There are spoilers ahead.
Seriously. Spoilers incoming.
There are lots of spoilers.
There are literally all of the spoilers.
If you haven’t reached chapter 133 of The Promised Neverland manga, STOP READING THIS AND GO READ THAT IMMEDIATELY.
Do not continue if you are not caught up, please.
Here is you final warning.
Okay, here we go…
I TOLD Y’ALL MY BOY NORMAN WAS STILL ALIVE! And he’s taken over the role of Minerva?! Liberating farms all over the place?!! That’s riiiight.
Okay, just had to get that out my system before we get started here. Man, what a great series. Goldy Pond was a DOPE arc. The mystery of Minerva and the Ratri family. The Promise. The Evil-Blooded girl. Ray with the character growth. Norman ***possibly*** being set up to be a villain? Emma not only wanting to save her family, or all humans, but even the innocent demons!!!
So much is so good about this series. In this post, I am going to go back through the three themes that The Promised Neverland really hits on — the mental-battle, freedom, and grace — and use specific examples from the series to demonstrate what I mean.
First, the mental-battle.
The mental-battle is a term I am using to describe a plot device where the writer uses outwitting and outmaneuvering in order to best an opponent in conflict. This stands in contrast to the traditional anime “fight scene,” where an opponent is bested by superior strength, ability, or battle tactics. This turns a show into a thriller rather than an action series.
(If I’m not using these terms correctly in their technical sense, I apologize. Hopefully, you can understand my meaning)
The mental-battle is present from the beginning of the series in Grace Field. It starts off in the waters of innocence, as I believe Norman is the one to point out: it’s just like playing tag. The kids had been learning strategies and tactics from the very start, all through the child-like game of tag. They believe they can outsmart Mom and Sister Krone through what they’ve learned there. And it seems as though they can succeed, Emma even being able to defeat Sister Krone in this game of tag.
This is until the show crushes that innocence.
Mom shows the kids just how much she outclasses not only them, but even Sister Krone. You see, while sister Krone was joining in their game of tag, Mom was far above the childish nonsense. She didn’t simply “tag” Emma and Norman when she caught them trying to see beyond the wall. She broke Emma’s leg and shipped Norman out immediately. This was no longer tag. That was against the rules they thought they were playing by.
But, when Mom thought she was crushing their innocence and ending the game — she was actually two steps behind.
Norman and Emma had already moved from the innocence of tag. And it wasn’t just themselves. They had, lovingly, removed that innocence from the other children as well. They were not simply burdens to carry, they were mature, smart, and capable people who would help and fight alongside them.
I apologize for bringing this early scenario up again, but it is just too good.
It is a classic arc; it may be one of the greatest arcs ever written.
But the mental-battle continues to permeate the series. They survive the deadly plants, they outsmart the wild demon, all the while trying to crack Minerva’s code to reach B06-32 and, hopefully, their safety. All of this is a battle of the minds first and foremost.
When they reach B06-32, they are confronted with the next major mental obstacle: the man (AKA Yugo). Yugo, intent on driving them out or killing them if he needs to, plays this mental game with the children. They are able to keep him in check through the threat of destroying the place. This continues into the wilderness where he intends to have one of them die by letting the wild demons eat them. Though this mental battle is not as complex and intricate as the one with Mom, it still works as a satisfying and engaging pull to continue the story.
The real pull with Mister Yugo, is Emma’s appeal to him, which we will cover more when we talk about grace. In this series, time and time again, grace comes to not only shape the mental-battle (i.e., Norman agreeing to take all the kids because he wants to see Emma smile), but overcomes the mental-battle (i.e., Emma’s confrontation with Yugo before getting kidnapped).
The next mental-battle is, of course, Goldy Pond.
Goldy Pond was a pretty epic arc and introduced a lot of characters and information to the series. Of course, you have the battle with the demons — the most action-packed the series has been to date. Yet, even so, the success of the action is only possible through outwitting the demons. This, of course, comes to a head in Leuvis who is not only supremely gifted physically, but quite intelligent as well. This forces Ray and Emma into something they have little experience in — a conflict they must win through the mental-battle, with an opponent so physically gifted that they have no time to think. Though Emma is gravely injured, she and Ray together are able to put the final pieces together to outwit and destroy the seemingly invincible Leuvis.
Though that is exciting and thrilling and worthy of celebration, there is something more interesting in this arc.
We finally get to learn a ton about Minerva as they reach what used to be a point of access to the human world. This lurking shadow of the series, this enigmatic beacon of hope and revolution, this pivotal piece in the tragedy and triumph of The Promised Neverland is the ultimate mental-battle. What I love most about the Minerva mental-maneuvering that occurs is that it is not just limited to one arc, but it is a mental battle that began far before Emma, Ray, and Norman played together in Grace Field, and stretches on beyond Minerva’s own death (if we are to believe he really is dead).
Then, we have another, smaller, mental-battle going on as the series progresses forward, with the Ratri clan attacking the shelter. The most interesting facet of this particular scenario is that the kids lose an initial part of the mental chess match, which they do often. Though this has come without much consequence since the children have escaped Grace Field, here we have two children die, as well as beloved adults Yugo and Lucas. At this point in the story, I had begun to relax a bit, thinking the kids to be nearly invincible due to their shining plot armor. This was a much-needed shock to wake me up to the dangerous world they are living in.
But, a majority of the group escapes then and makes their way toward another clue given by Minerva. And here we get one of our biggest twists to date, if not our biggest.
Norman is Minerva.
The room seems to spin at this revelation.
Really? How? We got one chapter showing us that he was still alive, but very much under lockdown over at the experimental Lambda Farm. Somehow he was able to escape, organize a rebellion of the children, and formulate a plan to annihilate all the demons, giving him the appearance of a supreme intellect, or, as it is put in the manga, a god.
But not everything fits snugly into place.
Perhaps it is just my imagination, though others have expressed similar feelings, but something seems off with Norman. He no longer seems to long for what Emma wants. In fact, his plan appears to be in direct opposition to Emma’s goals. Shadows cover his face in many of the pages. He lurks outside of the panels in the manga, a larger-than-life entity — treatment we’ve seen given to fantastic villains like Mom and Leuvis (and, to be fair, heroes like Emma as well).
I can’t quite be sure, but it seems as though Norman is being set up to be the next villain.
Though I believe he would assuredly be redeemed, a Norman as the villain arc would be dope. It’s almost as though Ray and Norman have reversed roles, Norman now playing the anti-hero doing the wrong things for the right motives and Ray sticking close to Emma and working toward what she values and desires.
With a lot of interesting threads yet to be tied up, The Promised Neverland is looking to be amazing as it continues forward. I can’t wait to keep reading.
Well, guys, this post has gone on far too long. I will do a separate post for the other two (which I am fairly sure will fit into one, but we shall see).
Thanks for reading this long, drawn-out nonsense!