we’ve been away from this for over a month now the series is forced to essentially reintroduce its current villain, Duke Leuvis, who already had a strong introduction before we swerved away from this plot line.
The Promised Neverland writes itself into a bad place. The Hunting Grounds needs character definition, we need to care about all these new kids we’ve spent barely any time with, but at the same time Neverland has been dragging things out with answers and more questions for plot lines far and away from where we are now that it absolutely needs to rush the story, otherwise risk losing readers who are ready for action. It comes as no surprise then when the chapter ends with the demons attacking early and catching all of our characters entirely off-guard.
I’ve been pretty hard on the series, especially in this review. I don’t think what’s here is awful, it’s not, but it does feel rough and jumpy, as if the authors want to present a more complex story, but aren’t entirely sure how to introduce everything naturally. I like the mysteries, but think it would’ve been better to hold some of this stuff, like Adam, the Lambda Project, and Norman’s return, until after we’d finished the Hunting Grounds arc. My hope now is for the series to wrap up this arc quickly, and perhaps stabilize itself on one of the many new plot lines/mysteries. Oh and give the Geezer a name already.
Let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland’s latest chapters in the comments below!