The Promised Neverland 109-113 – 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:

The Promised Neverland continues to be a mess. Not content with the goodbye given to Yugo and Lucas in the last chapter, we retread goodbyes for those characters twice over, while undoing their sacrifice so the evil Andrew gets one chapter to kick ass and make hell for our leads before he dies yet again like a chump. Let’s dive in.

Chapter 109 offers up a pseudo-dream sequence for Emma to say goodbye to Yugo through. It ends with a flashback of Yugo’s life before we witness Yugo, I guess in the afterlife, reuniting with Lucas and all his deceased friends. It’s sappy and hamfisted, but that’s not really my problem. We do this sort of double fake out for Yugo because of it. He clearly died last chapter, but then we tease he’s alive, only to confirm he’s dead. I also don’t think the pseudo-dream sequence adds a lot in other capacities. It sort of ties into the chapter’s attempts to give Emma a crisis of faith, that will be addressed again in Chapter 111, but then resolves that crisis so quickly that what character development we could’ve had is quickly brushed aside.

Yugo’s flashback and the heaven’s reunion would’ve fit in so much nicer in the last chapter. There’s no justification for Yugo’s flashback here. Typically flashbacks feel the most natural when characters undergo something that forces them to remember their pasts. With Yugo dead there’s no way to make any of it feel natural. Instead we could’ve had that woven into the previous chapter, which would’ve made his death extremely powerful, rather than the lukewarm heroism we got. Even the heaven’s reunion would’ve felt more at home capping that chapter off.

The Promised Neverland brings us back to its central mystery, Mr. Minerva. We learn that Lucas got a call from the man, or at least someone purporting to be him, mere moments before the base was attacked. This Mr. Minerva seems more hellbent on fighting the demons himself, rather than leaving the future of humanity up to the children. It’s a good call to refocus on this as I think it’s the last established element Neverland has going for it. Mr. Minerva was a compelling mystery in the first arc, and has remained as such the few times he’s popped up in conversation after. Going back to it, and doubling down, feels like a good call for a manga that’s been so uneven.

Andrew crops up again here, almost as if the writer realized we were lacking credible threats. Andrew gets to really do some damage, killing four more kids for good measure. His half-burnt face adds a level of grotesque that helps to sell the horror, even when our cast of kids is still too big for me to remember who’s who. That’s a big problem right now. There’s just too many children to keep track of. It’d be one thing if most of these kids got page time, fleshed out little narratives, but Promised Neverland has been so economical with its run, rushing the story where it can, that most of who’s killed doesn’t stand out.

Andrew doesn’t stick around long anyway. For as much as he taunts Emma’s for her inability to kill even someone who is a true threat to her family, Emma gets out of it without having to break her own ethics. Instead of being challenged and forced to kill Andrew, Emma’s given an easy out with the other children shooting Andrew to wound him, and a mindless demon thankfully wandering onto the field of battle for a midnight meal. It’s a lame cop out that keeps our characters from actually having to undergo real development.

From there the series refocuses, teasing where we’re going next and what new characters we’ll meet. We meet Mr. Minerva’s (or his imposter’s) posse of fighters. Most of these characters don’t really look like they’re from the same manga, and what little we see of them almost makes me wonder if Neverland is going to try and transition into a more of a battle shonen manga? One positive here is the glimpse we get at the sheer horror the demons put their human cattle through. It’s some really grim and dark art that honestly sits as a highlight in an otherwise lackluster set of chapters. Oh and we say goodbye to Lucas and Yugo yet again as Emma and Co. finally venture off to meet this new Mr. Minerva.

I don’t have a lot of faith that Neverland is ever really going to improve. While the series took a major hit in the Japanese Weekly rankings (And I’m not entirely sure what did it, since the rankings reflect what happened several weeks past, rather than currently.) Promised Neverland seems set on wrapping itself up as quickly as possible. I highly doubt there’s time to change the approach taken to its characters. It’s going full in on the mysteries set forth, and I guess we’ll see if that’s enough to impress the readers.

 

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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