The Promised Neverland Vol. 12 is out today, and it’s the first installment to take place after the Goldy Pond arc wrapped up. This isn’t a slow break between arcs, however; major plot developments and reveals roll out one after the other. This collection introduces the intimidating new antagonist Andrew, provides new information about the state of the Ratri clan, gives us our first glimpse of Phil in ages, and even features a time-skip. So, there’s a lot going on– but is it good?
I’ve been singing artist Posuka Demizu’s praises ever since I first started reading the series, and I’ll continue to do so now. These chapters include some of the most memorable splash pages and two-page spreads in the whole manga. Emma and co.’s trip to Cuvitidala is especially full of great visuals from the impressively rendered architecture of the ruins to an awesome new fantasy creature. (I don’t want to spoil anything more specific than that for new readers.) The sound effects and facial expressions throughout are great as well; there are some truly heart-wrenching faces.
The shading and sense of depth throughout also continue to be well-done. Transitions from shadows to more illuminated areas are believably done and pleasing to look at. The manga’s world also reads as very three-dimensional; nothing ever looks unintentionally flat or confusing in terms of where characters are positioned within their environments. There’s also some nicely choreographed action later on during the shelter invasion.
There’s a lot of high-stakes tension throughout this volume, and by and large it’s well-executed. Chapter 100 gives us our first update on Phil in ages, and it’s very emotionally moving. Said chapter also introduces Andrew, the main antagonist of the new arc. He’s a great foil to the protagonists in a lot of ways. His involvement signals a return to human-on-human conflict after the more demon-centric battle at Goldy Pond. That doesn’t mean he’s any less frightening of a foe however, as he raises implications about the state of human society and its feelings toward the cattle children. Andrew drops some lore bombs that send shivers down the heroes’ spines, and which are all the more interesting because he’s an unreliable source of information. Everything he’s saying severely ups the level of danger that the kids are in– but with that said, he can’t necessarily be trusted.
The beginning of the shelter invasion arc is also notably good. The pacing is effective, capturing the characters’ breakneck speed and panic without sacrificing clarity as a result. There’s also some foreshadowing that’s cool on the first read without being too obvious in what it’s setting up. It just get more enjoyable on repeated readings as the layers become more apparent. Demizu and writer Kaiu Shirai also make great use of the setting as a driving factor for the action. As the characters move in and out of various tunnels and parts of the shelter, they’re able to utilize their surroundings in strategic ways.
With all that said, this volume has a number of less successful elements. The time-skip jumps the plot forward by over a year, and we get only brief lip service to what Emma and co. were up to during that time. Part of the problem is how much fun the events sound like they would have been to read. Premises like the kids hiding in plain sight by dressing up as demons have a lot of potential for suspense and world-building, but we barely get to see any of this. We also skip over how the protagonists accomplish some very pivotal tasks, making their achievements feel unearned. Art-wise, the adult characters sometimes have wonky anatomy.
All in all, The Promised Neverland Vol. 12 is an enjoyable read that pushes the plot forward considerably. In some ways it does this effectively; the Phil-centric chapter and shelter invasion arc have great suspense, and Demizu’s art is impressive as always. On the downside, the time-skip isn’t executed in a way that seems to better the series. Rather, we skip by a lot of important and potentially interesting material. Nonetheless, this is still a top-tier manga.
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