The Promised Neverland, Vol. 12

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 brief moment of appreciation for the cover art for this series, which continues to amaze. Last volume we had Emma looking like a witch, this time around her feathery hair is shown to be reminiscent of a bird. She’s also paired on the cover with Phil, who gets a chapter reminding us that the youngest children had to be left behind… and that everything’s changed at Grace Field House. The kids are now all split up, the Mom we know and have mixed feelings about is gone, and Phil has to just sit there and pretend to be happy knowing his friends are going off to be harvested. (Speaking of which, lots of shots in this volume of huge jars filled with child heads and body parts – it constantly reminds you the kids are food. More on that later.) Even worse, at the end of the chapter Phil is cornered by the bad guy… and that’s not really resolved.

As for the escaped kids, they’ve combined to form a huge group themselves – over 60 people. The most fascinating part of this volume to me was seeing how it deals with the “time skip” so beloved of shonen manga. Usually it’s fairly straightforward – there’s a chapter that feels like an ending place, and then we get a “two years later” or somesuch. Here we see the timeskip happening over the course of several chapters, as Emma, Ray and their small party go looking for clues as to what to do next as the others stay behind and live life as best they can. Before we know it, we get “three months later”, “six months later”, till by the end of the book it’s two yeas since events at the start. If nothing else, this shows off how impressive everyone is from staying hidden from the bad guys for so long… but alas, by the end of the book everyone’s in dire straits.

I noticed something interesting when Andrew, the lead bad guy for this book, is chasing down our heroes. When he confronts them personally, he refers to them as “food”, the same way that the demons think of them (there’s a very chilling moment in this volume when the demons bemoan all those ordinary kids they’ve been eating and wonder how delicious the ones from the top farms really do taste), but when on his own he thinks of them as “kids”. A nice reminder that some of the bad guys in this series are actually human, but also that they may not entirely buy into the “raised as food” line that is being toed. In the meantime, despite Emma once again thinking that she wants to escape without anyone dying, it’s hinted very hard that the adults in this group, Lucas and Yugo, are not long for this world. I suspect they will go out with a bang, though.

Continuing to combine the best parts of horror and thrilling adventure, The Promised Neverland is still top-tier Jump.

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