I got a rather marvelous gift (to myself) dropped through my letterbox yesterday – a copy of Viz Media’s translated The Promised Neverland. It was a very welcome present after the shitty two days I’ve had at work.
So I snuggled down in bed with a hot water bottle and a cup of tea to read the first volume of a manga I’ve been wanting to read for over a year.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for Viz to licence The Promised Neverland for the main reason that the protagonist is female.
There aren’t enough series around that feature a female protagonist that are fantasy, thriller, or battle manga that don’t involve a heavy amount of fan service, or where the female characters are there just to fawn over the male protagonist.
The Promised Neverland isn’t one of those series.
The first volume reminds me of Mizu no Sekai (the series I set this blog up for that I was working on with my nakama). I think that’s why I feel in love with it so much – I reminded me of all the things I want to achieve and all the barriers I want to break.
Aside from a compelling story (I’m a sucker for an orphanage setting), here are the boxes The Promised Neverland ticked that made me fall for it so hard:
A strong female protagonist
There have been the odd shounen series that have a female protagonist lead – Inuyasha, Aoharu x Kikanjuu – but I don’t think any of them have been in Shounen Jump (please correct me if I’m wrong). There are plenty of good female characters in the magazine – Uraraka from Boku no Hero is my favourite at the moment – but none has come close to taking a staring role.
I am of the belief that gender doesn’t matter – that personality is what is important – which is why I find it hard to accept that because Shounen Jump is aimed at boys, they’re only going to feature stories where boys are the protagonists. Because that’s what their audience want to read. Fair enough. The editors know their target audience better than I do.
But I’m just so pleased that the protagonist of The Promised Neverland is female.
Not only that, but she fits my theory that if you have a character who embodies all the qualities of a shounen hero (a comic side, a courageous and caring heart, a dream and the persistence to peruse that dream) then it doesn’t matter if they’re not male. The reader will love them anyway.
Emma has all of those classic shounen protagonist qualities: She’s got a comic side that comes from being the slowest out of her, Ray and Norman; she’s courageous, going beyond the fence and plotting against Isabella; she cares for all her siblings, so much so that she won’t leave them behind for the sake of saving her own skin; she has a dream to escape the orphanage, and you know she’s going to do everything she can to make that dream happen.
She’s the shounen hero I’ve been waiting so long to meet.
Complex female characters
I really like how the author, Kaiu Shirai, has put his two women characters into the traditional mother role, but then twisted them.
Mom, or Isabella, appears to be this friendly supportive mother, but then we discover that she’s not that at all. She’s a puppet of the demons – an ex-orphan who is manipulating the children she pretends to love in order to save her own skin.
After the first chapter, Emma’s eyes are opened to Isabella’s true nature. Her mom is someone to be feared – not someone to love as mother characters traditionally are. Yes, she has helped Emma, Ray and Norman grow and develop, but not out of love for them. She only did that to increase the value of her merchandise.
We are also introduced to Sister Krone in chapter 5, who is meant to be another supporting mother role, but again Shirai has twisted her into something malicious.
Krone is ambitious – she vying for Isabella’s position as Head Caretaker, and is willing to orchestrate her downfall in order to achieve it. She’s just as watchful as Isabella – interrupting Norman’s and Ray’s conversation because she knew they were talking about the secrets they had uncovered.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing these women play off against each other to see who comes out as the victor.
I really liked one of Emma’s opening lines “Our personalities, our ages and the colours of our skin all differ.”
I can accept why manga series that are set in Japan don’t feature characters of dark skin, but I find it strange that fantasy series like Magi, Black Clover, One Piece, and Hunter x Hunter, which are set in alternative worlds, still have races of people that have pale skin. (Although, to cut mangakas, or their artist counterparts some slack, it must be such an extra hassle to deal with skin tones on top of everything else.)
I really like that Shirai, or the artist Posuka Demizu, has included characters of different skin tones like Sister Krone and Don. It adds something to story that sets it further apart from the rest of the series in Shounen Jump, and most other manga series.
I think it’s safe to say I have a new favourite Shounen Jump series (apart from Naruto, because nothing can take its place in my heart). I’ll be following The Promised Neverland with great interest. I looking forward to seeing what the series has in store!
Have you picked up the first volume of The Promised Neverland? What did you think? Or are you planning to? Let me know – comment down below.