The Promised Neverland, Vol. 7

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.

A lot of this volume has our heroes dealing with a grumpy adult guy who’s hiding out in the shelter they’ve come to, and is trying to kick them out. He is, of course, the last remains of a different group that tried to escape years ago. I like this, as it reminds readers that Ray and Emma aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. Kids have escaped from the field houses before, and likely will again. That said, things are still exactly the same. How will Emma and Ray genuinely change things? They’ll need help. Moreover, they’ll need help from this grumpy guy, still nameless, who has essentially given up on the world. Fortunately, the kids are all smart bordering on geniuses, which gives them advantages others might not have. They can make bargains, use threats. And when all else fails, and Emma is about to be killed, there’s always a punch to the nads. Works every time.

The cover reminds us that the cast of important kids is expanding, even if it’s still the Emma and Ray show much of the time. That said, aside from Don and Gilda, I still have trouble remembering their names. Indeed, so does grumpy guy, who resorts to giving them all nicknames rather than bother to learn actual names. (And Emma’s ahoge, the traditional Japanese sign for someone with ‘airhead’ qualities to some degree, is of course what her nickname revolves around. I also feel bad for Anna, who is nicknamed ‘nanny’ just because she happens to look like the standard kind anime mom type despite being all of nine years old.) Grumpy guy mentions they’re a good family, and he’s right. They work well together, they trust each other. They can quickly incapacitate an enemy if need be. And they have Ray and Emma, who ARE the leaders. Emma in particular once again belies the “she’s the idiot shonen hero” argument, cheerfully telling grumpy guy that if he doesn’t help him they’ll blow up the shelter.

The volume ends with grumpy guy leading Ray and Emma to the next map point left for them by the mysterious William Minerva, though he’s also supposedly looking for a way to get rid of them. I say supposedly because, as Emma spots immediately, he doesn’t actually have the nerve to directly kill them. You get the sense that grumpy guy is a broken former protagonist rather than a villain, and I suspect he will eventually give in, learn to trust the kids, and probably be killed off in a few books’ time for drama. He also has good analysis of Ray and Emma themselves and their leadership qualities, which reminded me a bit of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek (though arguably Norman was the Kirk and Emma the McCoy before Norman left to go get his brain eaten). That said, they’re still kids. When Emma is faced with a slavering monster trying to eat her head, she freezes. Which is a shame, as there’s a lot more coming, and grumpy guy seems to be perfectly fine with indirectly killing them.

This was a volume for plot and character development, which is good as I suspect the next book will feature lots of action. The Promised Neverland still names compulsive reading.

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