Deadman Wonderland – Review
Original Air Dates: April 17th, 2011 – July 3rd, 2011
Synopsis: Ganta Igarashi is a young high school boy who was forced to witness the gruesome murder of his entire high school class at the hands of a mysterious, unknown killer known only as the “Red Man.” From there Ganta is accused of murdering his entire high school class and thanks to doctored evidence, is sentenced to jail in Japan’s largest privately owned prison: Deadman Wonderland.
Wonderland is an amusement park that utilizes its inmates to entertain the customers who visit. Inmates are forced to participate in cruel and unusual performances that often result in their deaths. Ganta must find a way to escape the prison before it kills him. His only hope is his new found power, birthed from a small red crystal the Red Man had planted within Ganta’s chest. Will his new abilities be enough to safe him from this death trap?
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Deadman Wonderland is already cutting its audience down thanks to the sheer amount of hyper violence depicted through its short twelve episode run. If you can stomach it, however, Deadman Wonderland is not all about the blood and guts. Instead there’s some real substance behind it as we watch Ganta struggle to keep himself alive within one of the best death camps ever constructed. There’s quite a bit of commentary on the criminal justice system in Japan hidden beneath the hyper violence and Ganta’s own personal struggle. At times some of the villains that haunt Ganta are over the top, but outside of those few, a number of the character contain enough three-dimensional depth to make the experience gripping. The first three episodes can be a little slow, but once we really delve into Ganta’s new found powers, and the trouble that entails, the series picks up. The downside, however, is that Deadman Wonderland doesn’t have an ending. At this point its become clear that, for whatever the reason, Deadman Wonderland won’t be receiving any kind of follow up. There’s always the manga for fans dying to know how Ganta survives within the prison, as well as exactly who the Red Man is, but because of the large number of changes made between the anime and the original Manga your best bet is to start the manga from the beginning. And that makes me wonder: if you need to reread the manga from Chapter 1 anyway, is there in fact a point to experiencing Deadman Wonderland’s anime version?
Linny: Deadman Wonderland is a twisted, violent and action packed anime. At a glance, it’s the classic case of a young innocent protagonist pushed into the middle of a situation he has no understanding or control over but Deadman Wonderland manages to stand out from the pack thanks to its action and well defined characters. Being a short anime with only 12 episodes (and one OVA), it manages to pack in a lot but also leaves quite a bit unanswered. Almost every episode has an interesting revelation or twist to keep you on your toes. However, it is also extremely sadistic and could leave many a person with a bad taste in their mouth. There is a LOT of censoring in the Funimation copies so unless you are extremely squeamish, you should be fine. It’s just not a show I’d recommend watching with younger kids or more sensitive audience members. I would warn you to think twice about watching it if you dislike even censored graphic violence and bloodshed as it does present several morally unbalanced scenarios and acts. Personally, I enjoyed the action packed fight scenes, especially as I enjoy fights that feature mutant humans learning to master unique powers that come with serious consequences. As for the sadistic parts, I did have to thicken my skin to sit through them but the three dimensional characters and the story itself kept me glued to my seat, and the censoring helped a bit too.
Tom: Despite Wonderland’s sprawling cast of incarcerated individuals, the story is primarily centered around Ganta and a young girl he meets within the prison, Shiro. While it’s great that the story is so centered, it’s a shame that some of the more interesting side characters are often shafted in terms of screen time and development (although a number of them do find plenty of this in the manga.) For example, Crow, a fan favorite of the inmates received his own OVA that’s available in both the DVD set and for streaming online, but the rest of the cast remains woefully under utilized outside of the manga.
Linny: I didn’t take much to the protagonist, Ganta as he seemed too bipolar and centered morally as too much of a “good guy” for me. However, Shiro, his ‘magical girlfriend’ of sorts did win me over with some of her more naïve and endearing moments but they were both still a little too syrupy sweet for my tastes. The supporting characters were much more enjoyable, especially since their morals were far less black and white, making them feel more human. It felt more realistic and engaging to have people who weren’t inherently good or bad with motivations that drove them to act in ways that could not be dismissed or easily categorized as inherently good or evil either.
