Posted on October 15, 2012 AT 01:45pm
Imagine if the city you lived in suddenly and catastrophically changed. Your world, you life as you know it, changed and was left unrecognizable. Imagine if you were convicted of a crime you did not commit and no one believed you. Welcome to the world of Deadman Wonderland.
Three-quarters of Tokyo was swallowed up in an instant during the “Red Hole” disaster and an earthquake the came with it left very little still standing. This event changed some people, gave them the ability to control their blood, the power to use it as a weapon. This infection is known as the Branch of Sin, comes from a virus known as the Nameless Worm, which is found withing the Red Diamond. The Red Diamond was unearthed by the earthquake that came along with the Red Hole Event and people were infected by either inhaling or ingesting the bits of a special Red Diamond. Those that are infected become to be known as Deadmen.
To combat the growing problem of crime and violence in Tokyo, officials allow the prison system to be privatized. A company begins to build a tourist attraction that looks like an amusement park and all the workers at the park are prisoners. Each prisoner wears a collar that slowly injects a poison into their necks. The prisoners must eat a special candy, which is the antidote, every three days or they will die. Nothing is free in Deadman Wonderland prison. All prisoners are responsible for earning “cast points.” Cast points are the currency in Deadman Wonderland and without cast points, prisoners are unable to purchase food, clothing, any other wants or needs, and the all important candy. They can even buy a prisoner’s freedom. Contests known as spectacles are the quickest way to earn a large about of cast points but that comes at a cost, prisoners could be killed during these spectacles.
Deadman Wonderland prison holds a deep, dark secret beneath it. A secret prison where Deadmen are held and forced to fight against each other for the amusement of those that can afford to watch. These Carnival Corpse spectacles end with either one of the Deadmen dead, or the loser must pay a penalty. The penalties involves losing something from their body, be it an eye, limb, or even their vocal cords. Many of the Deadmen forced into this life of confinement and violence do not even belong there. They have been railroaded into the prison through false evidence and wrongful convictions.
It has been 10 years since the Red Hole event and Ganta is a middle school student. One fine day, while in class, a man dressed all in red shows up and slaughters Ganta’s entire class…everyone, except for him that it. This Red Man inserts a red diamond into Ganta’s chest and is never seen again. Of course all of Tokyo points the finger at Ganta as the one responsible for the mass murder and he is quickly sent away to Deadman Wonderland, an inmate on death row.
This is a fascinating little series. The idea of privatizing prisons has been rattling around in society’s head for quite some time now and this gives an interesting look at some of the illegal and underhanded things that could happen behind closed doors, supernatural blood wielding aside. The abuses and violations that could arise from giving a private company a free hand at dealing with prisoners is a scary thought. Then there is the reality of people being wrongly convicted just based on a need a prison might have. Of course, having prisoner’s earn their keep and not supporting them with taxpayer’s money is tantalizing. Not sure I’d want to visit an amusement park completely handled by hardened criminals. That would be a huge stretch for me.
The story plays out at a nice pace and there were times I was surprised by a twist in the narrative or shocked at the history of some of the Deadmen. They all have had some terrible thing happen to them, some have come out of it with the need to survive and some have completely lost their minds. Nothing and no one is what they appear to be in Deadman Wonderland, no one. Certain parts of the story were predictable but not in such a way that I found myself bored with watching. The series is short, 13 episodes, and I did not want it to end. I would love to see a continuation of Deadman Wonderland in anime form. There are so many unanswered questions I have rattling around in my brain. There are Deadmen that I have not yet met, and I want to know more about Shiro, the albino girl. She declares herself Ganta’s best friend and he does remember her from early in his childhood but who is she exactly and how did she come to be part of Deadman Wonderland…and yet not part of it.
Audio and visual work in Deadman Wonderful is delightful. The cast that was chosen for the English language version did a spectacular job of showcasing each characters personality, flawed or not. It takes a large amount of creativity to come up with the various Branch of Sin powers and have them remain as individual as the characters that wield them. No two powers are the same, even if one Deadman tries to mimic another. The cast manages to illicit am emotional response to the various characters and that is extremely important in a good anime. If you don’t care about the characters, you can’t really care enough about the series to finish it. Viewers need a reason to to continue watching.
SUMMARY: Unfortunately, I did find myself growing weary of Ganta’s whining but once the series was over, I realized that it was a necessary evil even if it was annoying. The sheer amount of violence and blood might not sit well with some viewers and there are scenes that some more sensitive people may find too disturbing. However, it is a solid series and one I would recommend to my friends. I would welcome a second season wholeheartedly.
- THE GOOD: Compelling story, great voice work,
- THE BAD: Only one season, unanswered questions
- THE UGLY: Might be too violence and bloody for sensitive viewers
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