Middle school student Ganta Igarashi witnessed the slaughter of his entire class by the mysterious 'Red Man', and as the only survivor, he was labeled a mass murderer and sentenced to death. Now an inmate at the privately-owned prison and ‘amusement park' known as Deadman Wonderland, Ganta must try to survive in a place where inmates are the main attraction in brutal gladiator-style games. At the same time, he must attempt to uncover the truth behind the ‘Red Man', his mysterious childhood friend Shiro, and why he was the only survivor that bloody day.
Story: As the years have rolled on, I have been ever vigilant to find just that one shounen capable of letting me say, “Okay, Fate/Stay Night, you are officially free from having the worst shounen lead in all of anime.’” Deadman Wonderland, in all its clownish glory, is that anime. The show starts simple enough, with our ordinary protagonist living an ordinary life, only to soon be gifted with the arrival of the “Red Man” who massacres everyone around him in an ocean of gore. Shock value, check. Gungho Ganta, the lone survivor, is quickly shipped off to a rigged trial and is convicted of their murders despite it being beyond anything a human could do. Spastic story transition, check. Come the end of the episode, random girl in overly revealing bodysuit is introduced whom he vows to protect within minutes of meeting, unleashing his newfound superpower in the process. Fanservice, weakling with superpower, and melodrama – check, check, and check. Over the next twelve episodes, perhaps the only thing that kept me awake was ticking off boxes of every shounen cliché the story had to offer and then rating it on a scale of one to ten. Even with a handicap granted to Ganta (who clearly has some sort of mental deficiency) I cannot think of a single category which I would rate anything above a meager five. Most prominently defunct in this series is any semblance of a “story” – the viewer gets moved from school to messed-up-prison to clown prison to high-stakes deathmatch to friendship festivities to cursed inevitable betrayal before finally getting back to clown prison to cap it all off. Much like the previous run-on sentence, the frenetic transition of one setting to the next creates a near-incoherent jumble of scenes that are barely be fit to be called a story, all the while Gungho Ganta screams about the power of friendship while managing to be less useful than Fate/Stay Night’s accursed Shiro. Speaking of Shiro, the only hook that keeps Deadman Wonderland watchable is its own Shiro – this time in the form of an erratic, happy-go-lucky female in place of a mentally-impaired male dung beetle. Random nipple and camel toe fanservice aside, Deadman Wonderland’s Shiro is fairly interesting – largely due to the show’s dropping of several important hints as to her backstory and true role in the overall “plot.” Jumbled and befuddled as the story is, however, she never actually does anything, as this twelve-episode anime adaptation apparently leaves off at some random point in the manga which lacks any semblance of closure. I will admit, however, that the story did have a few twists and turns that I did not see coming. Most surprising among these piqued curiosities was that there is no actual “deathmatch” theme to the show despite this being hyped fairly religiously as its central selling point. Of the two “deathmatch” fight scenes that are present, the first is almost exclusively dialogue consisting of Gungho Ganta’s opponent standing and asking why, in a fight to the death, nothing is actually happening…as if breaking the fourth wall into the viewer’s own inquiries. The second is a weird three-way chat fest with a girl making ahegao faces and performing some weird dominatrix play instead of trying to actually harm Ganta. Just as quickly as the deathmatch gig comes, it is almost immediately tossed away to highlight the journey of the Wheelchair Brigade who are rebelling against the deathmatches which were actually anything but. While all the members are supposedly blessed with killer superpowers, it’s hard to take a malcontented gladiatorial 102-year-old-grandma, paraplegic used car salesman, and PTA soccer mom even remotely seriously. Random side characters are flung across the screen like debris out of a pipe bomb, many to serve only as random pawns for shock value and gore that has zero emotional impact. Most curiously it that the whole deathmatch gig is supposed to be “mass profiteering off human suffering” and yet the establishment is all too happy to off the Wheelchair