Book Review: The Promised Neverland Volume 4

June 5, 2018

The Promised Neverland Volume 4 cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, even with the temperature extremes of the coming season.

Things have been going fairly well, and I can still do what I like.

A while back, I ordered quite a few books all the way through August, though there are things set for September, and the first two books I was expecting to get this month have arrived.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those books, which is called The Promised Neverland Volume 4 by Kaiu Shirai.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.

After breaking one of Emma's legs, Isabella believes that she has full control, though she is still suspicious, and Norman decides to go face his impeding demise.

However, while Isabella tries to break the four remaining survivors, through monitoring them, the escape plan is still progressing, but somebody has other plans, in hopes of helping the plan succeed and if the others do not act soon, the body count will go from one to two.

While I may be a fan of this series, I try to give my best judgment on things, without allowing a possible bias from being a fan to affect me, which I have done kind of well with my coverage of Detective Conan, so I tend to go into things with minimal expectations.

And after reading this, I can say that I really liked this book.

From the moment that I opened this volume and started reading, I found myself so engrossed that I did not want to stop reading for any reason.

One of the most important things a work of fiction, or even a work of nonfiction, needs to accomplish is to draw the audience in quickly, regardless of medium and whether it is a standalone work or not.

However, even though there are numerous ways to do this, manga and other serialized works are limited in the fact that they need to start off in the proper way, as to not make readers feel confused, seeing as chapters have different release schedules, based on release schedule.

In the previous volume, Isabella injured Emma and announced that Norman's shipping has been set, which shocks the other children, and makes me wonder exactly what will happen next.

Seeing all of this play out, the only way that this volume could really begin was picking up right at that moment, where the children are initially shocked, as it helps to bring the reader in much more effectively than if this moment were a flashback featured a few pages into the first chapter, and while reading the book, that was exactly where both Kaiu Shirai, who writes the chapters, while Posuka Demizu does the art, and Shueisha, or whoever they have compile the chapters into volumes, decided to start things off.

If Kaiu had this chapter start off at a different place, and incoperated these moments into a flashback, the volume would have probably had a somewhat decent start, but, much like a few of the volumes of Detective Conan that Viz Media had recently released, I would not have been as interested as I was, and made it so that it would have taken a bit more time for me to get immersed in the work, though it probably would have still been a whole lot better than how the much anticipated Battle Royale arc that occurred in volume 15 of A Certain Magical Index, which did not capture my interest until I was a third of the way through.

Fortunately, Kaiu made the right decision on how to start this chapter, and that helped to accomplish something that every book needs to do within the first few pages.

Hopefully, things will continue start off just as well as this volume did, as that will keep things interesting, even when the volumes reach the content is currently featured in the Shonen Jump issues that Viz Media releases every week, as that will be what fans of the series would want to see, but because Kaiu Shirai, and everyone else working to bring us this content are human, I would not be surprised if things go down the drain just as badly as television series here tend go here, due to the fact that almost no shows here actually end until they get cancelled for being run into the ground.

I also liked was how this volume did a good job fooling me into thinking that things were already over.

As I have mentioned in my review of volume 58 of Detective Conan, the issue that crops up when one reads the original source of something they saw adapted in a movie or television series, or even rereading content is that the suspense is killed because the reader knows what will happen, thereby making it so that only those reading through things for the first time would be able to truly enjoy what was going on, and also giving people reason to hate spoilers and try to avoid them like the plague, though people like me do have to sometimes give things away to explain our reasoning.

Here, however, I did not have those problems because things still seemed to be just as interesting and hard to predict as they were the first time I read through, which shows me that Kaiu and Posuka really put their all into this, kind of like how Gosho handle the confrontation between Kir and Akai was so good that my knowledge of what to come did not hamper my enjoyment.

If there were more works of fiction out there that were written in such a way that subsequent reads would be just as interesting as the first time, there would not be so many works out there that would only be something that could be considered okay at best, and there might be even more incentive for people to read, aside from being forced to read, as people should be able to read things just for the sake of being entertained, even if they were reading the work because they were paid to do so.

