The Promised Neverland Full Series Review

Weekly Shounen Jump manga often get bashed for being the same thing over and over again, with a different coat of paint. But sometimes… sometimes, a Jump manga will attempt to break free of the mold while still embracing the core values of Jump and its demographic. The Promised Neverland (published in English by Viz), is one such manga.

The children of Grace Field House are as happy as can be, living under the loving eyes of their caretaker, Isabella, while waiting for their adoption. It’s just a bit weird that they have to take tests, and that they have numbers tattooed onto their necks, and that the house is surrounded by walls, and that they never hear from the kids who go out to get adopted… Yeah, something’s off with this place, and the ones who find out first are the three smartest kids in the house: Emma, Ray, and Norman. What they find out is that the kids are all livestock being bred for consumption by a race of terrifying demons. Naturally, they put on their thinking caps and figure out how to get everyone out safely.

So, in short, The Promised Neverland is amazing. Instead of screaming “FRIENDSHIP!” and brute forcing their way out, these kids have to use their wits to fight, or- more often than not- strategically retreat from combat. It is incredibly suspenseful, with new plot twists waiting just around the corner. It is amazing how it’s able to capture that familiar Jump feeling, while exploring uncharted territory for the magazine. 

However… small spoiler: the escape from Grace Field House is only the first arc. After this, we begin to find out about the world that The Promised Neverland is set in, and it only gets more complicated from there. I know that critics have exclaimed that the whole story goes to sh** from here, as it becomes more about figuring out what the hell is going on than about conducting stealth operations. And to be honest… I kind of felt the same way for a while. The manga was still good, but it didn’t have that magic from the first arc.

Fortunately, things pick up when it enters its climax. Once the puzzle pieces finally start fitting together, it becomes just about as intense as it was at the beginning.. It’s a real shame that you have to go through a pretty big chunk of inferior content to get there, but if any part had to suck, be glad that it’s the midway point! There’s no doubt that critics hate the ending, but that’s to become expected of pretty much any Jump manga, especially a popular one like this. As far as most manga go, The Promised Neverland feels satisfying enough, as far as resolving plot threads is concerned.

As for characters, er… this is where The Promised Neverland is at its most Jump-like. Even though Emma is among the smartest kids from Grace Field, she’s about as abrasive and reckless as any Jump protagonist. Fortunately, Ray and Norman are much better and smarter than her. The biggest problem with the cast is that it gets pretty large over the course of the story, with some minor characters not being that memorable. There are even a lot of characters whose names I can’t remember.

The art is what brings it all together. The Promised Neverland is drawn in an elegant, storybook-like style that can go from beauty to terror rather quickly. The designs of the demons are phenomenal, even if a lot of them look the same. The panel flow is also a key factor in building suspense; something that the anime sadly lacks due to the nature of its medium.

But if there’s any truly divisive flaw with The Promised Neverland, it’s Emma. If you couldn’t tell from this being a Jump manga, she’s a bit of a Mary Sue. Late in the series, it becomes really easy to succeed in the ultimate goal, except that it involves committing xenocide on the Demons. Since she’s such a good person who’s willing to forgive an entire race that’s indiscriminately bred and eaten human beings, she jumps in (or Jump’s in, rather) and tries to offer a more hunky-dorey solution. I’ll admit, it’s annoying, but hey, I also like lighthearted junk at times.

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Final Verdict: 8.9/10

It’s not perfect, but The Promised Neverland is a great manga; definitely one of the better ones in recent days of Jump. It genuinely tries to do something that isn’t mere pandering to testosterone-y boys (like Kimetsu no Yaiba), and while it stumbles, it definitely succeeds to some extent. The manga truly has its own identity. I recommend it to any shounen fans who want something just a tad different.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Full Series Review

This was honestly a very tough review to write. I got into Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (published in English by Viz) months before the anime- that freaking anime- aired. At that time, it had a pretty niche fanbase, like any anime-less manga would in the West. But my whole perspective of it changed when the anime launched- especially the viral nineteenth episode- and made the franchise mainstream overnight. Kimetsu no Yaiba has become one of Jump’s bestselling manga in recent years, even overtaking One Piece as the #1 bestseller of 2019. It has now become the embodiment of everything I hate about mainstream culture and marketing, similar to how I feel about BABYMETAL (which I’ll cover in a future post). I was going to give it a relatively high-ish score at first, but how much will my contrarian-ness affect the score now?

So, Kimetsu no Yaiba’s premise is as simple and unoriginal as it gets. In Taisho Era rural Japan, Tanjiro Kamado lives a happy life with his mother and siblings. But of course, he comes home one day to find his whole family dead (easy emotional hook, check), i.e. slaughtered by a demon. Only his sister, Nezuko, has survived, but she’s become a demon herself (cute girl who needs to be protecc, check). He then goes on a journey to become the #1 Demon Slayer (lofty goal, check) and kill the guy who orchestrated it all.

