The Promised Neverland 122-126 – 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.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written a near wholly positive review for this series. The last time might have been way back as the first arc was concluding. But here we are, almost 90 chapters later, and I finally feel like we’ve had a really good string of content that hearkens back to what made the series so great in the first place. While I don’t particularly enjoy the altruistic heroism exemplified by Emma and often present in modern shonen, it’s the only one of two issues I take with anything that happens between Chapters 122 and 126.
Much like was hinted at in 121, Emma has real misgivings about wiping out the demons, even if that would save all the children. She still believes in a future where everyone can coexist. Ray drags this out of her over chapters 122 and 123 in a conversation that feels very thorough, much as most conversations did in the very first arc. There’s a lot of discussing Emma’s desires and lack of a plan from multiple angles, discussing what needs to happen next and what needs to be overcome in order to achieve her dream. We also name drop Mujika and Sonju, two characters that haven’t been seen since their introduction approximately 80 chapters ago. They’re highlighted as the only example of demons who don’t need to eat humans in order to maintain their level of intelligence (although I do find it weird that both Emma and Ray continue to take those two at their word after what they’ve recently learned.) It’s little things like this, and the style of this current arc, that make me wonder if this part of the story was in mind from the get go. That when first developing Neverland our authors had the first arc, and what’s to come most thought out, with the shenanigans over the last 90 chapters created more ‘on the fly.’ It would certainly make sense what with the shift in tone between Grace Field and everything up to now. The series moved from a thriller to something far more action oriented.
Chapter 124 shifts into comic relief as we get to know Norman’s subordinates, the super powered humans, whom Emma and Ray run into when looking for Norman. Besides offering some light-hearted fun (I don’t know that we really needed it since the series hasn’t been all that dark of late), this chapter is also used to hammer home that Norman has changed significantly from when Emma and Ray last saw him, painting him as a near entirely different character, which culminates with the chapter’s excellent surprise reveal: Norman making a deal with demons.
This builds into chapter 125, where Norman aligns himself with a demon clan who was cheated out of influence by the other major clans near 700 years ago. It’s this scheming and plotting showcased here that’s been missing from the series. There’s a lot of tension as Norman allies himself with the demons, and is later revealed to be using them with full intention of backstabing them when the time comes. This is where my second issue arises. The chapter largely deals with demon politics, revealing that demon society is quite complex. I wish this had been explored earlier in the series, as it would save us from the info dump in Chapter 126. If this is where the series had always been going, it would’ve been nice if any of the arcs in between had actually worked to better explain demon society, the clans, all of that stuff, rather than dumping it on audiences when it finally becomes necessary information. We could’ve had an arc where the kids needed to sneak through a demon settlement, or rescue other kids from a demon’s street market. We saw a little of this just a few chapters ago when Emma and Co. snuck through a demon city, but a more meaty arc that also in-cooperated more details, perhaps even showcasing the less awful side of demon culture, would even help in Emma’s argument about wanting to coexist with demons.
Chapter 126 caps things off with a surprise twist with Norman revealing that he knows about how certain demons don’t need to eat humans in order to maintain their intelligence, and even knows who Mujika is too, referring to her by a completely different name: “The Evil-Blooded Girl.” As someone frustrated with everything after the Grace Field Farm arc, these chapters renew my interest in the series. Seeing the characters properly scheming, working with demons, learning about demon society, etc. all makes for a more interesting series than what we’ve had recently. It contains real world building, something the series has felt thin on up till now. It feels deeper, more relevant, and much more focused on our leads rather than expanding the cast with characters who ultimately end up sidelined. I don’t know that I have confidence that Neverland will remain this way, as the introduction of super-powered characters still hints at a hard shift towards more action-oriented content, but I definitely find myself more engrossed in the story now that Norman’s back in, with a plan that sits wholly at odds with Emma’s ideals.
Let me know your thoughts on The Promised Neverland’s latest chapters in the comments below!