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.
(Note: The review of this volume involves talking about this volume. If you’re looking for reviews that won’t spoil you, don’t look here.)
Much as the plot of The Promised Neverland involves a lot of mystery, horror and mind games between opponents, I like to think that a lot of the mind games are between the authors and the reader. As the reader peruses the volume, they’re thinking: are they really going to kill off one of the three main characters? Are they really going to kill off TWO of the main characters? And wait, what’s with that nightmarish ‘beyond the wall’ scenario? Isn’t this just getting too mean? And are they really going to take EVERYONE with them? The fun with TPN is that the reader really wants to find out the answers, and thus keeps turning pages compulsively. I can’t say we get all those questions answered in this particular volume, but I can say that the reasons people grew to love this series are still here, in bunches.
The first question, which came from the cliffhanger, involves whether Norman’s really going to be sent outside to get eaten. After much fuss and tears and Ray coming up with scheme after scheme, the answer for now is yes, Norman is indeed being sent outside to get eaten. Now, I’m highly doubtful that the second part is going to happen – honestly, if it had, I’m pretty sure we’d have seen it – but it does mean that Norman is out of the main cast for now. Still, he gets a glorious sendoff in out-plotting and scheming Ray. As for Ray, the explanation for why he allied with Mom is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as his plot to get everyone else to escape, which again makes the reader briefly wonder if he’s actually going to immolate himself for the sake of the others. Here the answer is more immediately obvious: hell ne, because Emma.
The series has done a good job of selling Emma, Norman and Ray as the three main leads, but I get the sense that Emma is a bit more lead character-ish than the other two, especially when you think about the fact that this runs in Shonen Jump and she’s got the “Jump hero” personality. Of course, that doesn’t mean that she can’t be clever or scheming, as seen throughout this volume. The escape relies on Emma seeming to be completely broken by Norman leaving, but the reveal of everything that’s been happening behind the scenes while this was going on is truly powerful. I especially like the idea that the other younger kids are in on all this too, rather than just innocent bodies to be rescued.
Of course, escape is still a long way away. As Norman showed us, scaling the wall and jumping down isn’t an option. Phil seems to have been left behind, though honestly I’m pretty sure that’s also part of Emma and Ray’s plan. And is Jump ready for a one-eared heroine? We’ll find out the answers in the next book, and I can’t wait.