The Promised Neverland Vol. 1 Review

Title: The Promised Neverland Vol. 1
Author: Kaiu Shirai (Story), Posuka Demizu (Art)
Publisher: Viz Media
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Genre: Horror, Drama
Publication Date: December 5, 2017

The Story

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Neverland) is a story about orphans growing up together in a house and taken care of by a mother named Isabella. They live normal lives, get fed every day, take tests as part of their education, and are allowed outside to play. The only rules are don’t go to the gate and don’t go beyond the fence in the forest as it is for their own protection.

Volume 1 introduces us to our three main characters: Emma, Normal, and Ray. They are the oldest out of everyone at the orphanage and since everyone is placed in a foster home by age 12, being 11, they are due to be placed very soon. However, one of their youngest friends, Conny, was placed before them. Conny always had a stuffed rabbit with her and on the day she was shipped out, she forgot to take it with her. Not wanting her to go to her new home empty-handed, Emma and Norman break the rules and go to the gate in order to give the bunny back to Conny. When they get there, there’s no sign of Conny anywhere. The only thing of interest is a truck that they assume will be bringing Conny to her new home.

Emma gets the idea to leave the bunny in the back of the truck and that’s when they discover the grim reality that is Conny’s corpse with a small plant growing out of it. Norman and Emma take cover as they hear voices and don’t want to get caught. That’s when the ugly truth becomes even uglier when they notice demons wandering about. They learn that they are not living at an orphanage, but rather a farm where they are being cultivated to be food for the demons. They are almost caught but end up escaping, forgetting to take Conny’s bunny back with them. Isabella discovers the bunny and knows that the secret is out.

Emma and Norman begin to formulate a plan to escape. Ray, being suspicious of their actions, follows them one day and forces them to explain everything. Shockingly, Ray accepts everything they say as truth but says it must be them and them alone to escape. Emma doesn’t want that because she can’t stomach seeing anyone else from her family die. It takes some convincing on Norman’s part but Ray agrees to help all 30+ orphans escape. The only deterrent is that Isabella is on the hunt to discover just who discovered the secret. Isabella leaves some clues out in the open to try and judge everyone’s reaction. The biggest clue is that there are tracking devices implanted in everyone so she’ll know exactly where all of her children are at any given time.

Just when Emma, Norman, and Ray think they have the upper hand, Isabella introduces her trump card: Sister Krone. She was brought to the house in order to assist Isabella and become a second set of eyes to watch over the children; however, Krone is not satisfied with her role as an assistant and has plans of her own!

An incredible story so far! It starts off with a slice-of-life vibe and then quickly spirals into the side of horror. Although the volume did give some clues to a grim reality, it still didn’t prepare you for that big twist. After that, we take the story into a game of mental chess, giving me vibes of the whole Light vs L battle from Death Note. In order to escape, this is going to turn into a battle of wits between the orphans and Isabella. A VERY solid start, indeed!

Characters

Being a first volume, there are a lot of characters to talk about!

First up is Emma, one of our three main characters. She is highly gifted when it comes to athletics and motor skills. While she can learn pretty quickly, she doesn’t learn as fast as Ray or Norman but she’s still pretty smart. She’s highly energetic and loves everyone at the orphanage as she sees them all as her family. It’s that care and compassion for them that won’t allow her to budge when Ray suggests that it be the three of them to escape, leaving the others behind. Emma cannot just let anyone else die and that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for her strong feelings for everyone. Emma is also good at controlling her emotions as she successfully fooled Isabella but she is the most prone out of the three of them of making a slip-up. It hasn’t happened yet but I can sense it coming.

Norman is the smartest of the three and is an incredible strategist for someone his age but he is only 11 and it shows as Isabella outsmarted him by bringing in Sister Krone. Norman didn’t realize that the chores Isabella was having them do were all in preparation for Krone’s arrival. However, the three of them figured out that along with Krone came Carol, a newborn infant. That means Carol may have a scar where a freshly implanted tracking device may be. Norman says that only the older girls are allowed to bathe the newborns so he puts Emma in charge of finding the tracking device, which she does. Norman seems like he can remain calm and collected under pressure but he has also shown some cracks from time to time. Despite that, I doubt he will end up being someone who would slip up.

Ray is also incredibly smart but he is a bit short-tempered. He is a realist more than anything and gets agitated when people can’t really see things from a reality point of view. Like Norman, he’s incredibly smart and a good strategist, even if the strategy means sacrificing for the greater good. It’s not that Ray is incorrect in his thoughts but his harsher reality will never mesh with Emma’s idealism. Ray is the least likely to crack as he often remains emotionless when he’s not agitated. His ability to keep his cool far surpasses Norman and Emma.

Isabella is the house mother and she is as two-faced as they come. She’s able to keep a smile despite conducting an investigation and she can hold pleasant and upbeat conversations about kids who have already been shipped out. One of the chapters referred to as The Iron Woman and her inability to raises suspicion is a prime example of her moniker. Through Isabella and Krone, we confirm Norman’s suspicions that their farm is not the only one that exists in the world. We also learn that Isabella’s family is mixed up in this business as well. There’s a lot going here but not enough information at the moment to truly understand everything.

Finally, Sister Krone came in and immediately became a wild card character. Krone is talked down to from the get-go as Isabella makes it perfectly clear that she’s only there to assist her because some kids found out the secret. Isabella isn’t reporting this mistake to headquarters so Krone wants to devise a plan to find those who know the secret and report Isabella. This would cause Isabella to fall out of favor with the demons and allow Krone to take her place as the mother of the farm.

Final Thoughts

WOW! This is how you start off a series! Introduce the cast, introduce the world, set up a conflict, escalate the conflict, do some world and character building and end it all on a cliffhanger! I don’t think I have seen a more perfect example of a first volume done right as I have with The Promised Neverland. Heck, they even were able to introduce a new character which is something that’s usually reserved for the second volume of a series. The pacing also felt great as nothing felt rushed. Even with a lot of stuff happening, you were given enough time to absorb it all and digest it.

This has been an incredible start to this series. I can only see this getting better!

Now, for an anime comparison. I ended up buying the first seven volumes of The Promised Neverland after watching the first two episodes of the anime. Normally, I would wait until the end of an anime series to pick up the manga but the first two episodes were so good (in my opinion) that I wasn’t willing to wait. So yes, I will be reviewing the first seven volumes, meaning I will probably be talking about and learning stuff that’s beyond where the anime is but right away I saw some things in the anime that weren’t in the manga and vice versa.

The anime added a little outburst from Don after the test scores were revealed which saw him challenge Norman to a game of tag. The anime also added more suspense to the scene where Emma and Norman discovered Conny. In that retrospect, Episode 1 not only adapted all of chapter 1 perfectly, but they also squeezed in some extras to drive home the emotion.

Episode 2 is where they began to cut corners. A lot of the inner monologues and strategies were cut. Of course, we didn’t get to see much of Krone in the anime after her introduction so Volume 1 goes beyond the first two episodes already. Since the anime only has 12 episodes, I can understand them sticking to the main points. Nothing super important was lost but with some of the inner monologues and strategies being cut, it does lessen the impact, albeit not that much.

This is the first time I will be reviewing a manga and watching an anime side-by-side. This is going to be interesting!

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About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture.Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.