Imagine you're a kid again. You're hanging out with your little circle of friends heading off for a regular day at school. You get to school, everyone's sitting in the desks, but then all of the sudden, a crazy guy in red shows up and starts butchering everybody! Your best friend's head just rolled past your feet! The girl you had a crush on has her blood spread all over the chalkboard! You see the man coming your way and you pass out due to shock...
Then you wake up, and you're in handcuffs. The public believes you committed this heinous crime, killing all of your friends and classmates at school. This is what happens to Ganta Igarashi, the main character of Deadman Wonderland.
Short and Sweet
Story - 7.5/10
After being framed for this sadistic murder spree, Ganta is shipped off to an insane prison called Deadman Wonderland. This facility is roughly half theme park, half prison, but all crazy. This setup is very intruiging and each episode throws more and more into the pot in attempt to add depth to the events at hand. Soon we discover Ganta is of a breed of people who can manipulate their blood and do so to fight. There are also mysterious things going on behind the scenes and higher ups in the prison have their eye on Ganta. This is all effective in making Deadman Wonderland more interesting at first, but so much is going on here that it makes the big flaw of the anime stand out more. This is one of those shows that lacks resolution at the end. It's extremely rare for any story to be able to successfully leave loose ends and feel gratifying, and Deadman Wonderland is not one of those special cases. Everything goes nowhere and it makes the anime feel pointless, even though the build up and journey to the end was fairly good. The only thing that even feels remotely like a resolved arc is the one involving some secondary characters that you got introduced to more than halfway into the episode count. It all screams for a second season, which I don't deny would be a good idea, but unless that happens this ending is horrid.
Animation - 7.5/10
There's this constant little skipping in the animation here and there. I thought this was an effect at first but I noticed it just seems like lack of budget or shoddy animation. It's pretty distracting and holds back what is otherwise a pretty decent animation job. There isn't anything great here really but nothing bad either. Character designs are as basic as the characters, except for Shiro, who has a pleasantly unique look. The effects on the Branch of Sin superpowers have a fascinating tech-looking design to them that works surprisingly well. The action is pretty good and on display very often being one of the main highlights of the show.
Sound - 8/10
Voice work is all solid. Deadman Wonderland is so over the top both in violence and dialogue that it could have been utterly horrible if some good actors weren't behind the characters. The lines are just off the wall at times but the delivery makes it believable to a point where it's actually fun to hear these characters be so vulgar and foul-mouthed.
The soundtrack is surprisingly good, even if it's very standard in the use of the songs. You pretty much know after two episodes when you'll be hearing certain tunes chime but none of it is bad. The opening theme is actually one of my recent favorites I've heard in anime. The ending theme however, feels out of place and also breaks the serious mood that most, if not all episodes end on. It's a really happy go lucky song, there's nice lighting and a ferris wheel in the background. It would be downright whimsical if it was closing the curtains on almost any anime but this.
Characters - 6/10
The cast is what's going to lose the show many viewers. The characters are all stereotypes we've seen in one anime or another and very few even have one quality of any value. Ganta is the inferior whiny male lead incarnate. He feels like a black hole of everything that can go wrong with this trope. Even though the audience will feel sorry for him starting out, there's just so much time spent crying and not being good at anything that Ganta never makes up for his flaws. Shiro is the cutesy, dumb, obsessive girlfriend type, but she's got white hair so you know there's more to her than you think. Shiro spends most of her time eating and when she's not eating she's being irritating.
The side characters are full of cold and violent people who are all crazy for no reason. The villains all feel the same, just adding to a number of things generic about Deadman Wonderland. The only characters that were really interesting are Nagi and Karako, a pair introduced very near the end of the show who honestly feel like they could've been the center of a much more interesting plot than what we have.
Overall - 7/10
If you're looking for a short anime that's got lots of solid action that isn't completely mindless, with some foul language, gore, and you don't mind unfulfilling endings, Deadman Wonderland might be quite enjoyable. For most though, it's going to come off as a standard anime that doesn't offer much.