The Promised Neverland 084-088 – 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:

I’m a total ghoul when it comes to this series. While it seems like most fans are just happy to see Emma and Co. kick demon butt, I actively want to not only be connected to these characters, but devastated when some of them just don’t make it back from this battle. Sadly, as I’ve been saying for months now, I continue to feel like Neverland just doesn’t have the fangs I’d like it to have.

Way more kids drowned in this cover than even suffering in the story.

Ultimately I still have a lot of underlying problems with this arc: forced flashbacks trying to instill detail into these underdeveloped Goldie Pond kids, or even better defining our villains at the last possible moment before they’re offed. Characters are seemingly killed for dramatic effect, only to turn out to be merely beaten near death’s door so the manga can both pull at your heartstrings and give you the happy ending at the same time. This compounds into how demons who we’re told are incredible hunters, absolutely skilled at hunting and devouring children, cannot hope to kill a single child the minute Emma arrives and suddenly instills in everyone physical skill and mental intelligence to overcome these adversaries they had no hope of defeating before.

It’s all stuff I’ve talked about and I really don’t feel like dwelling on it at length yet again. Instead let’s, however briefly, focus on the few slices of Neverland I did enjoy, that brought me right back to how I felt when I first started this series and was absolutely enthralled. Namely when Nous goes into a crazed rampage upon the death of his beloved partner, and consumes her. It’s absolutely brutal, and if I was more attached to these characters this moment would have absolutely sucked me into the sheer upsetting harm this demon inflicts upon these poor children. The art is amazing here, and something I really don’t talk enough about with this series. For all the faults I find in the story, the designs for the demons stand out as some of the coolest stuff in Shonen today. They feel unique, frightening and I only wish I felt like those demons were actually as dangerous as they looked.

Yes! Yes! He can feel his taste buds ahahahahaha!

In fact the entire fight between Nous and the kids, and his eventual death at the hands of “No Name” is all solid stuff, with not one real drop of criticism I can offer outside of my complaints on the arc and manga as a whole.

Sadly, it’s only that moment that stands out to me as a truly great one. From there the story refocuses back on Emma and Leuvis, with Emma delivering him a variation on the “do we have to fight, can’t we be friends?” speech so common in Shonen. She avoids ever offering friendship, but the sentiment is the same, and one I feel doesn’t really work with who we’ve seen Leuvis to be. This paints Emma as more naive than I’d understood her character to be. To think he’d even be slightly interested in ending this story in anything but a blood path feels so foolish, so silly, that I can’t help but think a little less of Emma as a character.

Another moment that sticks out as weird, is the surprise one of the Goldie Pond kids has at the sheer number of causalities. Why? You know the demons are deadly, you knew the plan might not go as is, you’ve seen your friends and loved ones killed before, what is so utterly shocking about any of this? If anything these kids should be a tad use to it, maybe upset that it’s happening, but shocked?

Oh no character whom we barely knew!

Finally we seem on the cusp of ending this arc, with Emma and Co. actively going toe to toe with Leuvis, who as it turns out is absurdly strong, able to catch near every bullet they fire at him. It feels perhaps a little too heavy in escalation, particularly as Leuvis seems incapable of living up to this absurd standard set by otherwise unique and flashy art. It’s not even one chapter later that his mask is blasted apart by a quick shot from “No Name.” who saves Emma in a classically generic fashion. For all Leuvis’ talk, for that one kid he did kill, I can’t help but suspect he’s about to go down like a chump, as much, if not more so than his fellow demons who’ve wounded a kid here, put one on death’s door there, but seemingly haven’t actually managed to off anyone. (I could be wrong, I’ll admit that without much attachment to these kids I kinda lose track of whose who, but certainly no one has talked as if anyone’s actually died so far.)

What? Did you really think taking out child-slaughtering demons would be a walk in the park without a single injury?

Supposedly we’re halfway through Neverland’s story, with a clear ending the authors are going for perhaps becoming visible on the horizon. I still want answers, I still want to know the hidden elements here, the hidden twists there, and what that gobbledigook demon scratch is actually referring to. I know I’m hard on the series, and perhaps that’s because that first arc set my expectations high, pulling the wool over my eyes and convincing me this was a darker series than it truly is. I would like to talk more positively about it and thus I have my fingers crossed that once we’re through this arc, I can again find something to thoroughly enjoy within Neverland’s pages again.

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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