The Promised Neverland, Vol. 2

By Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu. Released in Japan as “Yakusoku no Neverland” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita.

(As with Vol. 1, and likely going forward, these reviews spoil the volume in question. Because that’s exactly what reviews are for.)

After all the revelations of the last volume, I had expected this one to slow down, and it does a bit, but that does not mean there are not still jaw-dropping moments within. One of the strengths of this series is its ability to pull the rug out from under the reader and make them want to reread everything that’s gone before with the new information in mind. There’s also a wonderful depth of character, something which you do normally see in Jump series, but rarely this early on. A lot of this book comes from Norman’s POV, and shows off how clever he really is, a balance between the cool and logical Ray and the impulsive, naive Emma. In fact, Emma’s naivete is explicitly called out as her weakness. So it’s also wonderful to see that she hasn’t just been saying the most idealistic option without trying to think of ways to make it happen, including the best tag game ever.

Planning a mass breakout of thirty-five or so kids, most of whom are somewhere between four and six years old, is a tough job. Ray is right – it would be so much easier for only a few kids to escape. But Emma is even more right – they can’t escape and leave other innocent kids behind to get killed or eaten or whatever it is that the things outside are doing to them. The tag game is Emma’s way of toughening the kids physically and also forcing them to think on their feet and trust their impulses (which is Emma’s greatest strength). Of course, the game of tag does not only help develop the kids physically, but shows off more of Krone as a character, after she decides to join in in order to prove to herself that she’s the one who has the upper hand. Krone can be terrifying, but I found her a bit less discomfiting than last time, mostly as she’s gained added depth – her war with Mother to see who’s in charge going forward is chilling, as is her scene with Gilda.

And then there’s Ray, who pretty much steals the volume by design. I had expected the “who’s the traitor?” question to be spun out over a few more chapters, but if the reader thinks about it, the traitor has to be someone the reader is already very familiar with, which narrows the list of suspects exponentially. As for Ray himself, I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to be headed for a fall in a volume or two – being a double agent is just as difficult as it sounds, and something else is going to go wrong – possibly right away, if that cliffhanger involving the impulsive Don is anything to go by. I also loved the scene with Emma interrogating him – like Norman and Ray, the reader assumes her to be the “Luffy” of the group, an optimistic bright shining light who’s nevertheless a bit simple. But she’s as smart as they are, and her deduction of how he figured out the tracking devices is topped only by her chilling response.

I haven’t even gone into the artwork, which is wonderful, be it the detailed, almost Escher-esque backgrounds or the gloriously silly expressions on Emma’s face. For those who worried that The Promised Neverland couldn’t surpass its first volume, the second book should show you that it’s still a cut above. Highly recommended.

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