With its terrific sense of suspense, tension, and characterization of the children, The Promised Neverland may very possibly be the best new WSJ title Viz Media has put out in years.

The Promised Neverland Volume One cover Title: The Promised Neverland
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Horror
Publisher: Shueisha (JP), Viz Media (U.S)
Story/Artist: Kaiu Shirai, Posuka Demizu
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Jump
Translator: Satsuki Yamashita
Original Release Date: December 4, 2017
Review copy provided by Viz Media.

Emma and her two friends, Norman and Ray, live a happy but quiet life at Grace Field House. They are all the brightest kids at the orphanage, happy to look after their younger “siblings,” and are all excited for the day when they leave the orphanage for the wider world.

But as Emma goes to return a forgotten toy to a girl who has just left the orphanage, she has a horrible discovery: they aren’t living in an orphanage but on a farm for demon food. Suddenly so many things make sense, from the rigorous testing the children undergo daily, their pure white clothes that reveal every accident and adventure, the safeguards on their house, and to their complete and total separation from the outside world. Emma, Norman, and Ray know that they don’t have long to make their escape — while children can leave the orphanage at any age, no one stays past their 12th birthday and time is quickly running out.

The Promised Neverland is an odd Weekly Shounen Jump title for English-speakers. There are no hot-headed heroes, impassioned battles against great odds, or prophecies about a great destiny for Emma. In the end, she, also a rarity in WSJ, is just a farm animal and the first volume of The Promised Neverland invokes a great feeling of suspense throughout the entire volume. Death Note, another WSJ title that needs no introduction, was also a high stakes, high tension story but in Death Note there was (arguably) a sense that Light was “safe,” that no one in the world would be clever enough to stop his killing spree and execute him.

There are no such promises here. Emma’s young age alone seems to up the stakes and there’s also the fact that she and the other characters realize that they know nothing about their world, not even what year it really is.

The Promised Neverland
The encounter that ultimately changes Emma for good, and how she acts moving forward.

Younger fans are sure to enjoy Emma and co’s sneaking and testing to find the weaknesses in their prison. Not a single idea is left untried and at this point it’s truly a mystery how they will ever manage to escape the farm. Older readers will pick up on the many levels of terror that come from the adult characters who manage the farm, since clearly some people aren’t eaten by age 12 so both the characters and the reader really have no idea of what society the Grace Field House orphans are living in.

This first volume is mostly a build-up to adventure, as many first volumes are, and it does so with a terrific sense of suspense, tension, and genuinely makes the characters feel like clever children, not miniature adults. This is very possibly the best new WSJ title that Viz Media has put out in years, and it’s a joy to be able to start in on the story not very far behind the Japanese serialization.