Unfortunately, off the top of my head, I can only think of a few works, and even fewer, if one wants to limit things to prose or mostly prose works and not in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, that I could say could be read with just as much excitement as the first time.

Still, it is possible to create such a work that one can read repeatedly, without any negative setbacks.

If things were not as interesting as they were in this volume, I might have still liked the volume, though there probably would not be so much to be excited about, because I would be bored by having to reread things that I already knew how they would play out.

Thankfully, Kaiu did not make that mistake, and had me wondering just how the kids will handle predicaments that they faced.

Hopefully, the things to come will be just as interesting in the volume releases as they have been in the weekly releases, as I am sure that many fans of the series out there would want people to see why they like it so much, but I would not be surprised if this too disappears over the course of the series, especially if it ends up being just as long as Detective Conan or the other series out there that broke the 1000-chapter mark before Detective Conan did.

Another thing that I like was how the children learned from their mistakes and losses.

While the children are still not always making the best decisions, either because they are children, or they let their emotions get the better of them, the children of Isabella's plant in Gracefield are said to be truly special children and the three characters introduced are considered to be special, even among those kids.

Knowing all of this, I expect the children to quickly get around many issues presented before them, and in this volume, this is how things ended up playing out, which helped in helping to fool me a bit in what was going to happen.

In the previous volume, when the trio went to talk to Sister Krone, they thought they had their bases covered, but they were exposed because they were not aware of the many other things that could give other information that they did not want people to know, especially actions, behaviors, and expressions that writers like Agatha Christie use to establish red herrings.

Seeing as this was the first time they seriously went up against an adult who lived pretty much the same life that the kids lived and hand knowledge that could only be gain through experience and observation, this was something that I was expecting to happen, but if it happened more than frequently, I would be having a hard time believing that these children were truly special and this cat mouse game, with the goal of escaping, would just become dull.

However, in this volume, after Norman was taken away, it seemed like the children had given up and they were not doing anything suspicious to the point where Isabella was about to relax her guard, but then Ray is shown talking with Emma, seeing if she still intends to escape.

A bit later, a fire occurs, and Emma is screaming out his name, which causes Isabella to come barging in and, thanks to her tracking device and a certain smell, she really believes that Ray is in the fire and tries to make moves, not knowing this was done to create an opening.

While how everything played out helped to make things seem to be a little mysterious, especially because it is still a bit too early to say that these characters have plot armor, and might not seem like something that contributes showing that they learned anything, the flashbacks shown during Ray's conversation with Emma shows that they were much more careful in not letting Isabella know what they were up to, and that the role Krone played in the series did have some importance, other than revealing things about the world they live in, and helped to make it seem like the children of Gracefield truly were on a different level.

This is how a bout between geniuses needs to be carried out, and Kaiu, as well as Posuka, were able to deliver.

If they just decided to have Emma and Ray win only because of luck or lose because they did not learn from Krone, I would have been truly disappointed, as this portion of the series has been the only series, other than the early portions of Liar Game, that had me wondering exactly what will happen, to actually match the intrigue of the struggle between Light Yagami and L in Death Note.

Thankfully, Kaiu remembered what the main struggle for this part of the series, and that make me want to give him a big round of applause.

Hopefully, things will continue to be as interesting as this, as the series goes on, but seeing as I do not remember things being this intense in the chapters published by Viz in their weekly publication, I must be prepared for the day when I will have tear into Kaiu and the others who work on this series as much as I did to Yen Press when they released the final volume of Judge.

The thing that I liked the most though was how Norman decided to make himself a sacrifice.

In our society, we have a bunch of people that think that we can all prosper and have equal footing, because we are all the same, ignoring the things that truly are differences, though I do agree that we are all equal at the most basic level, but no matter how much better our lives are because of this cage we created, the laws of nature still apply and because of that we must hurt others and they must suffer, in order for us and/or those important to us to continue to live and be happy.

