The Promised Neverland 076-078 – 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.

On a quest to find Mr. Minerva, Emma and Ray guide the others to an underground bunker, where they meet a broken man, another escapee of the farms, suffering a dark past. Together, Emma, Ray and this new ally make for Goldie Pond, where they hope to learn the truth of Mr. Minerva, but instead find only more horror as their destination turns out to be hunting grounds where children are slaughtered for fun.

Review:

Getting one more Neverland review out of the way before the Winter season concludes and the Spring season begins, I have to say I’m dying for this arc to conclude. At times the series makes solid steps towards building real threats to torment Emma and these new, underdeveloped characters. Other times it feels like we’ve got a bunch of B-villains just waiting for their inevitable slaughter.

From Left to Right: Scooby-Doo Villain, The Duped Twins, Lord Pompous, and “Please don’t turn out to be a chump after your awesome introduction” Duke Leuvis.

These chapters open with some great build up, as the demons catch Emma and Co. off guard, launching their hunt early. However we aren’t given more than a couple pages before Emma and Co. recover from this set back, and easily change from panic stricken to confident and prepared. Already a weak arc due to how unfamiliar and under explored any of these new children are, this further dulls the proceedings and has me eager for a conclusion if these demons don’t have a prayer of actually killing anyone.

The trouble doesn’t end with the shift from panic stricken to prepared, as the children are aware of not only the demon’s weak spot (who would’ve thought shooting someone in the face would be extremely detrimental to their health?) but the integrity of the various demon’s masks. Unless I’m blanking out I don’t recall earlier set up letting us know that some demons have relatively weak masks compared to others. Also, the kids somehow know who has the strongest masks and who doesn’t, making it easy for them to pick off a pack of demons like it’s nothing.

To be fair, and this is where I give the manga some credit, the children dismantle the body guards and then kill the weakest of their tormentors, our Scooby-Doo ‘you meddling kids’ level villain. He was destined to go out like a chump, although perhaps more clever writing would’ve caught us off guard by gradually crafting him as the most cunning and dangerous, pulling the wool over our eyes. That didn’t happen, and what we got was serviceable all the same.

Shonen has turned me into that sick bastard who is always rooting for the villain (since they never win.) Though, I did really love Cobra Commander as a kid….

One would hope that his easy and quick death sets us into a false sense of security, allowing the much more, supposedly, dangerous demons a chance to get the jump on our heroes and enact a little slaughter. But seeing as how frequently the demons turn out to be entirely ineffectual, I can’t help but suspect this match up might end with a 0 – 4 score in favor of Emma and her plucky band of kids.

Overall I think these chapters are weak, destined to be so if you’re someone like and me and you’re not feeling any connection at all to these new characters. I liked Duke Leuvis’ earlier introduction, nabbing one of the first kid kills in a while. Sadly I don’t have a lot of hope that he’ll live up to that swift and awesome execution. I’d love to be proven wrong, but right now I have my sights set on the next arc, hoping our mangaka will take lessons learned here and apply them towards the future.

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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