Story: Kaiu Shirai
Art: Posuka Demizu
Translation: Satsuki Yamashita
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Mark McMurray
Design: Julian [JR] Robinson
Editor: Alexis Kirsch
What They Say:
Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you haven’t read The Promised Neverland, I highly, highly suggest you step away from this review to do so now. It’s one of those series where the less you know when going into it, the better. Seriously.
Now with that out of the way, a brief re-cap…
We enter the world of The Promised Neverland through the eyes of Emma, an orphan living among a sea of orphans all under the roof of a caretaker she simply refers to as “Mom.” Her life is as fulfilling as any other 11-year-old could dream of, consisting of days filled with nothing but playing in the wide field among her dozens of younger siblings. Of course, things aren’t as peaceful as they’re made out to be. For a first volume, revelations tend to come a mile a minute, but they all work to the benefit of us, the readers, never coming off as overly exposition-y or droll in delivery.
From the first chapter, we can clearly see each child brandished with some sort of numerical tattoo on their neck, and from there the revelations only get more and more serious. From rigorous tests taken every morning, to uniforms a bit too white for comfort, the daily ins and outs at the orphanage come off as odd, but never downright grim until we finally find out about the demons. Yes… the demons. See, every orphan that leaves the care of Mom is killed and shipped off to serve as food for horrendous, long-limbed demon creatures. Exactly why these demons have resorted to such a roundabout means of cattle-raising is beyond Emma, but we’re down to not just find out, but put a stop to it.
From that initial chapter, the rest of the volume plays out like a silent game of cat and mouse between the eldest orphans who are in on the secret, and Mom. Both sides are forced to play dumb, and yet seeing both parties take great lengths to try and push the other into making the wrong move is an entertaining read, especially when the older orphans are playing against the clock—they only have two months before another of the children is set to leave the orphanage.
But what really makes this first volume is how author Shirai doesn’t let plot points stay suspended in the air for too long. Where other series proudly declare a plot point only to never bring it any signs of closure, or even signs of progress from volume to volume, The Promised Neverland addresses its drama with as much enthusiasm as a fan of the series would. There is just as much clarifying as there is mystifying in this volume from both the children as well as the adults that it reaches the point that you wonder if certain characters are being reactionary, or if it just feels that way because we’ve been given so much information at once. From figuring out what year it is, to the limitations of technology, you never feel like you’re being led on, because at the very least, you’re figuring out things at a brisk enough pace alongside the characters, making things very gratifying in the short-term.
What’s especially satisfying is that for a premise where the main allure is the twist we’re thrown, Shirai is very comfortable shifting between both the children’s’ perspectives and their Mom’s. Both characters know certain aspects of their world, and they express such so naturally that it never feels like you’re being fed information, but rather just following someone along through their daily life. Seeing Mom’s line of thinking as she not only attempts to corner and figure out which child knows about the demons, but how that will affect her own place in the pecking order of the demons is something you think would have been kept for a later chapter, but Shirai puts it out early, in clear defiance of the standards when it comes to telling suspense. It’s great.
I will say Demizu’s art does come off as slightly lacking from time to time. Where Shirai clearly enjoys tossing out as much information to build their world as possible, Demizu looks to struggle dealing with the information-influx. This leads to some panel layouts feeling cramped, while others don’t make nearly as much use of their page space as they should. The creative team definitely continues to fall in and out of sync with each other on more than one occasion, yet it’s this blind willingness to go forward regardless that just makes things that much more interesting.
The Promised Neverland feels like a modern Weekly Shonen Jump comic in every respect—it’s energetic and eager to please despite its shortcomings, but you love it all the more because of it. While it isn’t as action-packed as your traditional WSJ title, it does maintain its heaping portions of positivity in the face of an impossible situation. And with a solid enough premise, I think that’s more than enough to warrant keeping an eye on this series and the twists and turns it’s bound to provide.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: T+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 5, 2017