Brigade who are their supposed lifeline to untold billions. In the end, all the story sells is shock value and nipples-through-shirts. While it ends abruptly, for once I did not mind because this offers definitive closure with the justified heaping of the title into the “never again” bin. Animation: Successful shounen anime necessitate selling themselves on a “cool” factor with their action sequences, as there is often minimal budget to do anything extravagant. Dragon Ball Z earned its notoriety almost exclusively on this factor alone – yes it took 35 episodes to get to a fight, but I can still remember twelve year old me running home from school to watch the “cool factor” of Goku powering up and knocking around some bad guys. Naruto, though helped along by a legitimately interesting story for much of its early run, offered similar charm with a huge cast of characters with unique and interesting jutsus that offset what might otherwise be a bunch of bland and boring shoutfests. Deadman Wonderland’s unique cool factor is watching nothing happen while telling yourself “wow, that was cool, I did not think a shounen show could be this uneventful!” Outside the final episode, there is minimal actual fighting – just random gore scenes where one person or another is killed or tortured in a low-frame-count manner followed by a lot of stills. Were one to consider Dragonball, Naruto, or Bleach to be to “normal” or “cool kids” of the shounen genre, this show would be the edgy emo kid in the corner slitting his wrists in a desperate bid for attention. Sound: The opening theme is catchy, but that is about the extent to which I even noticed the music. Most notably is that Gungho Ganta is voiced by the same seiyuu who did Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, which leaves one with this odd feeling that they should actually be watching said series instead of this tripe. Characters: Holy side characters, batman. Deadman Wonderland has so many one-off characters that it is impossible to really pick any particular one to comment on. Gungho Ganta and Shiro are the only real “regulars” that one might rightfully deem main characters, as the rest of the cast is populated by characters who show up for maybe half an episode before disappearing, only to show up in the final episode for some sort of cameo had they not been killed off prior. As mentioned previously, Shiro is at least interesting due to the story dropping several interesting tidbits about her fairly early on. There exists a sense early on that, eventually, her role may shift drastically and create some interesting transformations in the other characters. This never comes to pass because, to quote one of the side characters who dislikes him for much the same reason as I, Ganta’s “virginal white knighting gets real old.” Weak, pacifist male leads make for awful shounen leads in general. Sometimes the dolt factor is forgivable if there is a legitimate transformation in a reasonable timeframe, but Ganta is as stagnant in episode one as he is in episode twelve. The best part is, the final episode implies – for all the massive power of friendship speeches – that a total of eleven whole days have passed since Ganta’s trial, three of which did not even involve anyone but Ganta and Shiro. Staleness is what ultimately defines the show’s entire characterization. Putting a character in a situation with random gore and shock value is not character development by default. Unless there is a legitimate story reason for said events within a greater story (as in, say, Shiki), it ends up simply as a cheap gimmick to grab attention. Unfortunately for Deadman Wonderland there is no story, and watching the characters stumble around onscreen is a yawn-inducing mess which can only be summarized as awful. Overall: While I finished watching all twelve monotonous, dragging episodes of Deadman Wonderland, it was not an experience free of mental pain, anguish, and a great desire to rather be curled up in bed on a cold winter night drowned in tears to dull the suffering. There are certain flavors of shounen series, like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, that I dislike simply out of their presentation and not necessarily their lack of merit; this particular show, however, lacks any sort of coherency to make it salvageable. While die-hard fans of the genre may find it palatable, much of its appeal comes from the hints and promises of a good story early on, and that all fundamentally fails to come to fruition in every conceivable way. Find something else to watch.
