3 out of 5
Hilariously, frustratingly nuts. Maybe dumb. Maybe smart. But also… goddamned addictive? The Promised Neverland is a rollercoaster of a read, both in terms of can’t-wait page turning that builds and builds to a peak and then barrels through seemingly reckless plotty flurries and loop de loops of revelations, and also in how each of those herks and jerks tosses you ‘tween enjoyment and eye-rolling.
Do I like this? Ahhhhhiiii love it Ahhhhhiii can’t tell. DOOM.
That last bit: one of the several repeated sound effects Kaiu Shirai employs (at least, as translated) to let us know shit done gotten real; it’s one of the many, many repeated tools used, including reprinting, tinily, previous panels as characters’ “remember” sequences, which is all sorts of weird meta / non-meta. Man, I don’t get it.
Look: volume one had this weird blend of acting like a kid’s book until it didn’t, dropping a big reveal fairly early on – that this foster home where the children are routinely tested for intelligence is maybe fostering said children for some rather notorious purposes – and then meticulously having its three lead kids, Norma, Emma, and Ray, pick apart events in the house to figure out more and determine an escape plan. The repetition and Exclamation Point! laden thoughts were present there as well, bubbled into exuberance by Posuka Demizu’s fantastical art and Shirai’s sprinting narration. Volume two is simply lacking in that preceding discovery half, so its 190ish pages are completely the latter – all wacky twisty-turning overly complex pre-planning j’accuse finger pointing and DOOM panels and…
…And good god. It’s a kick. Shirai keeps moving pieces around, and yeah, it’s rather silly and the Saw-type reveals that require those mini panel re-presentations are humorously overwrought, and Demizu seems occasionally disconnected from the spirit of the moment, always leaning into extreme angles and expressiveness when it might not be demanded, but when the ‘coaster is in the midst of its plummets or loops, all of this wackiness works in its favor.