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.

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 6

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.

For all that Ray insists that he’s not going to sacrifice his life at the end of the last volume, he is a small child running at full speed against a number of demons who are essentially horses in this scene. Sure, he’s rescued, but it was an impetuous thing to do. And of course there’s also Emma, who is almost literally working herself to death to get this escape on the road. So I really enjoyed the scene in this volume where Dona, Gilda and the other kids tear into the two of them for taking everything on themselves. The Grace Field kids are ALL smart – sure, Ray, Norman and Emma were the tip of the top, but they’re all bright lads and lasses who can see what’s really going on here. If you’re going to escape with everyone, everyone has to work as a unit and decide things as a unit. Which is good, as when they get to the map coordinates it’s a big bunch of nothing.

We also get a lot of answers this volume as to how this world works, and while Emma tries to paint it in as optimistic terms as she can, it’s not good news. They’re on the wrong side of a great divide, this has been going o0n for a thousand years, and I suspect if they do make it back to humanity, they may have to watch out for being killed there as well. Despite that, Emma is right, there is some hope. And honestly, we learn that being at their own farm was possibly the best place to be, given that most demons seem to eat the equivalent of fast food – which is to ay humans kept in tanks and barely cognitive, there to be eaten and forgotten. It’s a chilling sight. There’s also the demons who rescued them at the start, who seem to be “religious converts” but may be a lot more sinister than that. I wonder about them…

In the meantime, there’s a new area to explore, and to no one’s surprise, it’s not quite as barren as expected. Now they’re in an underground shelter, and meeting an actual adult human who… seems to be one of those “I am a jerk on the outside, but wait till you see my soft core” types. Sadly, he’s the cliffhanger, so we’ll have to wait for next time to see what his deal is. Ray and Emma are pretty good about having a healthy level of suspicion about their “saviors”, but also being willing to trust people. When you don’t have much choice, that’s where you are. I suspect that the next volume of The Promised Neverland will begin a new “arc”, but I also suspect it will involve a lot of almost getting captured and escaping, because that’s why we read the series. Well, that and seeing the kids be cute.

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.