The name of the game for The Promised Neverland Volume 6 is exposition. It’s good exposition; great exposition, even – we’re all hungry for details on how this demon-eat-child world began, and this volume certainly satisfies much of our curiosity on that front. But it’s exposition all the same, and consequently, the series’ famed cat-and-mouse play slows to a crawl not even halfway through. I don’t necessarily condemn the volume for its diminished pace — in a mystery-heavy series such as this, info dumps like this are inevitable– but with the series stepping away from its suspense-thriller storytelling, something feels missing in this particular entry.
A quick recap: When we last left off, Emma, Ray, and the rest of the young Grace Field escapees were cornered not even a day into their breakout – but just as their demon pursuers close in, cloaked saviors swiftly rescue them in the nick of time. Their identities: Mujika and Sonju, reformed demons who’ve long since renounced human flesh. Granted asylum within the drifting duo’s hideout, Emma and Ray dissect the long, harsh truth regarding their bloody world.
I must confess I don’t recall the children spending this much time with their new demon friends; indeed, most of this volume is spent within their refuge, and this is where the aforementioned pacing draws to a halt. It’s not that we didn’t have world-building and mystery-solving before, yes, but much of this was cleverly intertwined with The Promised Neverland’s trademark suspense, and while the demon revelation certainly plays into this, it stalls mostly afterwards in chapters entailing much-needed pep talks, learning the properties of a certain flower, and Emma’s newfound hunting skills. Certainly, this will all come into play at a later time, but with cat-and-mouse play and plan-making being the pulse of this series, it feels like the series is plodding here.
A little late, but that’s one spooky Halloween cover.
Still, I feel bad harping on it considering Mujika and Sonju possess such allure in themselves. The Promised Neverland’s demons are sentient, but much like Emma, we had previously dismissed them all as wicked beasts uninterested in human welfare; however, with good ones finally crossing our path, Emma and Ray’s first outside visit opens an unforeseen world realm of possibilities. To what extent they’re “good,” however, is the volume’s sole bastion of tension — hints towards their origins tease us throughout the volume, and while they share disdain for the current system, they possess different motives for its collapse. With Sonju’s sadistic declaration towards the volume’s end, will Emma’s goal of peace will end up compromised?
There’s also that “world history” elephant in the room; we’ll leave the details for you to discover, but in typical Promised Neverland fashion, it’s rough to take in. Of course, for anyone who’s read up to this point, minor details like “you are undeniably screwed” will never stop the ever-optimistic drive of Emma. To our surprise, even the normally-pragmatic Ray shares in her jubilation — while they come to the same conclusion, it’s a rare sight for him to ever be this ecstatic (as theorized before, perhaps Emma’s idealism is rubbing off on him.). How, exactly, their plans shall come to fruition remains a mystery, but there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing the ultimate victims of the world – the children – will be the one to undo it.
Still, all these twists reinforce the ultimate thematic device of The Promised Neverland: “nothing is what it seems”. An idea reinforced not once but twice when we leave the demons behind, it’s in the two concluding chapters where The Promised Neverland falls back upon its familiar, addictive cycle of puzzle-solving feeding into further mysteries. Again, I dare not spoil what transpires, but the culmination within the very last two pages demands a juxtaposition between this and the previous volume — despite us witnessing a more familiar sight here, we somehow glean the sense amicable negotiations aren’t on the table; in other words, if we perceive an instant kindness from a demon but not within one of our own kind, our young heroes are in trouble.
Despite possibly presenting the series’ finest volume-ending hook yet, this is not the finest volume of The Promised Neverland. It’s an important one, yes, but while still solid, it’s not a series that can afford to rest on its laurels. We rejoice when the kids make it out of a jam, but lingering within cozy confines is bizarrely foreign (and downright eerie), as it’s a catharsis I’d rather have reserved from a hard-won ending. The series gets back on its feet soon enough, but much as it sickens me to admit it, the constant tug-and-pull of survival and strife is what draws us.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Full Disclaimer: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.