Deadman Wonderland Review

This is review number one hundred and forty five. It’s part of the Summer 2011 lineup. It’s Deadman Wonderland. It’s one of the shows I’ve wanted to try because it had a nice hype to it. Is it good? Yes and No. Anyways, it’s a twelve episode anime about people inside an amusement park/jail called Deadman Wonderland. Let’s read on.

Story

One day, Ganta Igarashi went from being a normal boy talking with his friends to becoming the only survivor of a massacre of thirty nine students. A floating creature attacked his classroom and somehow spared his life. His luck was bad though because people now consider him the killer. He is innocent though but the rest of the world isn’t convinced. He is sentenced to death and will now serve his time in the only business owned prison in Japan. It serves as an amusement park and a jail where visitors are entertained by the inmates. This place is called Deadman Wonderland. This place is too much for a normal kid though and Ganta’s life is about to be turned upside down as he steps in what can be considered hell on earth.

Taking the Pants Off

Deadman Wonderland is pretty unique anime. It had all the elements to be a good Shounen anime but sadly, it wasn’t able to do so. I like the premise though and the amount of gore in the anime was pretty satisfying. It also had potential but I’ve seen far too many anime that had potential and seeing it miserably flop. Deadman Wonderland is one of those anime. It’s not a bad anime though. There is enough action and gore and some hints of story to keep you watching. I hate to admit it but I finished the anime in one sitting. That usually indicates that the anime had enough good things for me to keep watching until the end. There’s not a lot of anime that can do that to me so despite the wasted potential, there is something to enjoy in this anime.

The anime is about a boy named Ganta surviving a murder and being pin pointed as the culprit. He is thrown into Deadman Wonderland where the inmates are treated miserably and even killed for fun. It’s a very lovely premise because the idea of a cry baby kid trusted into the harsh world of a prison has a lot of potential. The fact that the jail also serves as amusement for people was also pretty intriguing. After the first episode, I was instantly hooked because I wanted to see how the anime worked with the premise. In the span of twelve episodes though, there are a lot of plot points presented in the anime. The premise was just a mere starting point into something fairly bigger that what it promised.

So let me point out each of the plot point first. There are a lot of them so be prepared. The first one is about the inner workings of Deadman Wonderland. This place is a prison and an amusement park. The prisoners all have a collar attached to their neck that delivers small doses of poison to their bodies. This is how the inmates are executed. If you want to live then you must intake the antidote in the form of a bitter candy. These candies aren’t free though and they cost “Cast Points”. They’re basically the currency in Deadman Wonderland that eases the lives of the inmates. Cast points are used to buy food, drink and other necessities including the candy antidote. You can only earn them though by participating in lethal games hosted by the Deadman Wonderland. These games can kill you but if you win, you get to live an easier life. If you fail to eat the candy then after three days, you’re dead.

The first half of the anime is basically used to present the inner workings of Deadman Wonderland. We are introduced to the inmates and their lives inside the place and we also see the people running this place. There are two main authorities in Deadman Wonderland. First is the prison guard staff led by a woman named Makina. If an inmate becomes unruly then the guards use disciplinary measures to keep them in line. They’ll go as far as to slash you with a sword if you ever pissed them off. The second authority and one above the guards is the park’s promoter. He is basically in charge of the place and he mostly does shady things on inmates. I personally love this guy because he’s downright insane. He has a dead set smile and he’s pretty much the highest form of evil in the anime because everything that transpires in the anime can be lead back to him. He also has a sick fascination for Ganta who he believes is either special or a new toy he wants to break.

Ganta is special though because he survived that murder for a reason. The second plot point in the anime is Ganta realizing that he had super powers. He has the power to use his blood as a weapon. He has soon decided to take revenge at the guy that ruined his life and he discovers that the guy is being held in a secret facility of the prison. He charged head on and soon discovers people just like him. People that can control their blood and use them as weapons are called “Deadmen”. These guys are special kind of inmates that are housed in a secret facility hidden from ordinary prisoners and staffs. Ganta is soon introduced into the world of Cell Block G where Deadmen prisoners are housed in.

Those are the two plot points in the first half of the anime. Everything seems organic and the pacing was fine. There is some decent progression that made me enjoy the anime. I thought the anime would continue developing the two plot points because there are some pretty interesting things that unfolded that I wanted more of. Things took a huge downward spiral in the second half though as new plot points are then introduced.

