WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Chapter #181.1 of The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shiri, Posuka Demizu, Satsuki Yamashita and Mark McMurray, available now in English from Viz Media.
After the series ended earlier this year, the original creators of The Promised Neverland are back with a bonus chapter. The special chapter gives a deeper insight into Ray's character growing up in Grace Field House by further exploring his trauma and explaining how he came to make the decisions that he did in the series' first arc.
In the context of the Escape arc, Ray had prior knowledge of the situation he was in, whereas Emma and Norman were only just finding out. In the new chapter, it is revealed that Ray had known the House's secret for years, in fact, and during that time he planned an escape for just Emma and Norman. While Ray's backstory was referenced throughout the Escape arc, this chapter fleshes out his emotional journey in it -- discovering the truth and deciding what to do with it.
This extra story starts off with Ray as a small child coming to the realization that he and his family are being raised as food to be shipped out to demons. He begins to isolate himself from his friends, choosing to read a book instead of playing tag, for instance. In actuality, he is researching more into their situation to figure out when kids get shipped off, in what order and how to survive for longer.
Due to never suffering from childhood amnesia, he remembers the demons vividly and has frequent nightmares about them. He doesn't want anyone to die but quickly comes to understand that he can't save everyone. The only thing he can do is encourage the children to keep studying to prolong their inevitable deaths since the ones who score the lowest on tests get chosen first.
At first, he decides to accept his fate and stay silent, but his friendship with Emma and Norman makes him realize that he doesn't want to go without a fight. At the very least, he wants to save them. So, he finds the tracking device that was placed inside their bodies at birth and tries to destroy it by stabbing his ear, but that only notifies Isabella. He hopes that Isabella is on their side but quickly learns that she isn't, and instead offers to be her spy. Being forced to silently watch as his siblings are sent to their deaths leaves him even more broken. The only thing that keeps him going is his resolve to at least save Emma and Norman, even if that means playing devil's advocate.
We finally get to see the heartbreak that Ray endured for six years and how those feelings accumulated. Although Ray always remained close to Emma and Norman, he was somewhat distant, even more so with the other kids, which is why he usually chose to read rather than to indulge in their games. He was scared to get close to the other kids. After knowing how powerless he was in the system, he hated his life, but it was Emma and Norman who helped him find his resolve. They did not know what he was going through, but his overflowing sadness allowed them to still cry alongside him. Instead of knowing Ray as broken and emotionally numb, to an extent, with only guesses of what he went through as a child, we are made witness to his process of heartbreak, grieving for the siblings he could never save.
Ray chose to harbor immense loneliness and pain in order to muster up the strength needed to form a plan to save his two best friends. It took everything in him to play the role of a double agent, gaining information from Isabella and playing dumb with his siblings to protect them. Though as the years go by, this breaks him, and he chooses to pay for his sins by burning with the House.
Although it is an odd choice to release a prequel to Ray's story months after the series ended, this chapter does confirm a lot of speculation about his backstory. While we know how determined he was in the anime's first season, we now know for sure how he came to the conclusions that he did. Ray was strongly against Emma's optimistic opinions in the Escape arc to the point where he didn't completely trust her. Now, we know that this is because he too wanted to save everyone, but had years of failure to know that he couldn't.
Overall, this chapter strengthens Ray's resolve to do what he thought was right to protect the two people he cares about most, even if it killed him to abandon his other siblings.