The Promised Neverland’s 2nd Season is just right around the corner, so let’s re-ignite our understanding of The Promised Neverland (TPN) characters by breaking down one of the popular characters in the series — Ray!
First off, would you believe when I tell you that Ray wasn’t even included among my favourite characters list when I first got into the series? It’s true!
In fact, he didn’t even become my top-tier character until I re-read the first arc of the series twice!
It took a while, but I finally understood Ray’s psychological viewpoint and the reasons behind his actions during the Jailbreak Escape Arc!
Disclaimer: This blog will cover major spoilers from the manga and Season 1 of the anime.
Ray is Isabella’s biological son birthed due to artificial insemination. This is revealed in episode 12 of the anime and Chapter 37 of the manga.
You might be thinking, “How did this even happen when there’s no suitable partner for Isabella (the main antagonist of the series)?” Or you might think, “This is a fantasy genre, anything can happen.”
Well, here’s the gist of it: artificial insemination is shown briefly in Chapter 31 of the manga but excluded in episode 12 of the anime.
It’s a realistic method that mankind also uses for human reproduction. One could even say that the creatures in TPN (the demons) learned about this artificial reproductive technique from humans.
Who is Ray?
Many TPN fanatics know that the series surprises the audience with its culminating plot twists and turns!
After watching episode 4, I was in a state of shock that I dropped the remote in the middle of the night while watching the show!
It was an eye-opener and jaw-dropping revelation when the anime revealed that Ray is the spy among the orphaned cattle children!
To delve into his mindset, I have listed a few of Ray’s fascinating traits below. No wonder he is such a beloved character among TPN fanatics!
- Ray excels working with machines – During his confrontation with Norman, the mangaka and the animators allow Ray’s body language to speak for themselves, particularly through his hand gestures.
If you notice, Ray’s hands are rougher and larger than Norman and Emma’s.
His sore hands tell a story of a kid who constantly experimented with old toy models to create an electronic device that nullifies the cattle children’s ear transmitters
- Ray is a realist – He is the most grounded and pragmatic child among the trio. As a tactical thinker, Ray approaches problems rationally even if it means 6 years of planning and preparation!
- Ray prefers working alone – Since he is often seen working alone, Emma and Norman perceive him as a loner who bears all his burdens.
Ray’s solitary trait could be attributed to his 6-year, secret spy duties for Isabella; it even culminated in suicidal tendencies like arson and self-immolation!
As a side note, Kaiu Shirai (the author) wrote a draft of TPN saying that ‘Ray was supposed to die‘.
- Ray is a “trump card” – Ray offered himself as the “strongest trump card” to Norman and Emma’s plans. With Ray’s superb negotiation skills and expansive knowledge, Norman couldn’t say “no” to Ray’s deals.
- Ray easily gives up – Giving up is one of Ray’s weaknesses according to Sister Krone. It’s a trait Ray shared with Isabella, who also gave up from her escape attempts when she was a child.
- Ray is very protective – Ray got angry at Don when the latter punched Norman out of anger. It shows that Ray greatly cherishes Norman and Emma to the point that he sacrifices other cattle children’s lives just to save his best friends.
- Ray’s look-alikes in the fandom:
- Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto – Ray is nicknamed “edge lord Sasuke Uchiha” by Naruto fans because of his emo bangs. Both of them emit a dark aura and attempts to hide their caring nature.
- Yu Ishigami from Kaguya-sama: Love is War – Ray bears a resemblance to the quiet tech-savvy, “Yu Ishigami”. Both of them have a hands-on approach when it comes to tinkering with gadgets.
- Tetsurō Kuroo from Haikyuu!! – Ray is also shy and withdrawn like “Tetsurō Kuroo” (nicknamed “Rooster Head”).
- Giyū Tomioka from Demon Slayer – Ray is akin to the pillar swordsman, Giyū Tomioka, because his resourcefulness allows him to provide support behind the scenes.
Did you also know how Ray’s emo character design came about? Posuka Demizu (the artist) just finished a variety of sketches for Ray’s character design.
When she gave the designs to Kaiu Shirai (the author) and Mr. Suguru Sugita (the editor), none of those drawings caught their attention.
When they noticed a doodle that was quickly sketched on the side, our beloved Ray was born! The doodle shows a black-haired boy whose emo bangs cover his left eye. Pretty cool, right?
If you want to know pre and post serialization draft materials, look forward to the creators’ upcoming official ‘TPN fanbook and artbook!’
Episodes 4-5 and Chapters 13-14 demonstrate some of the iconic conversations in the Escape Arc because the audience understood Ray’s true motives.
These are the episodes where the confrontation scenes occurred between Norman and Ray first, which is followed by a meeting between Ray and Isabella.
Here is where the creators established a striking resemblance between Ray and his mom from their jet-black hair to their piercing gaze.
Early in the series, Mr. Shirai communicated these traits to Ms. Demizu, who gave both Isabella and Ray thick black hair and magnetic eyes.
Although these physical attributes give them a lot of attention, the striking difference between them lies in their eyes.