The third plot point of the anime is the Corpse Carnival. It’s another deadly feature of Deadman Wonderland where two Deadmen prisoners are pitted against each other and a bunch of anonymous audience watching via live stream (or something) place bets to see who will prevail. The winner gets some Cast Points and Candy to live an easy life. The loser has to face deadly consequences for losing. It’s a dark aspect of the anime but it nicely features the Shounen element of the show. Here it is, a tournament style storyline where people with powers fight each other. This is also where Ganta would grow strong and do a journey from an underdog to a cool person. I was happy with this storyline even though the first two plot points weren’t utilized anymore.

Sadly though, there is another plot point. It’s the emergence of two groups of Deadmen fighting each other. One group is fighting for their freedom while another group is working for the promoter. The events in the anime soon imploded in a battle against the Deadmen where Ganta is caught in the middle and these people, with miserable lives, struggle for hope to one day get out of the hell they are in.

The last point is the identity of the guy that killed Ganta’s classmates and left him with the burden of serving time. He is called the “Red Man” and he is just a living breathing killing machine. Little is introduced about him but it is certain that he loves to kill and he is housed inside the facility. Unlike the rest of the plot points, this one was loosely told as the anime progressed. The identity of the killing machine and the relationship he has with Ganta is one of the most beautiful aspects of the anime.

The anime had five plot points told in the span of twelve episodes. You can tell just from those different plot points exactly where the anime went wrong. First of all the pacing was off and the show jumped from one plot point to another. I marathoned the anime so I was able to connect the dots but if you saw this while it was airing then it would be very infuriating. One week, it’d be about Ganta surviving the prison then the next week it’s being about the deadly tournament. There’s no time to fully appreciate the plot points because the anime crammed so much that it slowly exploded in the second half.

The individual plot points were actually pretty good and I love how they were presented. Surprisingly, they were paced well and there is cohesion in it but as soon as it focus on a new plot pint, the old one is shoved to the side as if it wasn’t important. The anime wasn’t rushed. It was just badly executed and the plot points themselves wasn’t the problem. It was the number of episodes. There are too much presented in twelve episodes that it became intimidatingly bad. If the anime had twenty four or more episodes to work with then the plot points would become individual arcs that is much easier to understand. Instead, we get five plot points unevenly balanced and not cohesively joined.

deadman wonderland15

The most annoying part though is that all the plot points never had a decent conclusion to them. They all felt like eating the first course in a fancy restaurant. You paid a lot of money for this dinner and it set you up for a grand main course but it never came. The anime ended before it can properly resolve the issues it established. My friend calls this dastardly incident as a “mangalure”. They are anime that ended abruptly after you invested time in them and the goal is to entice you to read the manga. Back in 2005 and so, mangalure anime were pretty common. Anime like Air Gear, Fruits Basket and Claymore are good examples. I’m not sure if it was intentional but it did turn a generation of anime fans into manga readers so mangalure served its purpose well.

With the rise of light novel and VN adaptations though, the mangalure tactic is abandoned and studios soon presented their own conclusions if it was needed to or they at least make sure they cover a good amount of the manga. Seeing a mangalure released in 2011 was certainly interesting but incredibly annoying. I was hoping for another season since there are some questions unanswered but I review this after one year of its release. If there is another season then it’s running pretty f*cking late.

The characters in the anime were pretty decent. They were good Shounen characters and I appreciate that. They play their role well and the anime was kind enough to give some proper introduction to them even if they’re just minor characters. The anime utilized flashbacks and monologues pretty nicely to establish the characters. A good Shounen anime should have flashbacks and despite the short allotted time, the anime still gave time to that important element.

The main character, Ganta, is OK. He’s the cry baby type of character that cowers in a corner, questions his manliness a lot and then does something cool after coughing up blood. He’s a decent main character and I love how the anime keeps on raping his innocence with a lot of graphic incidents. I feel for this poor guy but I must admit that he is pretty annoying. The cowardly type does work well with the setting of the anime but it was disappointing to see him unchanged as the anime progresses. I was hoping the cowardly ass turd would soon turn into a dependable main character but with the plot points all over the place, he never got a chance to develop.

The rest of the characters are really nicely done. They share one thing in common. They are all two faced bastards battle hardened in this hellish prison. The characters you thought were cute and bubbly would soon reveal their crazy sadistic side. The characters you thought were crazy sadistic would soon reveal their cool side. It was pretty fun because you mostly stick to the first impression you have of a certain character but seeing them out of character was pretty awesome. There were a lot of characters though. The minor characters soon started to touch elbow with the side characters so you can no longer distinguish who is important to the story.  In each plot point, there is a different minor character and they soon become side characters with little role on other plot points. It’s pretty confusing but I usually just stuck to the characters I like.

