Book Review: The Promised Neverland Volume 1

The Promised Neverland Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone is still having a good week, and are starting to make plans for the weekend, even though the daily grind continues.

Things are going well here, as I am looking forward to a nice, long break, outside of the simulcast I decided to cover, and I can still do what I like to do.

Recently, two of the last three books from my 8-book Amazon arrived, and one has been covered, which only leaves one title left.

Today, I will be reviewing that remaining title, which is The Promised Neverland Volume 1 by Kaiu Shirai.

Life seems to be full of bliss at Grace Field House, where orphans have a place to sleep, food to eat, a caring caretaker, and the freedom to play with each other, and all the children eventually find homes, which they all yearn for more than anything.

However, this kind of life is nothing more than lie and when two of the three most intelligent kids in the orphanage go to give something to a kid that was being adopted, they find out that their orphanage is nothing more than a farm for demons to harvest and eat humans and that their so-called mother is helping to raise them for that specific reason.

Now that they know the truth, Emma, Norman, and Ray, the three smartest kids there, are determined to escape and take everyone with them, to find a place where they can all continue living together.

When I first found out about this series, I was still mostly following series through the online scans, as the preferred alternatives by publishers were not quite as convenient, and are still not as convenient, as Crunchyroll's service, nor did Crunchyroll have a huge selection, and decided to try this out on whim, but now that Viz started publishing the volumes, I thought I would check it out to see if it was still good.

And after reading this, I must say that I really liked it.

From the that I started reading the first few pages, I was found myself engrossed enough that I did not want to put it down for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs as everyone else.

The thing that is most important for a series is how it starts, because that determines how well the writer or creator can pull a person in without the need of any cliffhangers, and the audience is just beginning to explore the world of the series and wants to be given a reason to follow the characters, such as the motives and what makes them interesting.

While there are many ways to do that in different works, depending on the point of view being used and the storyline, sometimes, there is only one right way to start things off, and, in the case of this series, the way this started off was one of those times.

In the first chapter, I am drawn into the world by a happy feeling of the protagonist being content with what they have and enjoying life as usual, which led me to believe that this was just a peaceful world and ignore a few strange things, though certainly not enough that I would be bored by thinking that nothing was going on, since the first chapter's job is to draw a person into the story itself.

By starting things off like this, though it is a bit similar to an already completed series called Godspeed, which might not ever released where I live, I ended up being just as shocked as two of the main characters about what was actually happening, and I wanted to see how they would deal with the situation, considering how these kids are supposed to be super smart.

Now, the beginning may not be the most original, since every story seems to begin with a moment of peace before the lives of the characters are ruined by circumstance or learning that things are not really as great as they appeared to be, and I could definitely see that something was going to happen because of the way Emma's narration captured by attention and my experience from having read so many works of fiction, but it was still one that works out quite well for a world that we know nothing about and is a good way to set the stage for the things that will occur later on in the volume.

If this series started out in any other way than from the perspective of one of the children, especially one of the more intelligent children, I do not know that I would be able to enjoy this too much because the adults know pretty much everything about the way things are, considering that Isabella said something that suggested that she would die if she let anyone escape and got caught, and we, in our current society, do not want to a protagonists having fun targeting children for consumption, seeing as violence against children is never really glorified in fiction, so readers probably would not even bother reading it if it did, unless they are one of those people that enjoy seeing children suffer.

Yes, just like in real life, there are things that kids can figure out that adults never realized before or forgot, because they have too much experience with a certain way of life, but I do not see how the world or even the story could be intriguing, especially without dramatic irony, which is not utilized even a little bit in this volume, not mention that the adults in this series never really challenge things in the way that children, teens, and young adults do in our world.

Thankfully, Kaiu did have this series mainly focused of the children and start off with showing why they were so shocked by finding out that their happy lives were nothing but a lie, and that makes me want to give him a nice round of applause.

Hopefully, the future volumes will start off as well as this one did, because this is one of the more impressive series that I have encountered in recent memory.

Then again, it is not unheard of for series to quickly go downhill after such a great start, so I will not be calling this the best series ever created just yet.

I also liked how mysterious things seemed.

One of the reasons that I absolutely enjoyed Jun Mochizuki's Pandora Hearts was that it showed me that a series is not exactly the same thing as a detective novel because series revolved around learning the truth of its world and who its characters were, since it began with Oz being told that his very existence was a sin and faces from the world's past recognized him, in spite of him being young, while trying to help Alice restore her memories.

After reading that series, I decided to acknowledge that detective, mystery, and crime fiction were distinct genres, rather than synonymous, which people believe them to be because there are not too many works that come to mind where goal of the protagonist is to commit a crime for some reason, other than the stories featuring Arsène Lupin, and those feats and how they get away with it are supposed to wow us, as opposed to trying to break their alibi or hunt them down and beat the detective.

