The Promised Neverland, Vol. 13

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.

Well, last time I said that Lucas and Yugo probably were not long for this world, but would go out in a blaze of glory, and I turned out to be 100% right there. This is the fate of ‘mentor’ characters in a lot of series, not just manga, and it makes sense in a story way – their work here is done, they’ve saved Emma and the others, and now they can get the classic ‘yes, they’re really dead this time’ moment (unlike, say, Norman, who didn’t get this and isn’t dead) when they see all their dead friends in the afterlife welcoming them. It really is a cool death, though, and will likely look fantastic animated. Sadly, they did have the main bad guy get away so that he can threaten our heroes once more, and also let them know that they need a new safe space – as Emma cheerfully says at the end of the volume, nowhere is safe for them right now – that’s why they’re doing this.

This is not to say that Emma does not suffer quite a bit in this book. Yugo’s death in particular – which plays out as his coming to visit and give her new advice, then point out that he’s just a dream she’s having – is heartbreaking, and it hits all the kids, including the Goldy Pond ones, really hard. So hard that they’re about to go off half-cocked and try to find Lucas and Yugo. Fortunately, the villain of this arc is so wretchedly horrible that he manages to drive the point home that they have to move on. That said, Andrew’s fate is nasty, as befits someone who is hell bent on murdering about 60 kids. It does feel a bit of a copout that he’s taken out by a demon, though – you get the sense the author is trying to keep Emma’s hands clean. This is even lampshaded by Andrew, who says Emma won’t be able to shoot him dead.

We’re getting more of a sense that the kids here are not the only force fighting back. We’ve heard about William Minerva, even though it seems doubtful he’s still alive. We also see another group of humans trying to save farms… or at least give those within them mercy killings. Given the attitude and personality of some of these people we meet, I suspect that Emma and Ray’s pile of idealistic children may be running into a pragmatic brick wall soon. We also see “William Minerva” from the back, and he looks vaguely familiar… in a way I think the reader is supposed to be able to guess. That said, before they meet Mr. Minerva, they need to save the dying Chris, so there may be another action sequence to go.

This is the sort of manga that cries out to be animated as well, so we’re fortunate that more is coming. Till then, enjoy another solid volume, which promises many changes still to come.

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.

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 11

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.

The cover of this volume, which shows Emma defeating Leuvis by his metaphorically shattering into glass shards, sort of makes her look like a witch given that his hat is right above her. Certainly I’d argue her determination has reached almost supernatural levels, even for a Jump hero. The kids and Lucas are faced with the fact that their plans worked but Leuvis is JUST THAT TOUGH so is coming after them anyway. Clearly time to punt and retreat. But no, Emma knows that this is the best time to try harder. He’s partly blinded and has shown his regeneration is imperfect, they need to bring the hammer down. And it works. Leuvis was a sadistic asshole, but he also made one of the more thrilling villains of the series, and his death gets a nice montage and him praising humans as “the best” before he goes. Oh yes, and he also slices Emma through the stomach with his Freddy Kreuger hands, leaving her too at death’s door.

Now, I think the average reader knows that The Promised Neverland is not going to kill off its heroine like this. But the book is titled “The End”, and the chapter with that title has Emma having a near-death experience as she tries to force herself to get back up despite life-threatening wounds. We see the kids of Grace Fields encouraging her, Krone talking about how weak she is, and finally Norman and Isabella reaching out to help her stand once more. That said, she does spend much of the latter half of the book unconscious, and the others have to take up her ideals for her, as they argue whether it’s safer to try to escape with everyone or to leave behind those who are so injured the journey might kill them. Again, the idealistic choice wins but it is debated, and I like how this series wears its heart on its sleeve but also shows why it chooses to do so every step of the way.

Meanwhile, that geezer has a name! It’s Yugo, and the reunion he has with Lucas is touching. In addition, while events in this book means there is next to no humor, I did crack a smile at Yugo returning to the rest of the Grace Fields children with Emma’s body and immediately being thought of as her killer. See, this is what happens when your plan to kill someone goes awry! But things work out, and Emma is now awake, and Goldy Pond is destroyed. More importantly, we have a new goal for the second half of the series – make a new pact with the demons that does not involve the children farms. That’s a tough row to hoe, especially given that the villains are also going to be gunning for them harder. Can they escape and find the supporters? More importantly, can they find Norman?

This continues to be one of the best Jump series I’ve read in years. A must-buy.