Now, this might not be the most uplifting thing for you guys to hear, as we tend to live in a world that overvalues optimism, and some of you guys may end up not liking me because of this, but this is also the reason why we must learn the importance of sacrifice.

In this volume, Norman suspect that if he did not allow himself to be shipped off, either Emma or Ray would take his place, so he decided to hide his decision until the last moment and even took the opportunity to scout things out, so that Ray and Emma would have more information go on, as well as succeed.

Seeing as this is playing out like a game of chess or checkers played by geniuses, even without the checkmate reference that was explicitly in my face in this volume, I was kind of expecting this to happen, and seeing that Norman was willing to make that sacrifice, it made me feel like he truly knew what he was doing and was something that needed to be done to succeed.

If Kaiu had written things out so that Emma got her happy ending of everyone escaping safely, it would have really hurt this series, because things would end up feeling too unrealistic and unbelievable, not to mention the tension of two parties comprised of geniuses would have disappeared entirely, just so that the characters would have a happy ending for the sake of having a happy ending, rather than one they deserved.

Fortunately, Kaiu did not go that route, at least for now, and that allows the series to have the potential to become one of the best ever made.

Hopefully, there will be more smart decision like this later on in the series, but seeing as this series is targeted towards the same age group as One Piece, and in the magazine, I do see the possibility of this series eventually growing stale, if it has not already.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could not be included with what I already talked about.

Because my attention was captured and held right up to the end, by starting at the right spot, I was fooled by what I was reading, in spite of knowing what will happen later, the children learned from their mistakes from the previous volume, which helped to ensure that the children still came across as highly intelligent, and Norman deciding to sacrifice himself also help to keep the feeling that this was truly a game of chess or checkers between geniuses, this was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, only one thing really annoyed me, which was how the volume ended.

While the ending was not utterly terrible, and does kind of make me interested, it just does not feel like something suitable for the book.

In many great works of fiction, particularly series, the job of each installment is to get the reader interested in the next volume, as well as signal a stopping point that one could easily pick up on when the next installment comes, whether that is the continuation of the current story or a different adventure for characters people like.

In the realm of manga, the former is usually the norm, especially for a series like this, and that means that I need to feel like I actually reached the end of the installment.

However, when I completed reading the final chapter of this volume, the only thing that I was left wondering was if that was really it, instead of the urge to go out and get the next volume.

If I had to say why I left wondering if this was truly all there was, instead of what the final pages of an installment in a series needs to deliver, there are two reasons, only one of which is Kaiu Shirai's fault.

First, the way things played out had me so focused on the escape that the ending just felt abrupt.

Even though the final chapter had a great start, by showing Emma starting the fire that Kaiu initially wanted the reader to believe Ray started in the end of the penultimate chapter, most of the early panels featured Norman trying to figure out what Ray was planning and coming up with a way to counter it through Emma, before finally showing Emma outside the house with the other children and they start running.

Soon after, we see Isabella realizing that she had been tricked, showing determination to capture them, suddenly end with Phil tugging on Isabella's clothes and Isabella shows a shocked expression, before acknowledging Phil.

Now, some of you guys might be wondering what is so wrong with this, and I did acknowledge that it was not completely terrible, but those last few panels make this chapter a terrible place to end a volume because it does get me excited and makes me think that there are more chapters.

If Kaiu has any say in what chapters compromise what volumes, which I kind of doubt, I only see this chapter working out if the chapter ended either right when Ray turns around and we see Gracefield plant 3 on fire, with Isabella realizing that she had been had or Isabella's declaration that see will capture everyone, I would have been so excited to read the next volume, but Kaiu tend to good beyond either one of these acceptable ends and had it end with Phil.

I might not be expecting a lot from Kaiu Shirai, especially considering that this is the first series I read from him, but I still expect him to know how to end a chapter properly because many of the other chapters, even the ones found in this volume, end far better than this chapter did.

