I hope that everyone is having a good week, even if it is getting ready to go back to the daily grind after a long break.
Things have been going fairly well here, as I can still do what I like.
Back towards the end of the month, I decided to check out a few books, and while I was going to tackle the last two titles, some books that I was expecting to get this month arrived, so I have to put the other two on the back burner for a bit.
Today, I will be reviewing one of the new arrivals, which is called The Promised Neverland Volume 5 by Kaiu Shirai.
As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.
After successfully tricking their caretaker, Emma and the other kids of Grace Field House's plant 3 manage to escape successfully and are excited about their new-found freedom, while knowing that dangers are still lurking around.
However, even though they are aware of obvious dangers, like poisonous plants, beasts, and demons from Grace Field House, there are still dangers that they do not know about, and if they cannot deal with those unknowns, they might end up losing their lives sooner than they expected.
While things can seem great with a series, a series can still take a dramatic nose dive when a certain portion ends, so it is best to see where things go.
And after reading this volume, I can say that I kind of liked it, though not quite as much as I would have wanted to.
From the moment I opened up this book and started reading, I found myself so engrossed that I did not want to stop reading for any reason.
As I have stated many times already, probably to the point where people might be tired of hearing this, one of the most important things in a work of fiction, regardless of whether it is a standalone work or, like this book, part of series, is how the work begins because a reader wants to be able to lose themselves in the work, and how quickly they can be pulled in can also make it easier for them to ignore the smallest mistakes.
In the case of a series, especially those that are compilations of a serial publication, like manga, the installment needs to start off in a place that makes sense, depending on how things end, and while I did not like how the previous volume came to an end, as it ended on a terrible cliffhanger, this volume still had a pretty good start and did exactly what it was supposed to do, though I still wish this whole escape attempt finished off the 4th volume instead of starting off things off here, because of something that I will talk about later.
If the book did not start off the way they did, I would probably have been disappointed, depending on how things would have started off, because there would have been so much that would have been left out, not to mention the new beginning might have been worse than what I thought would have started this volume on a better foot.
Fortunately, Shueisha, or whoever they had put this volume together, chose to pick a decent way to start this volume off on a good way, even if I feel like there was a better way to start things off, and that means that they deserve some praise.
Hopefully, the future volumes will start off on a much better foot than this one did, because I really would like to see the series remain successfully, just like many of the other fans of The Promised Neverland, but because there has already been one volume that ended in a terrible way, I have no doubt that there will be other volumes that will have terrible endings, though whether it is something that only those with knowledge of future events would notice or not would remain to be seen.
I also liked how Isabella got fleshed out, and how it revealed the kind of hell the world is in the series.
Back in the beginning of the series, before we find out that the orphans of Grace Field House were being killed, instead of adopted, Isabella came off as a very caring mother figure that I could believe that all the children adored and somebody that I would not suspect of anything, especially since she never did anything that would put everyone, except those that are fairly familiar with the kinds of red herrings that show up in detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, on their toes.
Later on, after we find out the truth about Grace Field and the world, Isabella's mask comes off and she seems to be determined to do whatever it takes to survive, not showing any problem with sending the children she cared for to the slaughter and is determined to keep the children there.
In this volume, after Isabella realized that she had been beaten, and did what she was scared to do when she was young, there is a flashback showing what Isabella's life was like growing up, and have the strength to continue on with her troubles by remembering a song she heard, and ultimately getting the resolve to make sure the children she cared for lived a full and happy life.
However, after she had gain the resolve to make sure her children lived a good life during their short tenure, she finds out that her own biological son was placed on her farm, as Ray was humming the same song she did when she was pregnant that she first heard in her childhood, with the flashback ending with Ray asking why she gave birth to him, and finally focusing on her thoughts and the acceptance of her defeat.
While I am not entirely pleased with this development, because she seemed to be more concerned with herself and her own survival, instead of the children under her care, it was still a good thing to see, because it illustrated that all humans are suffering in this world, a world where their only choices are to either die and become food or live and possibly send the child they gave birth to the slaughter, once they are in the age range of 6 to 12 years old.
