The Promised Neverland, Vol. 15

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.

This is the last time I’ll be able to write ‘serialization ongoing’ in the header, as the main manga ends this Sunday as I type this. Of course, that still means another 5-6 volumes to go here. More importantly, though, this volume is around the time when we start to see The Promised Neverland lose some of its initial audience. This series started out as pure horror/suspense, and grew quite popular based on that. Even as Emma and company escaped and tried to find out the secrets of this world, those two genres were never far from everyone’s mind. But here, in this 15th volume, when Ray and Emma meet up against some hallucinatory rooms and dream skeletons, it’s frankly a bit of a relief. Most of this volume is made up of political intrigue (albeit among demons) and moral/ethical arguments. It’s well written, and I think this is a very good volume. But is it what people are really reading this series for?

If Emma is the ‘idealistic’ hero of this series, then Norman falls into the ‘realistic’ side. This is amusing if you recall the start of the series, where it was definitely Ray who fell into that category, with Norman being the balance between them. But Norman’s had two years on his own, whereas Ray’s been with Emma the whole time. As a result, there’s been nothing stopping Norman from getting very dedicated to killing some demons. As I said in my last review, this is perfectly valid. The demons have done horrible things, and murdered many of their friends. That said, when the reveal becomes less “they need to do this or they die, so there’s no good answer’ and more ‘there is a good answer, but politics won’t let them use it’, there’s less of a moral leg to stand on. Emma gets this right away, and innocently asks why everyone can’t simply use the solution Mujika has. Norman (and Ray, who is now the middle ground) understand the real reason: power.

Norman, who has been planning everything for SO LONG, is not inclined to stop it just because Emma wants everyone to live happily ever after in peace and harmony, so she and Ray try to find a way to get him to compromise. There’s also the problem that even if they win, they don’t know if anything beyond the Seven Walls is an escape. So they’re going to go beyond the Seven Walls and find out, giving everyone a reason to move forward – and possibly one that might not involve genocide. Of course, it’s not that simple – they end up seemingly back at a deserted Grace Field House, only to find that it’s an amalgam of nightmares and bad memories. This section of the book is where the art really shines, and as I said before adds a nice bit of surrealistic horror to the proceedings. The question is, can they find the real entrance from here?

This is not the Promised Neverland we started off with, and that’s a good thing, even though I do get nostalgic for the old suspense novel feeling. It’s still well worth a read.

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 14

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.

This review will contain a spoiler for the volume, but the manga has not exactly been trying to hide it, and the cover makes it even more obvious, so let’s just come right out and say it: hey, Norman is back! And he’s Mr. Minerva! And he’s a lot taller than Emma now (which leads to a very funny interstitial gag). This reunion has been building up ever since the reader first saw that Norman was, in fact, non dead after all, and I appreciated how it’s given room to breathe. Emma and Ray both have very in-character reactions to his presence here, and even have a nice talk and snuggle. That said, things may not be as easy as “yay, I’m back!” – Norman has a definite agenda, and it’s one that Emma doesn’t agree with, though at the moment she can’t really think of a solution that isn’t Norman’s. Fortunately, Ray, who is awesome, tells Emma not to bottle it up but just tell him.

Norman has to step up his plan because Emma, in a brief action sequence at the end where she helps to get medicine for one of their dying companions, and is discovered by some demons, who now know Grace Fields kids are nearby. This sequence also shows off how much everyone in this manga thinks about things. First we see an argument about why Anna and Ray should be going on this mission as well. Then later Hayato splits off from Emma and Anna to go with Ray, as that makes things more chaotic, and, as Emma sagely notes, will stop Ray from doing something that will get himself killed. These kids have been together a long time, and even those who just joined from other farms are starting to know everyone like the back of their hands. In fact, it also leads to a funny sequence at the end – Norman’s minions only know him as cold and aloof, and threaten Emma and Ray to get them to spill stories about Normal being goofy and childlike.

The big news going forward, however, is Norman’s revelation about the demons, why they want to eat humans so much (hint: it’s not just because they find them super delicious), and how best to deal with them going forward. Norman’s plan makes perfect sense, as even Emma admits: these demons have been the villains the entire book, they’ve viciously murdered a number of children, and they’re mostly a nasty set of characters. But Emma is gonna Emma, and can’t help but think of the demons that are living their own lives and raising demon families. And then there’s Sonju and Mujika, the two demons who helped the group a few volumes ago… who do NOT eat humans (so they say), and thus put a giant wrench into Norman’s plan, provided Emma opens up to him about it, which I think will come next volume.

In fact, I suspect next volume will have a big Emma vs. Norman fight. Idealist vs. Realist is a classic manga scenario we’ve seen time and time again, and I have some bad news for Norman: in fictional works, the realist rarely wins. In the meantime, enjoy this tense yet heartwarming volume.

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.