So I just finished watching the available episodes of Deadman Wonderland. I have not read the manga, and I am aware that the show stopped early because it wasn't faithful enough to the manga, and that caused some issues. So, before you even consider watching Deadman Wonderland, know that if you want something fulfilling with unraveling mysteries and a good conclusion, you won't find it in the show alone. I guess if this show really interests you, then either read the manga before you watch it or after you watch it. But anyway, let's talk about how the show holds up on its own. Story: 6.5/10 From the beginning, Deadman Wonderland sets up a cool premise. From the very first episode, the show doesn't hold back on its dark themes, showing an entire class of students brutally murdered, and having our young protagonist, Ganta, accused of committing the crime. If you're looking for something dark and gory, then you might enjoy this show. Without spoiling anything, it has a lot of interesting and creative elements in its plot. I would've liked to see the story actually completed in animated form. Although it may seem a bit unfair, I'm going to fault the writers of this show for trapping themselves in a corner, and leaving the story unfinished. Some people have criticized the story structure of Deadman Wonderland for being repetitive and cliche. Although there are some shounen cliches in there---the typical underdog narrative, the protagonist's powers emerging when in a sticky situation, the flashy attacks with long names---I didn't find them to be that awful. However, as the episodes increased, the story became quite rushed. Not enough time was given to develop all of the new characters that they kept introducing. Animation: 8.5/10 I actually thought the animation in this show was done very well. The expressions of the characters, the movements, the backgrounds, the action scenes---I couldn't find flaws in any of them. One thing I liked a lot was how well the characters were integrated into the backgrounds. It felt like they were really there. And of course, the blood and gore was great. Let's be honest---if you aren't watching this show for the violence and gore, you really won't enjoy yourself much. One nitpick I have is that some scenes were too poorly lit, making it difficult to see who was there, and what they were doing. I understand that there'd be little lighting in top-secret underground facilities and the likes, but they could've at least added a couple lightbulbs! Another problem I have is the blatant and distracting sexualization of all of the female characters. Yeah, this anime is meant for sexually frustrated 13-year-olds. I get it. But defying the laws of gravity and physics to make a woman's clothes conform perfectly to her G-cup sized boobs is just...really dumb. And you can bet that in almost every scene with a girl, there's at least one shot of her boobs or ass. I'm not against fanservice, but I really hate when it's there, and it doesn't need to be there. Sound: 8/10 One thing I noticed was a tendency to repeat certain background tracks, like the obligatpory uplifting orchestral song that plays everytime Ganta gets off the ground and overcomes his foe. The music wasn't bad or anything, but the repetition kind of takes away from the emotion of those scenes. I'm not a fan of hard rock, so the opening theme wasn't really for me, but it wasn't bad (and I have to admit that the chorus is pretty catchy). I much prefer the ending theme, which is catchy and upbeat, but also very ethereal and mysterious. The snapshots of the characters' backstories was also nice. The voice-acting was fine, for the most part. The only performance that stood out much was Shiro. They picked a very good voice actress for her---she sounds cute and happy, but can also be indignant and emotional. Ganta's voice sounds like every other prepubescent anime protagonist in existence, but the voice actress does a fairly good job at conveying the emotion. One issue I had is that the effects on some voices seemed to be lacking. Like with a certain character that's meant to have a mechanical voice, the voice didn't sound mechanical at all. Characters: 6/10 The problem with the characters in Deadman Wonderland is that the ones introduced early on are well-developed and interesting, but at a certain point, they keep introducing characters that are pretty much pointless, get rushed development, and distract from the main characters. Ganta, Shiro, Tamaki, Senji, You, and Minatsuki and Makina are great as main characters and villains. They're developed, their motivations make sense, and you can root for them/hate them. They didn't need to keep introducing new main characters and try to get you attached to them. I'm sure these characters were handled a lot better in the manga. The thing is, if the producers realized that Deadman Wonderland the anime would not be able to catch up to Deadman Wonderland the manga, then they should've just taken the story a different direction, and given it a satisfying conlusion with the characters introduced. I think all of this is just a mess of miscommunication. Also, some of the character designs of the newer characters just get kind of ridiculous---enough to break the suspension of disbelief (Seriously? An electric guitar that turns into a gun? You've got to be kidding me). But anyway, Shiro is great, and probably the highlight of the show. They nailed everything about her design and character, making her cute and likable, but also weird and mysterious. Overall: 7.5/10 I did enjoy the premise, characters, and animation of Deadman Wonderland. I wish that this show could've been handled better, so that it could continue and conclude properly. Because of the miscommunication, the story and characters in this show don't work a lot of the time, especially later on. But if you're looking for something fun and action-packed to breeze through and scratch your violence/gore itch, then watch Deadman Wonderland. Or just read the manga.