Seeing as how Emma had great concern for her fellow orphans, or, as is case now, considering what has been revealed both here and in previous installments, children, and Isabella mentioned her thoughts of recommending her to be a mother, I could see how Emma would not want to have Isabella's position, though she had no idea that Ray was Isabella's child, because she would continue to suffer.
If these flashbacks had not happened, I would have been more disappointed with this volume than I would have been if this volume started off differently than it did, because it would have made Isabella's actions feel more unrealistic and unbelievable than they do right now, and it would have made it so that people ignore the possibility of people existing in this universe that truly care for the children that they are forced to have killed off.
Another thing that I liked, though it kind of plays of the previous item, was how it showed that people do not always have the courage to change things that they know is wrong or fight to get rid of it.
While young people, including those of my generation, who still retain the advantages that youth has to offer, have a reputation of going against the system and the previous generations think that we are dumb for not submitting ourselves to the system, by getting jobs that they think are secure and stable, taking our doctor's advice without question, get married, and have children, the elderly have the problem of being complacent and accepting the society that has always been, not acknowledging the cage that hides reality from our eyes, because their current life is the only life they knew.
In this volume, those differences are quite clearly shown through the flashbacks that fleshed out Isabella's character, as well as the other panels shown of her past, and made her actions after realizing her loss a bit more believable.
After Isabella found out that somebody she was close to had been killed off, she got up on top of the wall separating her from the outside and noticed the cliff, which had caused her to lose any hope of escaping her life, and went back to the orphanage, ultimately becoming a mother on one of the plants at Grace Field House.
Seeing this play out, it reminds me of how the many people that came before took a look at how what life was like and decided to conform to the standards of society at their time, thinking that society will continue to exist, thus try to get their offspring to fall in line with the whims of their ideal society rather than fight it.
Now, there might be some people reading this, saying that one cannot fight society forever, as our current world does require money to get the things we need to live and make sure those important to us survive, but the moment that we give up challenging society and the way things are is the same moment that we stop progressing and we stop doing what we are supposed to do to make sure we and those we care about are happy.
Here, in this book, Isabella knew something was wrong, but because she, like many other humans, do not necessarily have what it takes to change things, because the unknown is much more frightening than the life she knew, even if knowing and expecting certain things will happen does not take away the pain and fear those eventualities cause.
By putting this into the book, Kaiu showed that taking risks is necessary to change things, and helped to show how to properly take risks, instead of believing that the only risks they had to prepare for were those that they were immediately knew about, and if he did not do this, it would have made me extremely disappointed, because the children of Grace Field were supposed to be geniuses and knew that they had to make preparations in the earlier volumes.
If Kaiu had not done this, I would have been disappointed, because I would not have been seeing the reason why the adults in the system remain, instead of trying to escape, and would have made things feel unrealistic and unbelievable, unless one wants to view all the adults in this series as people who have no qualms ending the lives of the young, or even other people.
Thankfully, Kaiu opted to show that not everyone has the kind of courage that the children of Grace Field had, and it helped to show that these characters are real people in situations that they do not like, instead of cardboard cut outs.
Hopefully, the future volumes will be able to continue portraying things in both a believable and realistic manner, like how things were shown here, but because this series is published in the same serial publication as One Piece and I am not too familiar with Kaiu Shirai's work, I would not be surprised if things start feeling less believable and realistic, or even enjoyable, as the series goes on.
Another little highlight that I liked was how fiction can be very useful to us in our lives, even in times in which survival is important.
While many of us believe that everything we read, see on television, or hear from our elders is true when we are young, we tend to write everything off as fiction or something that cannot possibly be, because we still believe almost everything our elders tell us about life, though we may sometimes doubt their stories that they tell because they think it is much more interesting than the truth, as we, like the previous generation begin to believe that the world we grew up in is the real world.
