The Promised Neverland, Vol. 5

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.

One of the questions I asked last time is answered fairly quickly in this new volume, which is: will our gang of children really escape with everyone, including the little babies? And the answer is no, they won’t. There’s being idealistic and then there’s being realistic, and even Emma knows that. And what’s more, she and Ray actually trust Isabella enough to know that she’s not simply going to do anything to the little kids left behind out of spite. We see a flashback showing us Isabella’s past, and it’s somewhat like you’d expect – she believes there’s no escaping this, so she’s doing what she can to make everyone as happy as possible before they’re taken away. It’s a decision made with love, even if I disagree with it. And it means we leave Phil and company behind (and very nice scene of him understanding what’s going on) and make their escape.

The escape involves a nice fake-out: since the only way to escape the compound is the bridge, every security measure will be there. So the kids instead actually do go over the wall, using rope and various klugded-together implements to cross the chasm and enter a forest beyond. (As a side note, I love your multicultural cast, TPN, it’s really great, but: Jemima? Really? No one called you on that?) The difficulty, of course, is that they know nothing about the terrain beyond the orphanage, and it turns out that the forest is a lot more alive than they’d really like. Oh yes, and they also have to avoid demons. And the main bad guys themselves, who are still very much in the mood to eat their delicious brains. The Promised Neverland always seems to have a fresh new crisis at hand, which is good, as the premise is basically “jumping from crisis to crisis”.

I think the series spent just the right amount of time in the orphanage and planning to escape it, and now, five books in, I look forward to seeing where Emma and company manage to wind up. Of course, that company is getting a bit smaller, as this time it’s Ray who has to sacrifice himself so that the others might move on. It’s amusing seeing Ray do this given all the times he’s tried to in the past and been stopped, but as he himself says, this time he doesn’t plan to sacrifice his life. But that does mean that the group is now led by Emma… who is realizing that being a child, planning a daring escape and also cutting off your own ear can possibly lead to sickness. Fortunately, there’s a robed stranger who is NOT AT ALL SUSPICIOUS to help the rest of the kids. Can Don and Gilda carry on while Emma is ill?

This series is a sort of high-wire act, as you’re never quite sure when its thriller logic is going to run out. But for the moment, it remains one of the best Jump series out there.

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