After learning that the release of second season of the anime was delayed (I reviewed the first season here), I caught up on the manga and just finished the last chapter last night. Boasting 181 chapters and 20 volumes, it reached its crescendo in the beginning.
What made Yakusoku its best was the intricate plotting within the common trope of escape — a team of friends and allies, working together against an enemy or face death. The intrigue of a demon world where humans are the hunted rather than hunters and how it came to be threads itself perfectly through the first few volumes. It’s eerie, it’s creepy, and it’s terrifying. It’s a story that revolves around three eleven year olds who spit in the face of destiny. With Emma’s unending optimism, Norman’s kindness and selflessness, and Ray’s calculating nature, it’s a story of forging family in the most difficult and horrid of circumstances.
Unfortunately, after the jailbreak arc and their escape from the farm, few questions are left unanswered as exposition builds the backstory and the rules of this demon world. But, more accurately, the way the story unfolds in answering them are unfulfilling: there’s a backstory about William Minerva, the origins of when humans and demons split into their own worlds, the promise Ratri made to save most humans in exchange for the flesh of few humans as a peace offering, and Norman’s return. The urgency that drives the first arc begins to dissipate after reconciling with Norman and his ambition to completely eradicate the demon species — so when the children finally do escape into the human world, that satisfaction of their initial escape isn’t quite there.
In a way, it’s not the fault of the writer. Admittedly the first arc was near perfect and it’s difficult standard to reach twice, but in the end we spend just a few chapters in the human world after a rushed memory-loss arc on Emma’s part. We don’t experience the struggle of the other children to find Emma — their matriarch in a sense of the word and the protagonist — and their reunion is rushed through mere pages in the last chapter. One commentator in a forum mentions the use of “Talk no Jutsu”, i.e. Emma’s unshakeable belief in the goodness and redemption of people (a beautiful thing, yes)…