Viz Media’s The Promised Neverland is a fantasy thriller manga about a group of orphans trying to escape their home lest they end up eaten by demons. It’s a suspenseful series, with characters trying to uncover the truth behind mysterious situations as well as each others’ secret motivations. Kaiu Shirai writes the series and Posuka Demizu provides the artwork. The latest installment, The Promised Neverland Vol. 3, collects chapters 17-25 and features several major plot twists. Is it good?
In terms of generating suspense, this volume is wildly successful. I’ve never read the series’ first two installments, but this one quickly hooked me with its twists, turns, and intriguing premise. The idea of an orphanage as a demon food farm is amusingly over-the-top, but Shirai and Demizu approach the subject matter with a seriousness that makes it terrifying. Even though demons exist in this universe, it’s the adult humans who are the most terrifying. I particularly love the hierarchy aspect of the farm; there are different levels of social status among both the adults and the children, and the clashing power dynamics make for a gripping read. The tension between Sister Krone and Isabella is particularly riveting, as it shows how even adults who work together try to stab each other in the back (both figuratively and literally). Krone’s character arc is the best in the entire volume, as we see her alliances shift even as she stays true to her deepest allegiance: her allegiance to herself.
I also like this volume’s artwork; it has a sketchy quality that fits the quick pacing well. The characters’ over-the-top facial expressions enhance the sense of high drama, and Krone makes some particularly terrifying faces. My favorite page in the entire volume consists of a single panel in which the children are walking through the woods, and the reader can see Krone creepily smiling at them from outside their ranges of vision. Such moments with unseen observers are among the volume’s most terrifying. This is a manga about characters trying to escape from a life-or-death situation after all, so any occasion where characters overhear conversations they aren’t meant to has potentially fatal consequences.
I don’t have very many complaints about this volume. There are only two characters, Don and Gilda, who feel underdeveloped given their level of importance to the plot. Besides those two exceptions, all of the characters feel well-managed, and the story shifts its focus smoothly from one scene to the next. In terms of artistic misfires, some of the characters’ exaggerated facial expressions are less dramatic and more unintentionally funny. There are also a few instances where panels lack clarity with regards to what movements they’re meant to depict.
Overall, The Promised Neverland Vol. 3 is a suspenseful read with an engrossing premise, unsettling artwork, and effective pacing. As a newcomer to the series, I quickly found myself interested in its characters and their life-or-death gambits. While I have some qualms with the volume, none of them are major, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.