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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hey, huge thank you for this review, I'll let the anime step-aside and I'll try the manga first.