The Promised Neverland, Vol. 10

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.

We’ve seen this series go back and forth between “all the demons are monsters who want to eat brains” and “not ALL demons”, and as a result it’s not really a surprise that you see Emma here, always the most idealistic of any group she’s in, attempting to reason with Leuvis towards the end of this volume. I mean, it makes sense. The demons don’t do this because they are required t or they’ll die. It’s hunting, which Emma admits that she has done as well. And what’s more, while she may loathe Leuvis for killing some of her new-found friends, she is not driven by a desire to end his life. So… can they come to an agreement. There are, however, a few flashbacks that help to show us that the answer is no, at least here at Goldy Pond. Reason and pluck will win the day elsewhere, but not for Leuvis, who spouts something about needing to be in conflict but we see what it really is is that he does this for the thrill.

For all that TPN has a reputation of existing on “will they die or not?”, there really aren’t TOO many deaths if you look at the course of the series. And we just had two more a volume or two ago. So I wasn’t really expecting any of the child soldiers here to get killed off, but the art made me wonder a lot of the time. In general, I don’t recommend breaking out the “monster is holding someone up by their head” pose unless you really plan to go through with crushing that head. That said, thanks to Flashbacks we do still get a few deaths – this is not a series for little kids. But we also do see their brief triumphs, and also taking care of the wounded back at home base. These kids are just as much of a family as the Grace Field kids are, despite the fact that it’s still coming down to Emma to fight the big bad.

Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way, as Ray and “that geezer” have finally caught up to Emma, and can help her just when it seems there’s no hope. I do wonder how this is going to play out. We’ve had a few volumes now with Emma on her own, but she’s best balanced with Ray and Norman beside her. We know Norman is alive now, but he’s nowhere near them. Ray is now there, though, and I think will be the first to point out that when a psychopath who loves to kill children for the sport of it taunts you, it’s OK to perhaps not give him one more chance. (He may then find out that he missed Emma doing exactly this – I mean, Emma may be badass, but it’s a very shiny sort of badass.) So, as we finish up this very well done Promised Neverland, one question is in my mind above all others: will the “geezer” guy finally be officially named in story?

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 9

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.

At long last, we get to meet the famous William Minerva… or at least his echo. I liked the self-awareness that both Emma and Lucas had when they got to the elevator and went “…really? An elevator to freedom/ Is it THIS easy?” No, of course it isn’t that easy. In fact, it turns out that William Minerva may no longer be with us, though that doesn’t stop him from leaving a recording that helps our heroes to buckle down and not give up. It also reveals that this WAS meant to be a safe harbor, and it’s the demons who corrupted Goldy Pond and turned it into a hunting ground. There’s lots of odd otherworldly touches in the early part of this book, like the literal pond of gold whose water doesn’t get you wet, that reminds the reader that The Promised Neverland is as much science fiction as it is horror or mystery.

Meanwhile, I’ve been saying ever since he was removed ffrom the plot that Norman would prove to not be dead, and that is the case. That said, the chapter featuring him is one big “what the hell?” after another, and is meant to plant seeds, especially given that one of the kids in Emma’s group at Goldy Pond (who seems to have a learning disability) keeps repeating Norman’s number. How long has it been since the start of the series? Norman’s in much the same place he was at the first volume – solving tests, amazing folks with his intelligence, and trying to escape even though it’s even more impossible than it was at Grace Field. What’s more, the guy who’s his minder is the same guy who betrayed “William Minerva”. And, lest you forget that Promised Neverland is also a horror title, there’s that two-page spread of the room of experimental humans Norman walks past. In just one chapter you get about thirty things to think about.

Back at Goldy Pond, the next hunt has been scheduled early because the demons want to eat Emma SO BADLY. Fortunately, our heroes are prepared for it, and so we get a few chapters of the kids showing they’ve been holding back and taking out the mook demons. This includes one who leers at the reader and says “How Cute”, which makes me wonder if this homage to Kaguya-sama was in the original Japanese or if this is just a Viz invention. There’s lots of scenes of the kids seemingly cornered only to win out in the end, which I will happily read over and over again, and not every battle runs along the same lines, which is important in a long-running shonen title like this. That said, I doubt this series will be going to 90+ volumes like One Piece. But it is going to double digits, as the cliffhanger shows Emma confronting the strongest and cleverest of the hunting demons.

I hope I don’t need to repeat myself: Promised Neverland is consistently excellent, and I like how it’s really showing off that just because it left Grace Field (the cliffhanger to the first anime season) does not mean it’s all over. Essential.

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 8

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 cast of characters, and the first few volumes in general, try to give equal emphasis to Emma, Norman and Ray as the three protagonists, keeping a healthy balance. But… I think the readers tend to think of Emma as the ‘lead’, and she’s certainly featured more when Jump does a ‘one character from all our series’ picture. Emma fans will be quite happy with this volume, which definitely revolves around her. The first third or so finds her and Ray trying to desperately escape demons that can regenerate, trying to intuit how to kill them. They’re not helped by their guide (still nameless, which begins to get annoying towards the end of the volume), who doesn’t want to kill them but is trying to convince himself that he can easily let them die. He’s no match, however, for Emma’s shining beacon of hope, who talks him down by guessing exactly what happened to him and pointing out that his now dead) friends would never have wanted this. It’s really sweet.

Unfortunately, Emma is then kidnapped and brought to a hunting ground for demons, with kids as the prey. Emma tries her best here as well, and is remarkably clever, deadly, and optimistic. Sometimes, though, optimism can’t save you, and a couple of people that Emma promises the world to end up dead. For all that it’s a series about kids being raised to be eaten for their delicious brains, there hasn’t been much actual death so far except right at the start. (I continue to maintain that Norman is alive because we didn’t see him die.) It gives these deaths added impact, and Emma briefly falls into despair. Luckily, we get to meet a lot of new kids who are basically doing for the hunting ground what she’s done with Grace Field… helped by an adult who seems very familiar. This part of the book is probably the most heartwarming, and Emma, seeing that even in despair there’s still hope, is back to her old self.

There’s lots of little touches in this volume I liked. The author gives a lot of attention to the guide’s past friends, even if they’re all long dead, so that we can imagine what things must have been like for them, and they seem like a great group of kids. I am also very pleased at the series of faces that Ray makes as Emma tries to convince the guide to help them by being her shiniest – this is why Ray is Emma’s best friend, but he still can’t help going “what the hey” every time he sees her in action. (He should know, he’s seen it used on him.) And, in case you’d forgotten the horror part of Promised Neverland, the shot of Theo revealing that Jake and Monica were killed by the hunters then cuts to the demons having a delicious meal – and we can likely guess who it is. The author can still make you shiver.

This is a strong time from Shonen Jump series in general, and The Promised Neverland is one of the strongest. It should never be far from the top of your reading pile when it comes out. Also, Emma is amazing.