Tom: Deadman Wonderland contains a solid Japanese VA cast that sells the frustratingly unfair brutality of Ganta’s world. Unfortunately some of the characters sound rather stereotypical, generic and all too familiar. That said, there’s a few voices that stand out, such as Ganta, Crow and Shiro.
Linny: The music is where I felt Deadman Wonderland hooked me. The opening sequence remains a feast for my senses. I loved the visual blood red theme they had going, along with the song itself. It all just makes for such a good preview to the kind of show that Deadman Wonderland is and helps the viewer settle into the right mood.
Tom: Deadman Wonderland’s soundtrack does an adequate job of selling the darker, more traumatic events of the series, but outside of the solid and memorable opening credits none of the other tracks stick with you. Thankfully, on the opposite end, there aren’t any tracks that detract or take away from the events unfolding on screen. It does its job, but if you’re hoping for music that’ll stay with you even after the final episode’s credits Deadman Wonderland just doesn’t have that.
Linny: The show does a good job of portraying the special powers of its characters. They’re visually impressive and while not always innovative, they do leave a lasting impression. The powers also lend really well to the sadistic nature of the show. The animation does suffer from all the censorship as you miss out on some of the gorier scenes, especially if you’d picked Deadman up for the hyper violence factor. There’s some blurring and so forth done to minimize more graphic depictions but overall, the show is decent to look at with a good amount of details put into rendering the fight scenes and a lot of the characters having some interesting designs that helped them stand out.
Tom: Deadman Wonderland’s animation is one of its stronger selling points, giving us a stable quality that never dips significantly and keeps the action feeling tense and psychologically insane. Unfortunately for people who are fans of the graphic violence it doesn’t appear as if there’s a way to watch Deadman Wonderland entirely uncensored. The DVD/Bluray set contains the censored version only and Funimation’s streaming copy is no different as Linny mentioned above. The censorship isn’t enough for me to remove our violence warning, but for fans of gruesome detail there’s a few key scenes still blacked out and that’s bound to upset anti-censorship viewers.
Linny: If you are intrigued by the idea of watching prisoners with violent powers, and manipulative and corrupt jailers pulling the strings, then Deadman Wonderland is the show for you. If you do decide it is your cup of tea, I say sit back, relax, and enjoy the sadistic plot and the slightly puzzling powers of the characters. Personally, Deadman Wonderland was one of the first anime I ever watched where sadism and action were mixed into an interesting little concoction. Not outright gory, especially now that it’s been censored to hell, but at the same time, inducing uneasiness to the degree I like. All in all, a good choice for someone craving a darker action anime minus hyper excessive gore but definitely not perfection thanks to its unresolved anime ending and a protagonist that might not win over some viewers due to his extreme lawfulness and righteousness.
Tom: Deadman Wonderland is a “you’ll love it or you’ll hate it.” It hinges on the audiences’ stomach and interest in graphic violence. If you can’t handle it then it’s unlikely you’ll come to appreciate the tense story lying beneath all the blood and strewn guts. Also, Deadman Wonderland isn’t meant to be realistic, instead it’s a satirical, yet dark, criticism of the criminal justice system that often exaggerates to hammer home its brutally blunt point. If you can make it past the wealth of violence, and enjoy a more satirical, heavy handed nature, Deadman Wonderland is a show I’d recommend. But that’s only if you’re adverse to reading the manga. As the show ends abruptly, with no chance of a continuation, and so many changes keeping it from falling in line with the manga’s events, its honestly better if you just start there rather than here.
Deadman Wonderland is available for streaming via Funimation.com, Hulu.com and can be purchased as a DVD/Bluray Set via Rightstuf.com If you’d rather read the manga you can find all volumes through Amazon.com as the entire series has been released in the West as of February 6, 2016.