The Promised Neverland 114-117 – 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 114-117 are yet another mixed bag. There are times when the series produces some really great content, but that’s sandwiched between other developments that lack impact, with the obstacles for our characters feeling under defined, or quite easily overcome.

114 is slow, focused on the grueling journey Emma and Co. are forced to make in order to join up with the legendary Mr. Minerva. Trouble is the hardship they face feels glossed over, if not easily over come. We don’t see the kids really struggling with the stress of the journey. There’s some talk of the struggle to find edible food, but these moments are fleeting and overcome with relative ease. I don’t think it’d be wise to spend a large number of chapters on this journey, but if we’re going to sell this as a grueling trip we need more content then this. The most interesting part of the chapter is the tease; as Emma and Co. stumble on new human characters surrounded by wild demons.

Sadly, Chapter 115 ends up botching what could be a great action moment. Emma and Co. kill the surrounding demons in one shot each. This is the problem with villains that suffer a singular weak point. Rather than treating it as difficult to always pull off a one shot kill, our demons are now often dispatched in an instant. It’s a shame, because with just a few extra panels/pages, this could’ve felt far more tense and impactful. At this point wild demons are basically our generic, red-shirt baddie.

However, things start getting good again as the journey is halted by one of the injured children taking a hard turn for the worse. Instead of rushing on to meet Minerva thanks to these two new characters, Jin and Hayato, we’re forced to take a detour in order to save Chris’ life. Chapter 116 does suffer some tonal oddities, a bunch of light-hearted comedy despite a character’s life being on the line, but otherwise I like this new obstacle.

As Emma and a smaller group rushes off to find the medicine needed to save Chris’ life, we really see just how plot focused The Promised Neverland has become. We really should be getting to know these two new characters, exploring them, raising interesting ideas, etc. Instead we get a couple quick shots of the journey and we’re at their destination. It’s a shame, because it feels like it hasn’t been since Yugo’s story that we’ve really delved into new characters.

Neverland then flits between making this mass production farm’s security set up a joke to avoid, and actually delivering some real harrowing content. It turns out the demons have buffed security, adding in more patrols. In fact, I’d say most of Chapter 117 is really good as Ray and Hayato are forced to distract the demons while Emma and Anna find the medicine. It’s right as Emma is about to be devoured that we see Neverland really is intent on becoming a bit more of a typical shonen title. One of the super human characters introduced in 113 pops up here, slaughtering the demons in a classic display of shonen battle prowess. It feels a shame, as Neverland has been, mostly, a comparatively grounded shonen focused on mystery and ‘realistic’ action, even against such a supernatural threat as demons. It does make me wonder how long before our lead characters are slaughtering demons with the same, over the top flair?

I will say there’s a lot of teasing that these super human characters might have a darker nature; perhaps they’re human/demon hybrids? Or heavily experimented on humans? My hope at this point is that we keep characters like these on the down low, rather than allow this style to become the norm. What remains great about Neverland is its more grounded approach to combating demons, even if our characters benefit from super-human marksmanship. If the series really is drifting into more typical shonen fair, I think it loses a large part of its appeal.

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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