The artist gave Isabella soft eyes to complement her motherly aura; but Ray was given slanted, black pupils for his delinquent demeanor.
The gentleness in Isabella’s eyes is deceptive because she is inherently evil, but Ray has a dazed and sleepy look in his eyes. He was even nicknamed “Sleepy Cyclops” in later volumes of the manga!
Ray comes off as a relaxed dude at first, but the audience soon realized that his character design augments his “disguise”. If any, his emo bangs add flair to his already mysterious personality!
In episode 1 (or Chapter 1), the audience thought that Ray is just the socially awkward, silent type because he is consumed in his own little world when he reads a book under a tree.
The audience realized in episode 2 (or Chapter 4 of the manga) that those books are not something regular 11-year old kids in our time and day find entertaining.
As it turns out, Ray’s book discusses history and technology (specifically, “Mechanical Engineering and the History of Humans” by Alex Mikhaylov)!
He even reads a book about “Farming” and uses complex terminologies in the manga like “supply”, “demand”, and “optimal solution” — terms you often hear economics students discuss in school.
Nowadays, we often hear kids complain that they don’t want to study, but not Ray (LOL)! He pushed himself to study and is a perfect scorer in Grace Field House’s daily exams.
Aside from studying complex logical subjects, I mentioned before that Ray is excellent with machines.
In fact, ‘The ShonenJump.com website added a Q&A section from TPN creators’ about this.
Mr. Shirai stated that Ray and Norman’s tinkering hobbies are based on his childhood — he used to disassemble clocks during playtime.
So, in Volume 4, he added a flashback scene of Ray and Norman disassembling and assembling a music box (Emma couldn’t imitate them. LOL!)
Does he betray Emma and Norman?
With a nickname like “edge lord Sasuke”, fans truly perceive Ray giving off a dark and edgy persona despite his silent and quiet demeanor.
Like I said above, he and Isabella are alike: they prefer to survive and live longer in their dystopian worlds even if it means giving up on their freedom.
Ray is manipulative, cunning, and controlling just as Isabella is. Isabella sacrificed her fellow humans (the orphaned cattle children) so she can remain alive in the demon world.
Same thing with Ray: he resorted to sacrificial methods in order to progress to his goals!
This leads us to the question whether Ray betrayed Emma and Norman. The quickest way to answer this is, “No, Ray doesn’t betray his best friends.”
In fact, he is on board in helping them with their escape plans. And to say the least, he wants Norman and Emma to live up until they are 12 years old, the age cattle children are harvested regardless of their test scores.
However, Ray is cunning and his method of helping them requires conditions.
To put it in another way, Ray will only help them escape Grace Field House’s Plantation #3 if Norman agrees to trick or fool Emma into bringing all 38 children in the escape plan.
In addition, he placed a cap of five people to bring along. Emma, Norman, Don, Gilda, and Ray himself should only be the ones included in the great escape, while the remaining 33 kids are left behind the orphanage.
He also clarified to Norman that he is neither an enemy nor an ally. The audience thinks that Ray is prioritizing his personal goals over Norman and Emma’s friendship.
He is not being a true friend because he is making life harder for his best friends.
But in reality, there are people who think and act like Ray — they lean toward the side that benefits them the most. That’s just how Ray is.
He offered himself as a trump card to Norman by saying that he’s ready to leak false information to Isabella if need be. But he will only do so when circumstances go his way, or if the conditions are favorable to his plans.
Norman pretended to agree to Ray’s deals. But upon detecting Norman’s hesitancy, Ray threatened Norman.
Even though Ray did not finish saying his threat, placing his left hand on Norman’s right shoulder already frightened the latter, who could only give a pretentious smile to his friend.
Like everyone else here, I complain whenever the cliffhangers in the anime show up!
The cliffhangers annoy me so much that by the end of episode 5, I finally gave in and grabbed the manga. It is then where I experienced reading TPN for the first time.
I read the Jailbreak Arc up until 5 am in the morning! I really wanted to finish reading this magnificent arc all in one night, and so I did! I also cried the following morning after realizing how masterful TPN’s Escape Arc narrative is.
As a final word, Mr. Shirai is simply a genius who loves controlling things behind the scenes, all the while not forgetting to fool us (his primary audience). Ms. Demizu draws fabulously, as well!
After reading their new one-shot, Spirit Photographer: Saburo Kono, I can’t help but compare similar character features between the one-shot and TPN!
It just goes to show that I’m still looking forward to their next work even if the TPN manga is complete!
About The Promised Neverland
Created by Kaiu Shirai, this series debuted in a Weekly Shonen Jump manga in 2016. Licensed by VIZ Media for an English Language release, this series has gained immense popularity, selling 4.2 million copies in a concise period.
It’s set in the year 2045. Emma, an 11-year-old orphan, living in Grace Field House is a self-contained orphanage housing her and 37 other orphans.
The orphans are allowed complete freedom, except to venture beyond the grounds or the gate, which connects the house to the outside world.
One night, Emma comes to know the truth about the orphanage and its connections to the demons.
Determined to break out of Grace Field House, Norman and Emma join with Ray to find a way to escape along with their other siblings.