Now, some of you guys might be rolling your eyes, saying that there is obviously some truth in fiction, but many people only acknowledge the truth that we, ourselves, know about and observe, instead of those moments in which it is staring you right in the face, yet have to truly think about to realize how true things are, such as Liar Game's message of the importance of doubt and how it describes apathy and its relation to trust or how In/Spectre Volume 3 illustrated how a lie can become truth, though I will admit that the latter example is much more obvious than how powerful and deep Liar Game's message on the importance of doubt is in reality.
While The Promised Neverland does not really feature anything that could even compare to how much I have learned from Liar Game, like how easily we can be manipulated and deceived and why they work, in addition to why we must question everything, as noted in a blog post by Jessica Pu on Bedford Bugle talking about Liar Game, it did do a good job in this volume of showing how helpful fiction can be. The best example of this was when the children encountered their first unknown danger after escaping Grace Field House.
After Emma and the others make a clean break from Grace Field House, and Isabella accepted her defeat and Emma said her good byes, we see the children exploring a forest and then a few of the children start disappearing, until we find them in a cave.
Later on, while exploring the cave, they discover that some of the plant life is more alive than it should be, which startles the children, and then Emma states that she read about what they were seeing, before finally telling Ray what she recognizes them as and how Minerva hid the info in a book.
Even though I would be questioning things like Ray did, by trying to think of how there are small differences, even when similarities are huge, such as how people can experience certain symptom of a disease or illness, yet not have the disease that they think they do, which is why it is important to let a doctor diagnose you, though that does not mean one should blindly believe what the doctor says, it was nice to see how the children did not write off the possibility that Emma could be right, and shows that we should not write off everything we see or read in fiction.
If Kaiu had not put in something like this, I would have been disappointed, as the only way the children of Grace Field House would have made it out there in the short amount of time that they were, other than getting found by the demons, would have been something that would have been sheer luck, as none of the children were observing and analyzing things as much as when they were back in Grace Field, until the book was brought up, and that would have made it hard for me to find either realistic or believable, even if children lack some knowledge that can only gained through experience.
Fortunately, Kaiu wrote things in a much better way than that, and allowed thing stay relatively believable, even if some people might have problems with how quickly Emma resolved things.
The thing that I liked the most though was how this volume ended.
One of the most important things, other than how a story begins, and is something that many people acknowledge, is how a work of fiction ends.
While that ending must be one that the audience feel like things have truly come an end in standalone works, series like this need to have endings that give the reader an interest in finding out what happens next and give them a strong urge to find out what is going to happen next, and, unlike the previous volume, whose ending made me feel like there was something more and that the volume was not really finished, the way this volume ended truly made wonder what was going to happen next and if this character that sudden appeared when the children started to worry about Ray, who went off on his own to act as a decoy and defeat the demon chasing them, could be trusted, even though I already know answer.
This is the kind of ending that I want to see in this series, and, after failing to deliver once before, Shueisha, whoever they had put this volume together, really delivered.
If Shueisha allowed another volume to end in the same exact way that the previous volume did, where the final chapter did not really feel like the final chapter of a volume, I would have been greatly disappointed, because it would give off the impression that Kaiu Shirai does not know what he is doing, and a publisher's job is to make sure the creators look great in the eyes audiences.
Thankfully, they did not let the problem of the previous volume rear its ugly head again, and that makes me want to give Shueisha a good round of applause.
Hopefully, the future volumes will be able to end just as well as this one did, but because Shueisha is still dead set on making sure that every volume has 9 chapters, which will most likely only be broken once the series comes to close, I have no doubt that I might find another volume ends in a disappointing way.
Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could either stand out on its own.
Because my interest was captured quickly and it was held up to the end, Isabella got fleshed out and made her motivations for what she did upon realizing her defeat, which also showed how we may choose to continue on with what we are familiar with, instead of fighting for what we want, it was also revealed how fiction can be quite helpful in our lives, though it was not quite as deep or meaning as other things I saw in my time reading manga, and the ending really felt like an end this time, this book was pretty decent.