Seriously, Kaiu! Is this really a chapter that is good enough to be considered for a volume ending, or even an end for the week's chapter?

If his answer is yes, which I suspect, then he should be ashamed, because I do not see this working out too well in either can, when I really think about it, whereas the chapters featured in volume 60 of Detective Conan were only problematic when they were compiled into the same volume, even though I was kind of okay with this end when I originally read it.

This chapter really needed a better ending for where was it the volume, and Kaiu failed to deliver it this aspect.

Thank you, Kaiu, for not thinking about how this chapter could have ended better.

The second, and biggest, reason why this end annoyed me was because Shueisha, or whoever they had compile the serialized chapters into volumes, decided to end things too early.

While Kaiu did not really create a chapter that would make a good conclusion for a volume, and even a weak ending for a weekly publication, he is not the only one working to bring us this series, unlike writers here, who have more control over how a book in a series ends, and those people need to be held accountable.

Other than how things begin, the ending plays an important role in whether a reader finds that the time they spent reading a work was time well spent or not, and, in the world of manga, that is determined by what chapters start and begin a volume, as well as where the story is at.

Unfortunately, the people who put this volume together, whether it was Shueisha or not, made the wrong decision of when this volume should have ended.

So far, the kids have successfully got away from Isabella, and are at the wall separating them outside, which shows that the escape is very close at hand, and when I look at a page on a wiki dedicated to this series, there are only two chapters left, before the series truly starts to explore the world, with chapter titles listed as follows:

  • Action Part 4
  • Action Part 5
  • While this is understandable, as every volume, except for the first volume, features no more than 9 chapters, it shows that it this was a terrible stopping point because people like me, who have knowledge of future events, know that these kids will successfully escape and the chapter title following Escape talks about a different area.

    Really, guys? Starting up a volume with the actual escape may not seem like a bad idea, but so much of it has been covered in this volume that I feel like my time is being wasted, rather than giving me something to look forward to, especially considering how Kaiu already ended the final chapter of the volume in a rather poor way.

    If they really wanted to end this volume off on a high note, without making any changes to the chapters, I only see this working out if this volume was 11 chapters long.

    I originally wanted to say that chapter 33 would have been perfect for that, though that would have not been too bad of an ending, but when looking through things, that perfect end was part of the final chapter, so I need had to modify my thoughts a bit, and the reason I think chapter 36 would have made a better end is because that chapter, which will be in the next volume, has a much better feel of closure than this chapter does and signifies that it is time for Emma and the gang to start their next adventure, which gives me a much better incentive to read future volumes than how this volume actually ended.

    However, because they just had to maintain their quota of 9 chapters per volume, which will probably only be broken in the final volume or two, I do not feel as excited to get the next volume as I would like to be.

    Hopefully, things will get better in future installments, because I would much rather be singing a works praises than complaining about something, but because the people who pour their blood, sweat, and tears into making the series available to the public are only human, something like this could happen again and give me reason to ignore the volume releases, if not the series as a whole.

    Thankfully, that was the only thing that was truly bothersome about this volume, so I can at least leave responsible for the problem with some dignity.

    While there was only one problem, the fact that it made me think that there was more than there was, because Kaiu ended the final chapter too late and the people who put this volume together did not see that it was not a good way to end the volume, the book's quality ended up suffering.

    Despite the fact that there was no real ending to give me a strong incentive to get the next installment, the good outweighed things enough that I did not feel like my time was wasted.

    I mainly recommend this to fans of The Promised Neverland, as they will be able to like this the most.

    As for everyone else, the book was not that bad of a read that it deserves to go into the garbage, but I would recommend reading the previous three volumes first, so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.

    If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or either buy the reviewed title or, if you want to see where I think the reviewed title should have ended, as well as see what happens next, preorder the next installment from Book Depository, so I can continue following this series and find more worthwhile reads for you guys to read.

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