The Promised Neverland 160-164 – 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.
Neverland improves from last time, sending us into a final battle with the series true final villain: Mankind or, more specifically, Peter Ratri: Head of the Ratri Clan and overseer of the Farm system. What we see over these chapters is a marked improvement in quality. The series is still rushing headlong towards its conclusion, but things actually feel dire for once, Like Ratri is truly a formidable final foe, despite his minimal presence up till now. This leads me to believe that our authors have always intended these events to be the conclusion to the series, especially with these chapters showing a bit more forethought put into events. That said, the series is still rushing, and it keeps these chapters from feeling incredible like they could have. Let’s Jump in!
160 begins the reintroduction of Peter Ratri, repositioning him from merely a pawn of the Queen’s to a much deadlier foe. The problem I have with Ratri as a character is that he’s really only featured very little up till now. He was the major boss behind the attack on Emma and Co. at the bunker, prior to the time skip, but otherwise he, himself, has featured so sparingly he hardly feels like a major component to the story. It’s here again I can’t help but wish we’d toyed with some of the demon politics and seen more of our bad guys leading up to this final arc. The authors could have even pulled the wool over our eyes, fooling us into thinking Ratri was killed for his failings, only for him to reappear as this gambling final villain that seizes opportunity. Instead we get a lengthy flashback that mostly serves as justifying exposition for why Ratri is even in any position to try and stake claim to the Demon society. It’s necessary, but a tad clumsy.
But once Ratri is reintroduced he proves effective and seems dangerous enough at least. He kidnaps all our extra characters, (you know, the ones we only kinda know and care about?) taking them away in the blink of an eye. Not only that but he destroys Sonju and Mujika’s attempts to install a new king by controlling the narrative to the Queen’s death, and quickly slaughters all the demons they saved. (Why he doesn’t kill Sonju and Mujika right away I don’t know, outside of, you know, story convenience. Otherwise he’s doing a bang up job as the surprise final villain.)
The series also does a surprise reveal that helps the story thematically come full circle, even if it doesn’t make total sense logically. Ratri takes the children to the nearest farm, which conveniently happens to be Gracefield, where of course the whole story began. Not only that, but it turns out Mother, long thought to have been killed for her failures, is alive and well, acting as the new Grandmother to the entire Farm system. It’s a great development thematically, but truly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Isabelle failed last time we saw her, allowing the best of the crop to go free, and right now there’s no justifiable reason to keep her around, let alone promote her, without our demons being absolute morons (To be fair though, they haven’t exactly proven all that competent against these children thus far.) This problem is one the series can overcome though, assuming we can get a flashback exposition sequence that justifies why she’d be alive. It’s the same kind of thing for why Ratri is alive, because even he suffers from “They really shoulda killed him for this.” With Isabelle I can think of a few explanations, and as long as we see a flashback that helps us visualize how this makes sense, it doesn’t totally matter if it actually does. It’s like characters surviving a horrid plane crash that killed everyone else. If we see how they did it, we can believe it, even if it’d be improbable. Just telling us would be a cope out.
Overall though I think Neverland is headed in a better direction than where we were during the fight to defeat the Queen. We’re still rushing, and if we run through this too fast, even our final villains, who at least feel semi-threatening, will gradually become watered down into disappointing messes, much like the Queen. Here’s hoping there’s a solid explanation for Isabelle’s survival, Ratri doing more evil, and succeeding, before Emma and Co. save the day. As someone who loved the first arc, I’d still like the series to go out on more of a bang, rather than a whimper, no matter how hard I’ve been on it this whole time.
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.