More spoilers lie ahead, my friends.
If you are not caught up with the latest of The Promised Neverland manga, please turn away.
Do not scroll down. Do not continue to read. Do not click anything else.
Just to be safe, throw out whatever device you are reading this on and buy something new.
It’s not worth it.
The series is too good to be spoiled by this sad excuse of a blog.
Okay. You have been warned. If you are still here, I’m assuming you are either caught up or a despicable, blasphemous, anime-heathen.
Let’s get into Part 3 of Why The Promised Neverland is so special, and the second edition of the spoiler-filled version (this “series” was supposed to be one post originally, I will remind you lol).
In Part 2 we discussed the “mental-battle” and how The Promised Neverland employs that device in expert fashion to keep the readers hooked, in specific arcs as well as across the entire plot of the series. Here we will discuss the other two points I brought up, the themes of freedom and grace.
First, we have freedom.
Freedom is at the epicenter of TPN. Since I started by watching the anime, then jumping into the manga, I distinctly remember the first scene of the show having Emma, Norman, and Ray standing at the gate, wondering what kind of outside dangers the gate could be protecting them from.
This is where our heroes start, in a state of ignorant bliss. They have been subconsciously raised to believe that freedom is bad. They are safe and happy here at Grace Fields, and Mom will protect them from anything they might face. This, of course, is the complete opposite. Their home is an absolute ocean of danger, each and every inch the enemy’s territory.
They decide that they must escape. For the children of Grace Field, to find freedom is to survive. They exert all their efforts toward achieving their goal of freedom; escape from the towering walls that hold them. Despite many a setback, they eventually reach the top of those walls, only to see that a massive chasm stands between the walls and the forest beyond, where they can presumably find safety amongst a human society.
Finally, the kids escape the farm and navigate the chasm, freedom finally at their fingertips. The sunrise shines in front of them, a symbolic marking of their victory against the dark forces of evil at the farm, as well as the deep darkness of the chasm, the children now making their way into the light of freedom.
But that is not the end. Not even close.
They escape the familiar enemy territory into unfamiliar enemy territory. They have not reached freedom at all. In fact, freedom is not possible in the world in which they were born. This world is ruled by the demons. No matter where the children tread, they cannot escape the evil forces that wish to kill and eat them.
This point is driven home with the Goldy Pond arc. The humans are so powerless that they are kept in a hunting ground as sport, even given weapons in order to satisfy the demons’ hunger for a challenge. In each and every circumstance, they are treated as inferior lifeforms not deserving of freedom or equal standing. Freedom is intrinsic to what it means to be a human being, and the denial of that freedom comes from a denial of equality.
“They are inferior to us, so we may control them as we wish.”
Echos of this sentiment ring out throughout history, as this struggle for freedom is engrained into the human existence: the desire for religious freedom as the Protestant Reformation sent many persecuted groups to North America, the American Revolution as the Colonists fought for their freedom from the British, even up to abolishment of slavery and the Civil Rights era where freedom and equality were the beacons of resistance.
Freedom is essential to who we are, and this is a major reason TPN connects as much as it does.
Lastly, and most recently in the manga, we come to what we can assume will be the final push toward freedom. First, let us begin with Norman taking the mantle of Minerva and securing a space where the liberated children can be free. Even as I say that, I am reminded of other precious pockets of freedom that the children were given throughout their journeys: the tunnels with Sonju and Mujika, the base at B06-32, and the hidden Golden Lake in Goldy Pond. Yet, as things are now in the manga, the children live in a state of somewhat-freedom.
They are free here. But is it true freedom if you are only free when you are within those limits? Apart from children being shipped out, is that any different from the freedom of Grace Fields?
Ultimately, one way or the other, this short-lived freedom will not do. They must find a way to grasp absolute freedom. The obvious answer, it would seem, would be to leave this world and escape to the human world. Though, there are two problems the children have discerned with this method.
First, they have no way of knowing that the human world will even be friendly to them — in fact, they have much evidence to the contrary. Humans have been just as big of an enemy as the demons have.
Second, there is a Promise between the demons and humans (particularly, the Ratri clan) that would prevent a simple escape from ever being possible. First of all, the Ratri clan who preside over the divide between the worlds would attempt to stop them by any means, so as to keep the demons appeased. Second of all, even if they escaped with every human, the demons would most likely be provided more by the Ratri Clan.
It would not result in Emma’s desire for all to be saved.
And it is this desire that drives the other two options. Both Emma and Norman desire all of the humans to be saved, not just a select few. Emma, because she is defined by grace, and Norman, because he loves Emma and wants to see her smile.
Norman believes they should eradicate the demons, and that it is the only way to ensure that all the humans can successfully be freed.
Emma believes they must make a new Promise in Cuvitidala with the Demon-God-thing that they refuse to tell us the real name of.
Emma hates Norman’s plan, since it uses violence and judgement in an attempt to produce freedom and grace. Norman intends to act in a very similar way to the demons — an eerily similar way as him and Geelan (the exiled demon lord that he makes a deal with) seem to have nearly the exact same thought process.
Norman is very much a Malcolm X like figure, while Emma personifies Martin Luther King Jr.
Do we fight evil with evil, or evil with love? Which way will get us the freedom we seek? Is the freedom worth it, if attained through evil?
These are the questions the manga asks us to grapple with, and I LOVE it.
As these questions of freedom swirl in our minds, we must consider the final theme that I mentioned.
But, seeing that we’ve gone pretty far into this post on just freedom, I will — once again — save the remainder of the discussion for another post.
I promise this was not my plan! I didn’t realize how much we’d be able to dig up on these topics, and I really feel as if we’re only brushing the surface.
Anyways. See you guys *hopefully* soon with Part 4 where we talk about grace!!!