Like Pandora Hearts, this series gives me some great inkling that there is some kind of mystery beyond the simple questions that make me want to continue at this point, and even though I am up to date on this series, just like I am fairly up to date with Detective Conan, I do not really have any answers to any of them.

A little element of mystery may be needed to make any work of fiction truly enjoyable, such as works that are or can be classified as thrillers, but for a mystery series to be truly enjoyable, the audience needs to be given a good mystery, just like fans of detective fiction want to be presented with interesting cases, and that means that nothing should be obvious, or if there is something obvious, it should be presented in a way that the reader would not believe it was the answer because it would be too obvious.

If the mystery were handled just as badly as the case found in episode 6 of Detective Conan, or even the true identity of Okiya in volume 60 of the manga version of that same series, I would have been angry and would have consider this to be even less of a mystery series than Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, which neither hid the culprit too well nor had any focus on how the alibi would be broken, and is how cases utilizing dramatic irony do things, because there would be nothing to keep me invested after these children escape from the orphanage, or, more precisely, farm.

Fortunately, even with my knowledge of future events, things were not too obvious, and that makes me want to give Kaiu another good round of applause because I want to find out the answers right now, though I have to wait for the next volume like everyone else, which will not be released until Feburary, according to the product page on Amazon.

Hopefully, these mysteries will be explored and new questions will pop up as the series progresses, because I would sure like to see something along the lines of Cage of Eden or Pandora Hearts in the realm of mystery, but because much of the questions that have popped up may be rather basic at this point in time, I do see a possibility that this may devolve to the point where I would not want to consider it a mystery.

Thing that I really liked though was how this felt like it was the beginning of a chess game, or some other game require high strategic and analytical abilities.

One of the big problems with series involving characters that could be considered geniuses is that they always seem to succeed because the put things into place and everyone else around them are complete idiots, making those genius characters seem to be nothing special, with many of the famous detectives and criminals of fiction being a good example.

For this reason, when a series liked Death Note comes along, where things turn into a battle of wits between two highly intelligent people, things become interesting because there is a challenge presented that they must overcome, and when I first learned that this series involved a group of highly intelligent children, I thought they would make the adults look like idiots, so that their brilliance could shine through.

However, when Norman and Emma decided to try to escape and brought Ray in on things, Isabella noticed that something was going on and made moves of her own, which threw Norman and Emma offguard and Ray had to remind them that even these moves were good for them.

Seeing this and knowing that the children are determined to escape and live another day, while Isabella is determined to prevent their escape and live another day herself, I really want to see how things would play out and see if they could thwart the person who raised them from ages 1 up until now, which made me even more anxious to read the next volume as soon as possible.

Escaping alone is a rather interesting premise, but considering that no actual escape happens in this volume and the only things being done are preparation measures, such as information gathering, procuring supplies, and planning, I would have been rather bored if things had gone so smoothly, not to mention things would not seem to be very believable because all of the children in Grace Field seem to be highly intelligent and are considered to be high quality product, according to what the demons say in this volume, so the caretaker of the facility should be just as intelligent and be able to read the children well.

Fortunately, Kaiu seemed to take this problem into consideration and created the start of a rather interesting game between the three most intelligent children and the one who raised them, and it led to make the start of this series look even.

Hopefully, things will be able to stay like this for a while, because I remember enjoying this series the most during these moments.

Then again, seeing as the chapter count for each volume is not quite establish yet, beyond what can be found on a page on a wiki for The Promised Neverland, which claims that all volumes after this one contain nine chapters each, I have a feeling that it will not be long before the people who are only following this series by the volume will find out whether or not the kids will escape, so this might very well go downhill after that takes place.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out as much as what I have already talked about.

Because my attention was captured quickly and held right up to the end, by starting the series off in a good that allows for questions and mysteries to crop up, there seem to be some mysteries present, though most questions that crop up in this volume may be rather basic, and that this volume started out this series as a battle of wits, this was one of the best books I have read so far.

Although I liked this book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, or are understandable because this is only the start of a series, nothing really seemed to bother metoo much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like and not too much to hate, unless one wants to be nitpicky, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of Kaiu Shirai, The Promised Neverland, and those that enjoy seeing a good battle of wits, as they will like this the most.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, as it starts off the series well and it can make for an enjoyable read for those who want something new, unless you really dislike manga.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you either want to check out this series yourself or are anxious to find out what happens next, either buy the reviewed title or preorder the next installment from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can possibly cover more volumes of this series and find more worthwhile reads for you guys.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.