It’s not often that I enjoy Japanese manga (oddly for someone who grew up with an Eastern persuasion- the things I enjoy from that part of the world can be counted on my digits). But when I do, I burn through page after page, from start to the latest chapter (or to the finish), usually in the space of half a day.
The Promised Neverland is one of those rare few. This series largely features on the weekly magazine Shonen Jump (marketed towards the 13-15 range in Japan), and is a breakout success for its writer Kaiu Shirai and artist Posuka Demizu- this series has been picked up for an English language release by Viz Media (who exists to bring the best of Japan’s cultural exports to the West).
The series follows the tale of Emma, Ray and Norman, three children amongst the many who live happily in an orphanage, until one day, their curiosity gets the better of them and witnesses something that shakes the core of their idyllic existence- that they are simply bred as premium quality, (free-range) food for demons that live outside. With that grim knowledge in mind, the three plan to break out from a place that has always been their home, and brave the unknown.
The most intriguing part of this simple premise (that could have been squandered by YA authors) is that the story is allowed to go at a very slow pace and the reader gets insight into the mind of the various protagonists, and even the side characters, as they set our their plans and counter-plans- there’s a whole Great Escape vibe that goes on, planned and led by pint-sized Steve Mcqueens. The suspense and word-building builds up slowly, as the reader (and the protagonists) find out about the strange and eerie setting, and any twists and turns the story takes are logical rather than left-field.
The Promised Neverland isn’t light on the philosophical themes- the story and pages are heavy on the concepts of existentialism- about what it means to be ‘living’ than merely existing, the battle between one’s idealism, pragmatism, and reality. All of this philosophy is often in the background to be unpicked by the reader and meditated on, rather than explicitly obvious.
The series itself is still ongoing, having only started August of 2016, but I'm liking the direction that the story is going, so I'll leave it here.
Where to read- Mangafox- a nice little portal for fans of the medium to enjoy works that aren't available in the West, translated by enthusiasts. Alternatively, an English release is expected in December 2017.