PROPER MINDSET Recipe: Take a third of Battle Royale, a third of Prison Break, and a third of Akira. Stir them in a bawl until the flavor is all gone and add lots of bad storytelling around the plate it is served upon. The result is Deadman Wonderland. Or as I prefer to call it, BrainDeadman COCOland; a completely unrealistic and chaotic show, with lots of gore thrown in to attract the casual viewers with superficial entertainment. It attempts to look special with nothing more than overblown violence and forced drama. It will definitely work if you shut your brain off and expect to see nothing more than gore and unexpected plot twists that jump at you from the ass of its completely chaotic and unreasonable storytelling. Needleless to say, if you were looking for consistency, originality, reasoning, and other elite / snobby / culturist stuff, you found something that was better off hidden. SCRIPT DW is the story of a boy being accused wrongfully to be a mass murderer and being sentenced to prison. Albeit not any prison but an amusement park where the inmates fight in various death games for the entertainment of the populace and where everybody is dressed as a silly plushy animal. The boy needs to find a way to survive the games as well as discover the real murderer, who seems to be an inmate in the same prison. He gains psionic powers (queue for the typical hidden dark superpower of every shonen lead) and needs to train in order to survive in prison, avenge the death of his friends, and prove his innocence. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, the premise sounds a lot better than the actual plot, which is not taking itself seriously in the least. Instead of an interesting action/survival/mystery we get a braindead action shounen that aims to be just coo-coo entertainment. The plot is random, as elements are introduced without any sort of foreshadowing and are thrown to the side just as easily. - Amusement parks featuring death games for families to go watch while eating popcorn? Sure, why not? Let the kids watch as well; it is very amusing. Don’t mind how some of them are your friends and family.- A minor who is sentenced to prison without a real alibi, or even being given the option to defend himself? Sure!- A warden who can do anything he likes and nobody questions him? Why of course, let him blow a school bus in daylight, then get some tickets from him, go to his prison and see people being butchered while eating pop corn. - A prison where the inmates are allowed to leave their cells and go anywhere they like? Sounds legit. - What is that you say? Everybody is wearing explosive collars in their necks that blow up if they do something bad? Sure, that was very helpful when dozens of prisoners rebelled and no collars were triggered. - Candy drugs that are supposed to addict the inmates as means of control? Yes, again very helpful for the dozens of rebels who did as they pleased and had no candy problem. - Special armored prison guards that negate the inmates’ superpowers? Very helpful, until they just learn an easy way to negate the negation. - Psychotic inmates being used as prison guards? Ingenious; especially for killing your ACTUAL non-psychotic, non-inmate prison guards. - Why are there rebel teams and inmate prison guards even allowed to form and roam around freely with deadly superpowers? - Where are the relatives of the hundreds of people that are constantly being killed in there, making some sort of protest? Oh that’s right, they are eating popcorn and watch their loved ones being killed in an amusement park. - Why isn’t anyone questioning Shiro for her weird appearance, how she pops out of nowhere or most of the time not even noticing her passing by them? I can keep asking whys and the answer never comes because the show is BrainDeadman; everything is running on Idiot’s Plot. And sure, it’s anime, it doesn’t have to be realistic. For the same reason, you don’t care about whatever random stuff happen in it.Unlike most anime, the pacing is fine since each episode provides lots of progress and revelations. Of course this also means not much time is invested in any event, so everything feels rushed and superficial. If a major character dies for example, everybody will be sad for a few minutes before forgetting him and moving to the next event. It also doesn’t end since it is an incomplete adaptation of the manga, which to no surprise keep going without making any sense as always. PRODUCTION VALUES Animated by Manglobe, a studio with many nice looking (but almost never too good quality-wise) titles in its roster. The opening song kicks ass and the prison/amusement park is quite memorable as a setting. It’s otherwise not something that makes sense in the way it is supposed to function; you are not supposed to think about it and accept it as a magical thing. The gore is the main spectacle and even that is not that extreme as the OVAs of the 80s I grew up with. Furthermore the tv version censored with darkness all the juicy parts so you will need to get the DVDs if you want the full course. Anyways, past the gore the battles are fun to watch even if they lack good choreography and are full of lazy motions and frozen panels. CAST All the characters are either stupid or crazy and use some really insane powers. And if you think that makes them interesting or