Reviewby Nick Creamer,
The Promised Neverland
With one horrible snap, Emma and her friends' escape plans crumbled in their hands. Now that Emma is recovering from a broken leg, it'll take months for them to escape Grace Field House - months that Norman does not have. With Norman's day of graduation fast approaching and Isabella having seen through all of the children's plans, any hope of escaping their terrible fate grows dimmer by the second. If Emma and the others are to succeed in their efforts, they'll have to think quickly, act decisively, and accept that maybe it truly is impossible to save everyone. However things resolve, Emma's idyllic days at Grace Field House have finally come to an end.
The Promised Neverland's third volume ended on a dramatic victory for Isabella, as she revealed that not only was she entirely aware of Emma and her friends' plans, but she was also prepared to do whatever was necessary to stop them. By intentionally breaking Emma's leg, she essentially shackled the group in one stroke, making it impossible for them to carry out any escape in the short term. At the same time, Isabella also made plans to deal with two of her other key enemies, sending Krone to her death and setting up Norman for an immediate “adoption.” Our heroes lost in every way they could at the end of that volume, leaving us in the audience wondering how Emma could still possibly win.
That answer isn't entirely resolved in this volume, and instead, The Promised Neverland undergoes a moderate shift in focus. With so many of her rivals either defeated or in despair, Isabella's game of cat and mouse subsides for a while, and we instead focus on the oppressive, immediate emotional experience of life in this world. As a series of tactical exchanges, this volume might come off a little slow - but as an elaboration of the feelings of our main leads, these chapters do some excellent work solidifying the emotional core of this narrative.
All three of the eldest kids gets some dedicated material in this volume, from early chapters emphasizing Norman's single-minded determination to a flashback retelling how Ray first came to understand the nature of this world. With fewer immediate tasks to plan or accomplish, these chapters are able to both bolster the personal bonds between our leads and also flesh out the nature of the world they inhabit. Though the largely emotional back-and-forth of this volume can at times get a little repetitive (our leads waver between hope and despair pretty much constantly throughout), the overall effect results in a much greater understanding of Ray and Emma as people, setting sturdy dramatic tracks for the road to come.
While the narrative may be focused on smaller-scale conflicts than usual, Posuka Demizu's visual execution actually feels more epic than ever. Seemingly channeling the compositional strength of her terrific cover pages into her overall work, this volume is full of meticulously detailed and dramatically resonant panels, making the most of these chapters' character focus. And when the opportunity for a dramatic highlight presents itself, Demizu knocks it out of the park, offering highlights that range from a beautifully detailed fountain of flame to austere and terribly imposing views out across the Grace Field grounds. Norman's discovery of what lies beyond the wall is a particular highlight, as his shadow and the vast, imposing sky create a sense of sheer hopelessness even before he reveals the truth. Demizu has always been a generally strong artist, but it feels like she's finally learning how to apply all of that strength to dramatic paneling and sequential storytelling.
While personal drama and an overarching tone of defeat dominate much of this volume, the last act returns to the prison break shenanigans of Promised Neverland's early material, capitalizing on the emotionally resonant preceding chapters to set a cataclysmic plan into action. These chapters are exciting in their own right, but even more fulfilling as a validation of the growth that Promised Neverland's leads have forced themselves to endure. Though this volume lacks in the dramatic peaks and continuous twists that made earlier chapters so gripping, it counterbalances that absence with some excellent world and character-building, laying all the pieces in place for a truly thrilling escape. This isn't The Promised Neverland's most exciting volume, but its combination of alluring art and sturdy characterization are satisfying all the same, offering ever more reasons to check out this very unique manga.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : A-
+ Offers some welcome character building for Neverland's leads, Posuka Demizu's art continues to improve
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