The Promised Neverland 099-101 – 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 tests 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 and thwarts their plans. Norman gets shipped out, but not before giving Emma and Ray the means to escape. Emma and Ray manage to escape with many of the children, leaving only the youngest behind.

On a quest to find Mr. Minerva, the one man interested in freeing children from the demons, 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 find only more horror as their destination turns out to be hunting grounds where children are slaughtered for fun. Defeating the demons in charge, and freeing the previously hunted children, Emma and Co. work towards finding a way to free everyone suffering at the hands of the demons and rejoin the rest of humanity.

Review:

These chapters are split into three parts: Teasing of immediate mysteries, reminder of farm life, and gearing the story up for reveals unto this world’s greater mysteries. There’s a lot of ‘trimming the fat’ here, with the series opting to avoid a number of potential points it could flesh out for greater tension, character drama, and more.

Chapter 99 spends most of its pages servicing the mysteries the series is currently working with. The idea of the supporter, finding a way to free the children of the world and this new idea of the Cuvitidala. We even pair down our characters for the next step of the journey, cutting the cast from dozens to five. There’s also some sillyness to be had as characters overreact for comedic effect, though I continue to feel the story isn’t really serviced by doing so.

Perhaps the strongest part of this set is in Chapter 100, where we return to Phil and the other children, learning what transpired after Emma’s escape. Here we get to see that farm life ultimately continues without change and Phil is powerless to prevent the other children, those not in the know, from becoming food for the demons. It’s probably the best chapter in awhile, returning to what made the series open with such a bang. We quickly move away from that however, ending on a tease as Phil is approached by one of our new, human, baddies.

We immediately return to Emma, Ray and their small party as they journey to find the Cuvitidala. Interestingly, outside of a brief montage, we skip the multi-day journey. The manga does almost exactly what it did post Goldie-pond, cutting out lengthy travel time. In some ways this is a good: It gets us to the meat of the story, the mystery. On the other hand there’s a lot of potential drama and characterization passed over. One thing The Promised Neverland drops the ball on is characterization. We know Emma, we know Ray. We spent a lot of time with these two in the first arc. But people like Don, Gilda, and more so any of the Goldie Pond cast feel very two-dimensional. We don’t really know these characters, and should they ever be in danger it’ll feel shallow compared to if we really got to know them so much better.

We could even have drama between the kids, butting-heads and incompatible personalities. Where are the children who want to take it to the demons and wage war? Where are the kids who don’t agree with Emma’s “I’d much prefer a peaceful solution” typical shonen lead bravado? While the series doesn’t seem to have an interest/ability to craft an increasingly complex world with plenty of oddities and sights to behold on their journey, there’s room to flesh out characters, yet we avoid it at every opportunity.

Instead we focus on delving into a more mystic nature, with talk of Dragons, and all-seeing eyes, etc. right down to Emma having an otherwordly vision where she proclaims to have met googly name creature (Though that seems quite an assumption/leap of logic.) It’s not bad, but it does highlight how squarely focused the series is now, solely on this singular plot line.

I believe we learned recently that the series is past the halfway mark, which makes me wonder if the rest is going to be ‘snap of the fingers’ world hopping, as Emma and Co. rush around, periodically pursued by evil humans, as they work to meet googly name creature, and free the other children. It might help to gloss over the series deficiencies, but remains a shame if we can’t get a few other avenues of drama at play.

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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