If you couldn’t tell, Kimetsu no Yaiba is mainstream to the Nth degree, following each shounen trope with little to no deviation. Fortunately, the mangaka at least seemed pretty aware of this, and chose to breeze through a lot of training and entrance exams to get to the real demon-whooping that readers actually want. After Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayers, he basically goes out with Nezuko (who is conveniently small enough to carry in a box) and fights whatever demon is terrorizing whatever area. The only saving grace of the narrative is its fast pacing.

The characters aren’t much better. Tanjiro is your typical, wish fulfilment protagonist. He runs on plot armor, and is inexplicably loved by everyone, even the demons that he cuts down; every single one of them goes through their “tragic backstory” to make you sympathize with them at the last second before Tanjiro kills them, and then they thank him for being a good person in their final breath. His sister, Nezuko, is marketing incarnate. She basically exists to be cute (which works, as I have seen on the message boards when the anime aired). Sure, she can actually hold her own in combat, but her cuteness is definitely a higher priority and a big factor to the franchise’s success.

There are a couple of saving graces, however. Joining Tanjiro are Zenitsu and Inosuke. Zenitsu can be annoying, given that he’s a big fat wuss who exists to provide comic mischief, but when he falls asleep like Bodkin from Wizards of Once, he becomes a super powerful bad-ass. Inosuke is a buff chuunibyou who wears a cool boar mask. These two aren’t the best characters in the world, but they’re enough to make Kimetsu no Yaiba more enjoyable.

Given the traditional battle shounen structure, Kimestu no Yaiba is full of throwaway antagonists who rarely last more than an arc. But among them is the actual main antagonist, Muzan Kibutsuji. He is a legitimately intimidating villain who has a very suave aura about him. He might be an a-hole to his minions, but he’s at least dressed fabulously.

Sadly, that’s pretty much it for the cast. What remains to be discussed are the many other Demon Slayer people that Tanjiro looks up to. I always forget who they are almost immediately after every reading session of the manga, so that really speaks of how unremarkable they are. The only one I remember is Giyuu, but that’s just because he’s the first one encountered, and his name is funny.

In the end, the one thing I can appreciate about Kimetsu no Yaiba is the fact that it ends startlingly quickly; clocking in at 205 chapters despite its insane popularity. Out of everything in the manga, the best thing that could’ve happened was for it to end, so that the mangaka didn’t have to worry about shoehorning in unremarkable antagonists just to pad it out for ten more years (like DBZ and Naruto).

The art is, uh, an effort. I’m not gonna crap on the art like everyone did when the anime came out. Sure, it’s not as “clean and crisp” as the anime, but it has a unique charm to it. Also, the fights are more than visually appealing enough. But like what critics said about the anime, the great art can only go so far to offset such a cookie-cutter narrative.

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Final Verdict: 6.75/10

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a fairly enjoyable manga that managed to end on the best possible note. Is its popularity undeserved? Hell yes. Is it the worst thing ever? Not quite. Like I said in the beginning, I’m being extra harsh on the manga because the anime was insanely successful due to the inherent appeal of Tanjiro’s simple and idealized personality, Nezuko’s cuteness, the visual spectacle, and the presence of famed composer Yuki Kajiura. Raw, human emotion, not perturbed by critical thinking, is imperative in order to enjoy Kimetsu no Yaiba; enough to have your heart melt from the backstories of people that you know for five seconds. By now, it should be obvious if this manga’s your cup of tea, so decide accordingly.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle First Impressions (Volumes 1-5)

Cover of volume 1

In this turbulent age of “gotta-go-fast-gotta-go-fast-gotta-go-faster-faster-faster-faster-faster-SonicX“, we all appreciate an opportunity to just lay down, cozy in bed, and sleep. The main character of Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, published in English by Viz, clearly appreciates it, and not even being a hostage of the Demon King will stop her from accumulating a world record breakin’ quantity of Z’s!

The aforementioned main character is a deadpan, loli princess named Aurora Syalis Goodreste, and as discussed, she is the Demon King’s prisoner. However, she doesn’t really give a crap as long as she can nod off to sleep. But the castle isn’t really the best place to sleep, so she goes off in search of things to make her own accommodations. Simple.

When it comes to characters, Syalis herself seems to be the entire selling point of this manga. It doesn’t take long to ask yourself if Syalis is the demons’ prisoner, or the other way around. She ruthlessly rips and tears demons apart with a nifty pair of scissors, and ends up making quite a name for herself. And since she’s a hostage, the demons can’t really do much to her besides carry her back to her room. 