memorable, then you are wrong, since as I mentioned there is very little time invested in anything that happens and nothing makes sense for you to give a damn after awhile. Their looks are fairly typical for shounen standarts and even the superpowers feel generic after awhile since despite the blood bending motif they all follow, they fail to give the show any real identity or purpose outside braindead entertainment. There is no philosophy or concept behind characters and superpowers besides juvenile attempts at themes such as survival, teamwork, and the bonding of bloodlines. All that are there without ever going anywhere. Some may claim that all the crazy stuff that happen to them are more than enough to make them dramatic, but in reality you don’t care about them as you do for the gore that they experience. Meaning, you will only remember a lot of bloody stuff happening to people whose face, names, and most likely storylines will have been erased from memory. But even if we assume you have all the good intentions to remember them, a close inspection to the major ones is more than enough to drive most fans away. For example, let’s take Ganta the lead boy. He is the average low intelligence, high ideals shonen lead. There is absolutely nothing special about him and he could have easily been replaced with any other protagonist from any other shonen show. Not only he is as generic as it gets but ends up being obnoxious as well. His voice is so lame like his balls didn’t drop yet; you hate him just for hearing him talk. He is so stupid; he falls for the simplest tricks. You can say it’s because he is like a fish out of water but then you see how he performs the most impossible comebacks, such as mastering superattacks in a few seconds or surviving lethal injuries with nothing else than willpower. He is never hacked to pieces with attacks that turn other minor characters to beef jerky. Veteran inmates stand no chance to this rookie’s plot armor, plus all his plans never go any further than simplistic straightforward attacks. Basically he is the constant winner only because the scriptwriter feels like it. Then there is his best friend Shiro, the super positive girl with an IQ of a monkey. Her behavior makes no sense; too genki and stupid for the setting she is in. Yeah, ok, you can say that is done just so we can have a contrast to the really grim atmosphere of the prison. That still doesn’t change the fact that she is also a plot armored character that acts completely inappropriate for the setting she is in and yet wins all the time because the writer feels like it. To the most part she is there only to eat bread and act like another Potato Girl from Attack on Titan, before helping Ganta with her antiques. Why? Because she really likes him stupid! All generic and obnoxious protagonists have stupid girls who love them. Anyways, she has a multitude of roles in the story, from Deus ex Machina, to comic relief, to fan service thanks to that really skin-tight uniform of hers. The biggest offender though is how everybody just accepts her presence like it’s something normal, even when it’s definitely not. She appears and disappears anytime she feels like it and nobody questions how easily she enters dangerous places or why she even popped out of nowhere exactly next to them in the first place.The warden is above the law no matter how far fetched his actions are. He is a generic power crazy maniac who organizes death games for the people outside the prison and even conducts inhuman experiments in order to harness some weird psionic powers for his evil world domination plans. He is just there as an untouchable asshole and nothing more; he completely lacks depth or sympathy from the viewer. As for the rest of the characters; they are all following their own shounen stereotypes, crazy and stupid, with hardly enough immersion to care about them. And guess what, all development the secondary cast receives, is to begin as adversaries to Ganta and as soon as he defeats them, they immediately become his buddies. Well, that was easy to overcome decades of bloodlust and murder intent in just 5 minutes of sparring. And I love how they never use their ultimate attack right away and just waste time in gloating. Later on they use those very same ultimate attacks to save Ganta and claim they always were far more powerful than him. Plain ass-pulling! LEGACY After the fuzz from the initial shock of you being thrown in a setting where people go to watch inmates being dissected in an amusement park goes away, chances are you are left with nothing else to care about. It is nothing but retarded violence, forced drama and random script, around people you don’t give a damn about. I really can’t find anything good in it besides the crazy looking setting. The gore is not as bold as in the retro anime I grew up with, the battles are more silly than exciting, the plot is always about the generic shounen fuss regarding the hero losing badly, getting up full of resolve and performing a move that gives him the upper hand, followed by some lame morality monologue around friendship and justice. Not even the finale is rewarding since it is rushed and left open, in an almost anti-climactic way. Not recommended as anything past a time waster.And now for some excused scorings.
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