The Promised Neverland 092-095 – 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:

And so the Goldie Pond Arc comes to a close, more or less. As our heroes deal with the aftermath and various lives hang in the balance (I mean, they don’t really, but anyway) the overall threat has been dealt with. Generally speaking this is easily my least liked arc of the manga. It’s the arc that’s made me most disappointed with the series ever since Emma and Co. escaped the farm (though, to be fair, we’ve had… maybe two other arcs? If you stretch definition anyway.) That said, there are good things in these final chapters, bad things, and things I’ve harped on for ages now. Let’s start with the good, drop to the bad and try to end positively.

First and foremost is the fight with Leuvis. It’s nice to see him put up a two chapter final fight against all the kids, Adam, and the like. He holds his own generally quite well, save for how he’s ultimately done in. While Adam and his super strength turn the tables on Leuvis, it’s great to see him then use Adam’s low IQ against them, turning Adam into a disadvantage by running near the others so Adam hurls buildings and structure their way. Leuvis also hearing the pin pull on the flash grenade, and out maneuvering it, plus getting to run Emma through, are all great moments, lending to the idea that Leuvis really is terrifying. I wish there was more of that. I wish we’d seen so much more of Leuvis taking it to the kids in spite of compounding disadvantages. Sadly that doesn’t happen, but what we did get probably made for my favorite chapter in this arc.

Chapter 93 then focuses on Emma rebuilding her will to fight as she bleeds out. Emma of course won’t die, and I never expected otherwise, so I’m actually fine with her finding the strength to stand again and ultimately defeat Leuvis. I do think this segment is damaged by our prior knowledge that Norman is, indeed, still alive. It would be so much more powerful if we also believed, like Emma, that Norman was still dead and buried. We’d be right along side there with Emma’s mindset, that Norman, perhaps as a spirit, is helping her to rise up one more time. It could also just be Emma’s memories of him, but that lack of knowing Norman is actually okay could’ve made the scene truly powerful and a real emotional tug.

The pistol Emma uses to defeat Leuvis isn’t hidden well enough. When Emma finds the pistol back in the bunker you know this McGuffin is going to serve a truly singular, important purpose. And anyone really thinking about the story might’ve pieced that together quite quickly. I wish it had been hidden better, like Emma took it along in a hurry, grabbing it up with other weapons, maybe almost tossing it out at a point. It’s a minor quibble, and falls below my other issue, with Leuvis ultimately being done in by yet a third flash bomb. It feels tired at this point, once used to blind him, once used ineffectually because he caught on, and then again to defeat him in a small twist of ‘surprise.’ For a manga that was so clever early on, the repetition of ideas is disheartening.

From there things shift gears as the focus turns to saving Emma and all the other wounded. The manga briefly teases the idea of leaving certain people behind, too wounded to travel and survive. But, as The Promised Neverland ascribes to the idea of “everybody lives and nothing bad will ever happen again” as many shonen do, we dismiss this possibility and go for the total victory outcome, so much so that Goldie Pond conveniently has a self-destruction option, forgoing any need to fight the remaining demons in the overlooking mansion. In some ways I don’t even understand why we brought up the idea of having servant demons left to fight. If we can just blow up Goldie Pond, and possibly them along with it, what was the point of even mentioning them as a possible threat?

Ultimately, despite a few solid improvements during the battle with Leuvis, Goldie Pond arc ends on a whimper for me. While Emma and a few others are terribly wounded, I don’t get the sense anyone is in true danger of dying. I will say however I don’t have a strong idea about where the story is headed now, and that’s good. I look forward to the manga pulling a few surprises on me and giving me a story that catches me off guard. I don’t have any expectations that any character here is in true danger of dying, and the manga’s villains are thoroughly defanged, but I still hold out hope that maybe the grander story’s twists and turns might boost my interest, particularly if the manga can reveal there’s more to meet the eye than has already been revealed.

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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