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 bothered me, which was how I had felt like I had reached the end of the volume earlier than I had.
If I had to say why I got this feeling, it is because of the way Shueisha, or whoever they had put this volume together decide to end the last installment and start this one off.
While I did say that the beginning was pretty good, as I was able to dive into this volume pretty quickly, I also noted that I still felt that the escape attempt should have concluded in the previous.
Back in the last volume, things ended with Phil trying to get Isabella's attention, and this volume picks up right at that point, before switching over to the kids and Emma revealing that only the children who were 5 or older were escaping, with flashbacks of what led up to the decision.
Later on, when we find out that the children succeeded in escaping Grace Field, we see Emma looking back and saying, "Goodbye, Mom," before going deeper into the woods.
Even though this looks fine as a beginning, while I glance through the pages, when I was actually reading the volume, it felt more like the end.
Now, there are probably some people screaming at me, saying that having one arc end and another begin in a volume is nothing new to the world of manga, but my issue with this kind of beginning is still valid, because there are some big differences.
In many series where volumes end one arc and begin another, the final chapter of the arc feels like it is the end of that segment of the adventure, so things can somehow have a decent start for the next arc, because it does not feel like things are done for now.
Here, however, the escape attempt has been given so much focus right now that many people believe that the main storyline revolved around the escape itself, yet when I am two chapters into this volume, I see that the children have successfully escaped from Grace Field's plant 3 and the way Emma is portrayed looking back and saying goodbye before running off made me think that everything was over.
Because of this ending to the second chapter of the volume, I wished it had been included in the previous volume, even though the chapter following it probably would not flow too well with ththe previous chapter, as it allows for a good transition into the children's next adventure and had me much more interested in finding out what is going to happen next than seeing Phil sneak up on Isabella, and, at this point in the series, only the most dedicated fans of the series would be picking up the volume.
Sadly, Shueisha decided to start off the volume with the last couple chapters of the escape attempt, where hardly anything happened, and the audience was already aware that these kids would succeed, instead of starting the volume off at chapter 37.
If Shueisha, or whoever they had put the volume together, had started this volume right at chapter 37, I would have been much more satisfied with the volume than I am, even if it would have been a little more difficult for the reader to get invested, unless Kaiu Shirai stretched out the escape arc a bit more.
Unfortunately, Shueisha chose the path that the took, which made the beginning of the volume feel like something not as great as it could have been, and they should be ashamed.
A reader should never feel like they reached the end before they actually have, yet Shueisha managed to make it feel like things were over in two chapters, thereby leading to a possibility that some might feel like feel this arc had been dragged out longer necessary.
Seriously, Shueisha? Is this any sign of a great start to a volume? This might have been a good idea to you guys, and possibly both Posuka Demizu and Kaiu Shirai, since Posuka wants us to look forward to the secrets that will be revealed in the next volume, and I can see how that decision could have been made, but it just does not work.
Hopefully, Shueisha will make sure that future volume will have a better start than this, because they cannot afford to annoy either either newcomers to the series or the fans, who are more likely to buy more volumes, but I do not really see this changing until Shueisha moves away from their determination to have only nine chapters in each volume, so I guess I will have to learn to live with it, especially since it did not affect my overall enjoyment too much.
Thankfully, this was only thing that really bothered me, so I can leave both Shueisha and the creators of this series with some hope and dignity.
While there was only one issue, it only caused a bit of trouble in the beginning and did not really hurt the enjoyment too much, though it is still the kind of problem no reader should have ever have to deal with.
Despite the fact there was one problem towards the beginning of the book, the good thing outweighed it enough to make this definitely worth reading.
I mainly recommend this to fans of The Promised Neverland, as they will be able to enjoy this the most, though I suspect some of them will be a little annoyed with the beginning like I was.
As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, but because it concludes one portion of the story and starts up a new adventure, I would suggest reading the previous volumes first.
If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider donating as little as $1/month to me on Patreon, or either buy a copy of 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 continue following this series and possibly find more worthwhile reads for you guys to check out.
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