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After many months of waiting Viz Media has finally translated and released the first volume of the Weekly Shonen Jump title The Promised Neverland. A series I definitely heard about but did not know much of it. I knew it was doing well in Shonen Jump at least sales wise, I followed people on Twitter who talked about it, but I myself never really knew let alone read anything about the series. So when it was finally released I decided to check it out and wow it delivered probably one of the most gripping and unique experiences I have ever read. The story of The Promised Neverland follows three kids Emma, Ray, and Norman all of whom live at an orphanage run by a woman who they call Mom. All the kids love her and she loves them back. There are not much rules here other than to not go to the gate in the front or jump over the fence in the forest. All of the kids do not stay at the orphanage forever because once they turn a certain age they are being adopted. Or so they think, after Conny left the house she forgot her bunny that the mother made for her. So Emma and Norman take it upon themselves to give it back to her instead of waiting for the mother to ship it out. They go up to the gate that’s still open and find out Conny has been killed. It is then learned that the orphanage is a farm meant to feed demons and the mother was in on the whole thing. While the news came off shocking and upsetting to Norman and Emma they won’t let anyone else get killed it is now a plan to escape from the orphanage and make sure everyone gets out alive!
What stood out to me was just how incredibly gripping The Promised Neverland starts it begins with Emma monologuing about the person she called Mom and how she thought she was an ordinary orphan. While it feels innocent enough with Emma playing with all the kids, Norman and Ray preparing food, them learning, and all of them playing tag outside. It seems like it will be a happy go lucky series, but by the time page 42 came around what started out as something fun and lighthearted has turned sour. As mentioned before Emma and Norman stumble across Conny’s dead body and realize the horrors of the orphanage a place that they called home is nothing more than a farm. It does not stop there it continues to be an engrossing read from beginning to end creating a mind game between Emma, Norman, and Ray against the person they called Mom. It is a good battle of wits managing to be well executed there is this definite struggle that the main trio have to face not only with escaping and making sure the mother does not catch them. But the uncertainties of what the world is outside of the orphanage. Given if they do manage to escape from it. They have no way of knowing if humans only exist to be fodder to demons or if the orphanage they are at is some sort of black market and what may lie on the outside is scary. It’s things like this that keeps the reader invested into what may happen next and the outcome isn’t as predictable as one may think. So far the first volume is just detailing their escape and the hurdles they have to overcome. The story is trying to set up a grand narrative of sorts and it shows with how the first volume concludes.
The characters are also wonderful. Emma is very much a character you can find in many Shonen Jump titles she has good physical abilities, she is smart but not strategic, and has a good heart. Norman is the brains he isn’t very physical but he does know how to maneuver around situations and figures out how to get through rough patches. Ray is hard to describe but I would say he is a mixture of both but leans more towards being resourceful while also being the voice of reason between the two. Everything about Emma is pure innocence she truly feels like a very well thought out character and that usually takes time with any manga. Yes with many manga we get a sense of who these characters are, but it usually takes a few chapters to fully understand them. Know there quirks, what are there reasons for fighting, and where do they stand. All of this was told within the first few pages of chapter one and it keeps growing even in the first chapter. Norman and Ray are also really well done I find them to be like clashing heads. Ray keeps more to himself but he can be blunt but understanding. Norman is smart but can be protective of others almost to a fault. For example, when it came to escaping he was going to tell Ray that he and Emma should escape and leave everyone else behind. Due to the fact that getting out with everyone would’ve been impossible. However, She did not care about if something was impossible she wanted to save all the kids before another is harvested. That stood out to me a lot while it is not new the way she words it there is a sense of naive optimism with Emma which manages to be charming and endearing. All three of them bounce off each other nicely and manage to convey a good bond. In fact you get a good sense of family between all of the kids in the orphanage.
The art in The Promise Neverland is excellent the character designs are all distinguishable despite all of the kids wearing the same uniform. It is very easy to tell them apart and the expressions on all the characters are amazing. There is a range of expressions and emotions ranging from scared to surprised to worried to excited. There is one scene where Emma looks at a picture Conny made that was taken down. In one panel she is very sad and terrified of what they did to Conny and in the next one the Mom is looming over her and giving her a dead eyed stare. That brought chills down my spine and I became concerned for Emma. Another point to give praise to is the background art. I am not an expert when it comes to reading shonen manga but from the few I have read be it from Shueisha or Kodansha the backgrounds are not the main focus. A lot of the time it seems the background art is an afterthought as to me most readers are probably more interested in reading the dialogue or looking at the fights or characters. So most of the time the background art is not something to write home about unless the author or editors do something with it. The Promise Neverland does not do that. It has a lot of really well detailed backgrounds making the world they live in while barren feels strangely alive. Be it from the lushes forests to the wide inside of the orphanage to the abundance of kids that inhabit the orphanage. Everything feels big and creates a tense and uneasy tone that can not be shaken off. Which given what’s going on with our main characters makes sense.
If you could not tell from me gushing I absolutely loved the first volume of The Promised Neverland. It is a great read and is incredibly unique and feels very distinguishable from any other Shonen Jump title I have seen or read. I mostly associate Shueisha with titles like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and Dragon Ball. Titles that are more geared towards a male kid and teen crowd something that does not skew to an older audience. Not saying those titles could not appeal to adults because they have, but The Promised Neverland is something special. It separates itself from the pack by being unique with its setup and characters. I see more of this as a seinen rather than a shonen and I find that to be impressive. I hope more comes out soon and if this is something I can recommend to you. Well that is easy this is worth a purchase. It is a fascinating read from beginning to end and is something you won’t put down.
Final Verdict: Buy it