The Promised Neverland 139-145 – 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.

Now, years later, Emma, Ray, and the rest of the children work to free the other children from the farms and escape the world of the demons. But Emma can’t stand the idea of bloodshed and sets about trying to stop a war between man and demon.

Review:

We inch ever closer to The Promised Neverland’s conclusion with Chapters 139-145 acting as the prep for what appears to be the series’ ultimate climatic battle coming in 146. Chapter 139 stands out as one of Neverland’s better, late game, chapters. We get a brief backstory for Ayshe that puts her character in a new light, and sets her as a surprise ally for Don and Gilda. Normally this would bug me, taking away a threat, but it turns out that Don and Gilda have assumed the allegiance of another of Norman’s lackeys, without realizing he’s the mole sent with them to ensure that Sonju and Mujika both die. It’s double crosses and surprise twist reveals that made Neverland so interesting at the start and it’s wonderful to see it touch on those elements again as we inch so close to its conclusion.

However that spike in quality doesn’t last long. Chapter 140 sees us touch upon demon politics and intrigue, something that continues to feel last minute and so under utilized. These high nobility characters have only just joined the story, and it feels like there could’ve been a lot more here than what we’re getting. As it stands you could maybe even reduce these characters down to just two or three, since their inclusion in the story seems so last minute and solely for the purpose of giving the demon leadership an actual face before the two sides collide in battle.

We don’t stick with the demons long before we’re back on Emma and Ray. they finally reach the lair of the god-like creature they’ve been searching for. Unfortunately Ray doesn’t possess the open-mindedness to truly meet it, and is kicked out of the realm. Emma meets the creature and after a little banter we begin a two part flashback to the original deal struck that made the world Emma and Co. have suffered through.

This two part flashback is probably longer than it needs to be and very melodramatic, seeing the Ratri clan’s ancestor go pure villain and turn on his would-be friends all to bring an end to the war for his, apparently, weighty sense of altruism and personal desire. I don’t know that anyone would sacrifice their immediate friends and allies if they could sacrifice nobodies in their stead, but Neverland seems eager for Ratri to stand as this counter to the “friendship is everything” narrative than runs through most Shonen. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense, but it’s not the worst idea the series has presented.

Anyway the more important point is what Ratri and the Demon’s leader are forced to offer as rewards to the god-like entity in order to have their wish granted. The Demons, wanting to breed humans for consumption, are forced to give up the best of their food as an offering. Ratri, who through inner monologue we learn only cares about himself, is forced to dedicate his life to overseeing the humans forced into the demon’s inhumane breeding and food production. It’s these sacrifices that give us an idea of what Emma is being asked to give up when she makes her promise.

Emma subsequently makes her deal with the god-like entity, and it of course asks her for a reward in return. We don’t know what yet, but Emma’s pale, shocked face is an indication that it’s far more weighty than she’d intended. This is where Neverland seems to be going for one of two endings. Our 1st option is the most straight-forward: Emma really is taken-a-back by the creature’s request. Likely it told her she’ll have to remain behind in order to ensure that all the other children go to the human world. Emma has to give up her own happiness to ensure everyone else gets there’s. So that would be a bitter-sweet ending. The other option is that Emma was able to turn the tables on the god-like entity, and finagled her way out of any kind of ‘reward’ allowing for a totally happy ending. I don’t put it past Neverland to avoid consequences, seeing as how often the children escape so many dangers totally unharmed. Likely we’ll find out before year’s end.

[Also, as an aside, I don’t know that I understand how this wish stuff works. The flashback seems to indicate the wish required both the Demon’s clan’s and the Human’s Leaders to agree to it, but in the present Emma makes the new deal herself. If that’s the case why didn’t either the Human’s or Demon’s leaders approach the God-like entity of their own accord? Why doesn’t Emma need, like, Mujika or someone for the deal?]

Chapters 143-145 shift attention to prepping us for Norman’s big battle, likely the climax of the series. Norman is teased to be dying like all the other lambda experiment kids, but I’m dubious he’ll bite the dust. Meanwhile Don and Gilda manage to find Sonju and Mujika, but Norman’s assassin group pounces. Sonju is a bad ass though and it looks like it won’t be easy for either side: or will it!? Conveniently all the assassin lambda kids have their seizures at exactly the same time. They collapse, desperate for their medication. This forces them to surrender and allows Mujika to reveal just how amazingly kind and wonderful she is. Suddenly the conflict is over, and this plot line is done. It may be unexpected, but it’s also a total deflation of tension and conflict, making for a laughably convenient ending.

It’s deflation like that that keeps me from feeling like Neverland has anything interesting left to say. It’s message is clear: Friendship and perseverance outperform anything else, but constantly ‘cheats’ by deflating and undervaluing so many obstacles in our characters way that Neverland is but a feel good story. For all its dark imagery and edgy content, Neverland is no more harrowing than any other easy-going, the heroes always win Shonen. And that’s a disappointment because Neverland seemed like a darker than usual Shonen, prepared to really pit our characters against danger and let us wonder if they could possibly come out whole. As we enter the climax it becomes clear Neverland was more bluster and smoke than anything else.

My guess is that with the climax we’ll see Norman’s forces and the demons collide. Emma and Co. will arrive in time, with Mujika joining them, to prevent all out war. Emma will get her wish granted, allowing the humans to leave to their world and the demons will have Mujika to free them of their dependency on human flesh (The demon hierarchy might end up dying just because they’re the ones perpetuating the system) Emma will then be forced to give up her happiness, or perhaps she’ll sneak her way out of it. I highly doubt anyone will die, well, anyone we’re familiar with anyway, save maybe Norman, though even him I suspect will get a pass. Despite how harrowing this journey began, I suspect we’ll have a near universally happy ending. I guess we’ll find out in just a few more chapters.

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.

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