[Review] Deadman Wonderland

Dead Man Wonderland

What started as a normal day at school for Ganta quickly turned into a tragedy he’d never forget. A strange man cloaked in red flies into his class, murdering everyone. As the sole survivor of the event, Ganta was arrested as the only likely suspect. Worse yet, a false confessional video was released to the public, making it impossible for him to prove his innocence. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s sent to a unique kind of prison, the Deadman Wonderland, which doubles as an amusement park for the masses, and starts learning to control his own blood as a weapon.

 

Imagine this suddenly flying into your classroom, massacring everyone.

Imagine this suddenly flying into your classroom, massacring everyone.

 

The concept that the first episode of Deadman Wonderland kicks off with is really something else. There’s some really good pacing. Some interesting ideas being played against each other. For a while, it feels like this anime could be something really different from everything else… and then Shiro appears. Your typical overly cheerful, brain-dead, big-breasted, fan-service character, brought in to lighten the mood of the show.

Yes, I understand she’s in there for plot reasons that, despite being revealed about halfway into the show, never fully get explored or justified to any extent.

It’s not too long after her appearance that the problems in Deadman Wonderland start surfacing. The main one being the pacing. While it seemed like a negligible problem during the first episode, as you’d expect further explanations towards the whole mystery as the story unfolds, it never really seems to stay at any point long enough to actually give it any depth. A lot of things get explained, but most of the times these explanations seem disjointed and superficial. A lot of different aspects from the prison, and its hidden department for instance, get a little screen time early on, but none of it is ever fully explained.

Deadman Wonderland

I can’t help but feel this guy is a direct attack towards Apollo Justice. I like it.

Shortly after Ganta makes it to the prison, it becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on. Deadman Wonderland is a commercial enterprise, a whole bunch of shows are given by the inmates to please the crowds that flock to the place. But that’s only on the surface. Somewhere hidden inside the prison is a special facility where all the inmates have one thing in common: they can control their blood and use it as a weapon.

Somehow, most of the staff working at the prison seems to be completely unaware of this. In the meantime, they do have an audience they are pandering to. An audience that must pay quite a good deal to allow the tournaments that go on inside the place. We never get so much as an explanation about this.

There’s also hints scattered around about how Deadman Wonderland came to be, and where this blood power started coming from that are never fully explored either.

In fact, the explorative side of the writing is so sloppy, it’s hard to even really remember the main character outside of a young kid who cries a lot. He doesn’t know much about the prison, which is understandable as he was only recently transferred there. He never learns much about his blood controlling powers because he’s new at them and mostly avoids using them until the very end. We only see a few flashbacks about his childhood that only explain the shallow relationship between him and another character. And yes, he does cry in those a lot too.

Deadman Wonderland Ganta Crying

Ganta in every other scene in the show.

What Deadman Wonderland loves focussing on however, are the dark and edgy characters. Every character has an edgy two-dimensional background that sort of explains why they’re locked up. Naturally, since they have the power to control their blood, bloodletting is symbolized as a massive release for most of the characters. Nearly everyone carries something with them to make it easier to cut themselves whenever they need to. Since the characters are all emotionally broken, it doesn’t take long before the lines are being drawn to the every-day world outside of prison and how everyone is just as bad as they are, they’re just more honest about it. Which of course is completely bullshit.

It’s funny to note that, a show that goes out of its way to be dark, gets outdone in the usage of blood magic by Avatar: The Last Airbender.

So what we have here is an escapism fantasy show that glorifies self-mutilation. For a short while, it seems to move towards a tournament fight series style, before abandoning it for other directions. Directions that all get abandoned as well. Nothing ever gets resolved. Which is a shame, since there are some genuinely good ideas scattered all over the place. Ideas that could all have been realized better if the show had at least some level of focus.

Deadman Wonderland starts off with a strong 10 minutes. In fact, you could take the events of the first 10 minutes, stretch them out, give them more detail, explore the characters some more, and you’d have a decent show. But as it is, it’s a unfocussed, cluttered juvenile anime that tries to be dark and misses the mark.

PROS

  • The warden looks like Apollo Justice
  • Most of the first episode

CONS

  • Glorification of self-mutilation
  • No depth
  • Ganta
  • -Terrible Soundtrack
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