[Manga Review] The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai [Volumes 1 to 20]

the promised neverland manga coverThe Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu (Illustrator)
Series: The Promised Neverland, #1-181 (20 Volumes)
Published: 2016-2020 by 集英社 [Shūeisha]
Genre(s): Manga, Horror, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Book Depository – Vol 1-20
Kinokuniya – Vol 1-20
Viz Media LLC

Overall Average Rating:

4 stars

Despite the bright and rather cute art The Promised Neverland has, it is not the light fantasy manga series I had initially expected it to be. Instead, it is another solid manga that displays in many aspects that the lines between monstrosity and humanity are more blurred than generally believed.

There are three main characters: Emma, Norman and Ray—all orphans living in Grace Field House. Life appears to be good for them as there is a loving mother who cares for them and all their Grace Field siblings and they are left wanting nothing. The orphans have all the food and clothes they need, toys and books to enjoy, a roof over their heads and warm beds to sleep in…Though, the daily exams they have are different and many times more challenging than the ones us readers are familiar with.

This is the first oddity in the Grace Field House, and many more will follow as the story progresses. The dark truth we learn from this manga will horrify many (PS: this is a horror sci-fi manga!!!), and the obstacles the children will face can be difficult for some to read. In overall, I would describe The Promised Neverland as a long and intense ping pong match. I jumped from hope to despair to relief and fear with each chapter, and was constantly kept on the edge of my seat.

I’ve seen some reviews that were disappointed with the final volume, saying that the ending is convenient (yes, I do agree that it is) and that some characters have been placed in the back burner or had nonsensical/lacked development. However, with all the things the children have gone through, I can’t be anything but thankful for the ending. The children deserve the ending they’ve got and while it may not be realistic enough, it’s a solid ending.

As for the characters that appear to have been placed in the back burner or had nonsensical/lacked development as the manga progressed, I think the former isn’t as disappointing as some people have said it was whereas the latter is certainty. In terms of being set aside, for Ray, he has only ever planned for the continued living of his two best friends. Everything he has done, he does for them and this is shown multiple times throughout the manga. So yeah, it makes sense that he wouldn’t be as prominent of a character after his plan has been set in motion.

Isabella’s side of the story is understandable as well. She is a potential path for who Emma may have grown up to be, and I see no other fitting direction she went in than the one she did. Her “redemption” is not a redemption because Isabella was never the villain. She had neither choice nor help so for the sake of survival, she went with what she had. Both Isabella and Ray are perfect examples of character reiteration, and such strong character reiteration is seen for every character in The Promised Neverland as well.

Consequently, many characters are flat. It’s easy to get swept by the story and the emotions evoked by it, thus overlooking the lack of character building. For instance, Emma. She’s not a bad character, but she started as who she is and ended the same as well, despite everything she has gone through. She has never strayed from her original character, has not suffered long-term consequence, and rarely had any internal conflict. She has one side to her and that’s it.

All in all, The Promised Neverland is a quick and steady read. It threw me off a little since I hadn’t expected things to develop so quickly, but after the first two volumes I was completely hooked. If you don’t particularly care for character development and would like to just read for the emotional rollercoaster experience, or to dissect the parallels between monstrosity and humanity, you should give this manga a read.

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