The Promised Neverland 096-098 – 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:

Closure and set up. That’s really all we get in Chapters 96-98. There’s not too much to talk about this time. Emma and Co. make it back safely to the underground bunker with not a single casualty. There’s some strong drama when the Geezer, or Yugo as we finally learn his name, returns with a wounded Emma and the farm gang is frantic with fear that Yugo did this to her. But that drama doesn’t last long, and we rush through the remainder of the wrap up for the arc, incorporating all the new kids into the merry band and zooming on through Emma’s recovery. In fact it’s the very next chapter when we begin set up for what’s likely to make up the entire back half of this series.

I continue to wish we hadn’t met our ultimate villains just yet. The introduction Andrew receives in Chapter 98 would’ve served well to sell him so much better, particularly the flashback showcasing the execution of the traitorous humans who’d secretly been working with his brother, Minerva, to save the children. As it stands we’ve already had several direct sequences focused on Andrew, and everything prior to Chapter 98 just isn’t as effective an introduction. He’s menacing here, previously he felt like little more than a plot point to me.

As the series works to set up the sequence of events to unfold, what the Children need to do, who they need to find, all for freeing their fellow children from the suffering of demon farms, a couple little quibbles stick out.

First I simply have to wonder how the anime will handle the unpronounceable name that’s been uttered throughout the series. Will it simply ‘bleep’ it out with a sudden, deafening silence, will we hear some incredible strange language? It’s one aspect of the series that I’m not sure will translate all that well to anime, without feeling a bit silly.

The other thing that bothers me is the manga’s forced nature of keeping information from the audience. It did this throughout the journey with the Old Geezer, keeping his name hidden as some kind of victory reward for Emma’s ultimate success during the Goldie Pond arc. But the manga had to really stretch believability as character’s danced around his name. The conversation here, where they discuss a ‘second promise’ Minerva’s documents mention, is no different. It’s incredibly obvious that an important point is being kept hidden, and in some ways that really feels like lazy writing, incapable of weaving it into the story in such a way that even with that information we couldn’t guess the twist.

During all this set up however we do get some very creepy imagery, with our new villain, Minerva’s evil brother Andrew, watching over a series of tanks filled with children’s corpses. The art kinda makes it look like all the children are the same, but is ambiguous enough that I’m not entirely convinced cloning was meant to be the big take away.

Chapter 98 focuses on two things: One showcasing our new, primary villains, Andrew and Peter, while also visualizing the Children’s efforts to get in contact with the remaining supporters who could be of aid to them. Andrew and Peter get a great introduction, save for the fact that neither actually gets to do anything. Andrew gets the flashback, which has strong imagery and sells him as a truly villainous adversary. Peter is depicted with menacing art, but ultimately his introduction amounts to more than discovering a false bunker with no children, and merely being told to hunt the kids down, as if that’s not what he was already doing. The chapter also kinda needlessly jumps around between just a few weeks prior, and the present, making for a needlessly complex chapter.

The direction the series lays out for itself is strong though, and clearly showcases the author’s desire to send as catapulting in the direction of the series’ conclusion, without anymore side arcs or delays. It’s not to say the series is rushing, but it doesn’t feel like the ultimate narrative is being put on the back burner in favor of smaller, less directly relevant arcs. It’s perhaps a tad disappointing that there isn’t a greater world to explore, but I’d rather the series play to its strengths, the overarching plot, than try and flesh out a world not really designed for greater exploration. And I think the truth is that Neverland really doesn’t have that kind of wider depth. The story is centered around this depressing existence of humans bred as food. If the story can stick to its guns and focus on that, and Emma’s efforts to unravel the farm system, I think Neverland will be all the stronger for it, even if the villains remain a bit weak.

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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