The Promised Neverland 079-083 – 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:

Catching up with Promised Neverland’s latest chapters, I continue to feel like this arc is hamstrung by poor characterization and underdone narrative choices. Assuming these complaints were to be addressed, this might’ve been my favorite arc in the series. At it stands for right now, it’s my most disliked by a country mile.

For starters, these demons seem near as ineffectual as ever. While the two Jet Black Demons Nous and Nouma put up a fight against the kids, one is killed exactly as planned. The other turns the tables, which is great, but we cut away just before they kill any of the kids, leading me to believe by the time we return to this section of the story we’ll learn that the kids succeeded and not one life was lost. It’s what typically happens with sudden cut aways before anything concludes. It’s a way to build tension by keeping the audience in suspense, but if you used too frequently, and after a stories’ lost the ability to fool the audience into fearing for its heroes, it becomes a lame, ineffectual, duck.

Have you never read this manga before?

There’s some good twists mixed in, with Nous eating their fallen lover and going berserk, but Neverland’s track record seemingly indicates that it’s all dressing and the children are very likely going to make it out alive with few scratches. Sure we killed a kid earlier, a nobody we barely knew, but with 70+ chapters under our belts only two kids have ever died in this supposedly deadly world where demons roam. It continues to feel hollow.

Eventually our main baddie for this arc, Archduke Lewis, confronts Emma, in what feels like one of the true tense moments, seeing as he’s the only demon amongst this group that has proven effectual in his efforts to hunt the children. We learn that there’s a bit of beef between him and Lucas, forming the foundation for Lucas’ modern efforts to break this cycle of hunting and put an end to the horrors at Goldie Pond. It’s one of the few times I actually wish we got a multi-chapter flashback detailing what happened. Normally I prefer flashbacks as presented here, quick, to the point, and non-lingering. But maybe it’s my disinterest in the present day, and my yearning for the story of this far deadlier and bloodier past Lucas and hewhohasn’tbeennamedforwhatreasonIdonotunderstand went through, that I really wish we spent more time exploring this incident.

Even demons can feel despair.

Skipping ahead we switch over to the attack on Bayon, our spear wielding demon. Apparently Bayon has managed to damage the kid’s plan that was otherwise going so well, and it’s implied he’s perhaps killed a couple kids already (although at least one of the two turns out to have not been killed in just a couple chapters.) The focal character we use for this section is shocked that his highly skilled friend could’ve been killed. This means nothing to the reader, seeing as the most we knew about any of these kids was a name and brief description of their role in the group, assuming they had one. In an effort to bring weight to these supposed character deaths we flashback to explore these underexplored characters. It’s bad. It’s absolutely amateur hour writing and does not work at all. We need to know characters before they seemingly die to make us feel anything, and introducing them in this, after the fact, way is extremely ineffectual. It would be better for Promised Neverland to simply admit the characters are thin and move on. If it kept the story flowing, with fewer pauses, it might be able to gloss over the weak character work.

Things are compounded by a further flashback in order to understand the finer details of the plan. The flow of the battle screeches to a halt as we’re inundated with details that help us to understand just how badly things are going because of Bayon.

It doesn’t take long however for things to turn back around in the favor of the kids. A character we thought was killed, if you bought any of that lengthy “no he can’t be dead, he just can’t!” set up, returns to do battle. In short order the kids have Bayon right where they want him, and while we’ll have to wait till next week to see of they truly took Bayon out or not, it does indeed look like another Demon bites the dust.

Well that got weird quick.

What’s here isn’t always awful, and if we’d had proper set up for the characters of this arc, greater showcasing that these demons do in fact have deadly fangs and could kill our kids with the slightest misstep, then what’s here would be great. But without the necessary foundation to make this fight for survival feel deathly real, these chapters are just completely hollow for me. I don’t believe anyone is in danger and I’ll honestly be surprised if any of these thin characters is actually dead by the end of this fight. I generally feel like it’s the demons who’ll all be acting as compost by battle’s end. I’m almost ready to be done with this series as I don’t actually enjoy writing negative reviews. Part of me is holding on, the part of me that fell in love with Neverland’s very first arc that seemed so dark and threatening compared to other currently running shonen. I’ll probably keep up with Neverland through the end of this arc, crossing my fingers that the next will renew my interest in the series. If not, then I’d rather stop here than come across as a negative Nancy for article after article.

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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