It’s such a shame that this anime didn’t have more episodes to thoroughly fix itself. In the end, there are conflicts unresolved, characters not properly introduced and questions unanswered. I enjoy the ride but the overall sour experience of the anime is something that will stick with you. Also, the shameless practice of mangalure should never be repeated. Respect the viewers and give us a proper ending. I don’t care if it’s half assed, pathetic or unsatisfying. I don’t ever want to feel that I am obliged to read the manga after wasting six hours investing energy for something that ultimately lead to an unfinished journey.

Sight and Sound

The character design in the anime is pretty nice. The Shounen elements shine through pretty magnificently and there are a lot of cool looking characters in the anime. Shounen anime should always have flashy characters. It’s the number one rule. I love the range of character design in the anime. There is the heavily muscled type, the bishoujo, the big breasted girls, the loli, and then the normal type with normal body frame. The thing that makes them stand out is the outfit and their different abilities. There is the standard jail jumpsuit but then there are some pretty outrageous outfits like a rocker Buddhist monk and other crazy stuff like that. The uniforms of the prison guards are also amazing. They vary from section to section so I love the range of design in them.

The one character that nicely stands out though among all the cool flashy types is Shiro. She wears a body suit but it looks like she is naked most of the time because her skin matches the color of the jumpsuit. I also like how the outfit compliments her curves and the nice marking on the suit is pretty cool. She has a mysterious aura to her that is very intriguing.

The animation in the anime is pretty great. The action scenes are all flashy and the amount of detail in some of the awesome fight scenes was pretty amazing. It’s Shounen so it’s very over the top. There are a lot of things destroyed and the background is pretty much involved in most fights. There is no fight that doesn’t involve breaking things or floors being cracked. The idea that the blood also paints the background is pretty great. The camera movement is pretty nice at times. They often spiral around a character when they do cool moves and it often pan in and out at some of the fight scenes.

The anime’s biggest strength is the gore. There are a lot of bodies being flattened, blood being splattered all over and innocent people dying easily. I tried to track down the BD version. The one I downloaded still had censors though and I’m not sure if it was the BD or if the BD actually had censors. There are some pretty graphic scenes though like limbs being chopped off, heads flying, and there was even a lovely scene of an eye being gouge out of the body. Towards the end of the anime, the gore was more prominent and they were deeply disturbing. It was missing some psychological factors though. I was hoping for a Blood C level type of inhumane gore but all I got was below Gantz. I guess my biggest complaint is that it was missing guts and some detailed work on torn limbs and such. Most of the time, there is just blood and if you’re into Gore then blood is never enough.

The anime’s OP is “One Reason” by Fade. It’s a very nice song with a rock beat to it. I love the instrumentals in the anime because they stand out nicely. The song is sang in English so it was also nice seeing some fluent speaking Japanese rocker do the OP. Most English song sang by Japanese are roughly spoken. This was clear and pretty awesome. The song is your typical rock song but it nicely displays the anime’s despair and it nicely describes the feel of the anime. The OP sequence is also very nice. I love the flashy look of it and the red color being dominant. It introduced some characters important to the plot and it had a lot of symbolisms in it that I enjoyed a lot.

The anime’s ED is “SHINY SHINY” by NIRGILIS. This starts out very solemn with a slow pace to it but soon turns cheerful towards the chorus. It nicely captures the anime’s theme of hope and I love Nirgilis’s voice. It was very Jpop that compliments the song’s cheerful nature. The ED sequence features an oranges sky with the ferris wheel on the background. It then features different characters before they were thrown into Deadman Wonderland.

Overall Score

6/10 “There was too much presented with very little cohesion that made the anime intimidatingly bad but there are some great positives that are still enjoyable by themselves.”

It’s another anime with wasted potential but I can definitely say that the parts are better than the sum of it all. If you’re into mild gore and some decent Shounen then this anime is for you.

5 thoughts on “Deadman Wonderland Review

  1. No doubt DW was too short and rushed an anime. The manga it’s based on is long and sprawling and takes suitable time to flesh out back story, characters, plot arcs, etc. Trying to fit dozens of chapters into a single coeur season was bound to be problematic. Just framing up a middle school student for the brutal slaughter of 29 other kids with a single knife is laughably stupid the way it’s presented in the 1st episode as opposed to how the manga crafted it.

  2. DW manga was supposed to be dropped because of low sales but the when the anime was aired then the sales went sky high so technically it was a mangalure.

  3. I actually thought the anime was poor because they rushed it and they didn’t answer a lot of questions left behind at the end however with that said I strongly believe that you should read the manga. As I thought the manga was very good and played to the strengths of what the viewers like to see. Highly recommend you to read the manga. I would give the manga a strong 9/10. 😀 Massive Shiro fan!

Thoughts~

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