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.