The other demons are perhaps the weakest aspect of the manga. Each and every single one of them, from a random mook, to the Demon King himself, basically play the straight men who react to all of Syalis’ actions. The interactions are entertaining, but they don’t get much personality themselves. If anything, you just end up liking them out of pity more than anything else.

The true charm of Sleepy Princess is in the art. Not only do the panels flow well, but the main character looks super adorable (which is the most important aspect, by far). A lot of the other demons, even the ones who show up for five seconds, have great designs as well. The manga also has a lot of videogame meta-humor, as dialogue boxes straight out of a retro JRPG pop up often when Syalis accomplishes tasks.

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Current Verdict: 8.5/10

Sleepy Princess is pretty darn good so far, but it’s another case where it could get boring if it runs for too long. Without any clearly defined story arcs, at least not yet, most chapters are self-contained and don’t have the continuity of other comedy manga, like Kaguya-sama. Nonetheless, it’s a great manga, with a great loli (always important), and I recommend it to anyone who wants a modern twist to those old-fangled fairytales.

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Anime Reception Prediction: Sleeper Hit (no pun intended)

I don’t know when the recently announced anime for Sleepy Princess is going to air, but when it does, it will probably be well-received. However, it could get overshadowed by whatever the “next big thing” is, especially if another battle shounen or isekai comes out that season.

Combatants Will be Dispatched! Volume 1 Review

Cover of Combatants Will be Dispatched! Volume 1

To those of you who have read my first two reviews, thanks for coming back. I’ve been busy reading and planning my next couple of reviews. I hope you enjoy this one!

Since I have not covered Konosuba on this blog yet, let me give you a quick preview of my thoughts on it, as I will- naturally- be comparing it to this light novel, Combatants will be Dispatched! (written by the same author and published in English by Yen Press). Konosuba is an utter masterpiece that parodies isekai, right at the point where it was starting to become popular, with a morally ambiguous main character and a harem of attractive, but unruly girls. Those same attributes are present here in Combatants, but in a way that still feels fresh.

As stated in my clickbaity Twitter post promoting this entry, Combatants‘ premise is like a Konosuba-y Overlord. With the powers of big business, the Kisaragi Corporation has achieved near total domination over humanity. With the Earth conquered, the heads of this company have their sights set on a fantasy world. Combat Agent Six is sent to gather information on this world and establish a portal for the Kisaragi army to follow up with the real attack. And like in Konosuba, everything acts against the main character’s intentions.

In order to talk about the bread and butter of Combatants, I need to talk about the main characters introduced in this volume. Agent Six is Konosuba‘s Kazuma, if he was actually powerful for once. Throughout his exploits in the fantasy world, you’ll recognize the same arrogance and perverseness that was ever-present in Kazuma. The other interesting thing to note is that although his life at Kisaragi has definitely influenced how he behaves, he’s not entirely happy with his job. That shows in this volume and could have repercussions moving forward.

The harem is as lovably loathsome as ever in Combatants. I grew attached to Best Girl Alice very quickly. She’s a high-spec pretty-girl android, which sounds as useless as you think. Her skills in battle basically amount to using microtransactions to send Six some Kisaragi equipment from our world (in a very Wile E. Coyote and ACME fashion). Most of the time, she’s roasting Six (and everyone else too) with every chance she gets, and I love her for it. She has so much personality it really makes you forget that she’s a robot.

Snow is a denizen of the fantasy world. She comes off as the righteous and morally correct royal knight at first, but since this book runs on Konosuba rules, we know that isn’t the case. As expected, she turns out to be very pretentious and not as morally uptight as she seems. She later recruits two rejects, Rose and Grimm, into Six’s party. Rose is my least favorite character so far, as she seems to merely be a cute monster girl who only thinks of eating. This is only volume 1, so she still has a chance. Grimm is great, though. She comes off as a real asset to the team with her assortment of dark magic and curse abilities, but due to her terrible sleeping habits, she ends up nodding off 99.99% of the time.

The overarching story has more focus and purpose than Konosuba, at least for now: The main cast’s goal is ultimately to defeat a Demon army, but this time it’s to wipe out competitors as opposed to being able to live a leisurely life. The writing is just as strong as Konosuba as well. The only real flaw so far is that it seems to switch POVs without any indication, so be wary of that.

The art is alright. It’s got nice textures and expressive faces. Although different in style from Konosuba, the two could go hand-in-hand.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

It is incredibly simple to recommend Combatants will be Dispatched! to someone. I can’t logically see how anyone who loves Konosuba wouldn’t also love this. And if you haven’t read Konosuba at all, then I will have a confused look on my face, followed by a strong recommendation to read both it and this!

And who knows? Maybe Combatants will SURPASS Konosuba someday.