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Genres: action, drama, horror, supernatural, thriller
Plot Summary: A young man named Ganta Igarashi has been convicted of a crime that he hasn’t committed, and sent to a privately owned prison where inmates are treated no better than Gladiators of old. When along comes a strange girl and strange powers that realize themselves in Ganta, things become stranger and the body count rises. Can Ganta prove himself innocent? Or is this place meant secretly for something else other than serving time….
Story – 3.0
I first came across the show from attending the LA Anime Convention 2013 in July when I received in my complimentary bag a mouse pad with the show’s banner from Funimation.
I decided to watch the series and initially I liked the show: Our hero Ganta, sees his love interest and all of his classmates get killed within the first couple minutes by a mysterious and flying villain, setting the tone real fast as morbid. As if out of a bad dream, the same 14-year old is blamed for the murders and is sent to a prison that more exemplifies a carnival than a prison from the outside, with guards and people much worse. Some might scoff at this carnival, as i did initially, but you will find the scenery actually is itself a source of relief to how brutal the prison becomes. Especially that ‘candy’, a cure for the poison all the inmates are given via collars that inject them!! (note they will blow up if attempts are made to take them off). These are a recipe for a great story, and got me excited.
Taking a detour to look at the objectionable, the show has plenty enough “B” words used and the rare blasphemy (always unacceptable). Also, the ‘bird’ isn’t as uncommon in the series. There also is a size G comment and a stock character who is really jealous of a Sergeant’s…well,you know…and is constantly asking how she keeps in such great shape. Crass in its presentation via repetition and void of any benefit to Deadman Wonderland franchise other than being simple fan-service, it was annoying.
As for the sensual, visual aspect, there is some partial nudity in a couple of episodes as well as some tight-fitting clothes that leaves little to the imagination..(a mistake in every sense of the word)…I will speak of these more fully later on, but point being, “size-able” points will be taken off for these moral infractions.
Now turning back to the story, the prison itself holds public events that probably would be better described as a Coliseum setting. People don’t know it’s fake and they are cheering inmates getting pierced by arrows and falling off bridges to spikes below. All this to get to the end of the race and duke it out with the last remaining guy on disappearing platforms…kinda brutal stuff. As if that’s bad enough, Deadman Wonderland throws Ganta (who survives this) another curve ball as he discovers he possesses a secret, one I thought was a cool idea. Ganta can cast his blood from his body and control it. He and people like him are called ‘Branch of Sin’ users. Since Ganta’s Branch of Sin is offense based, the downside is he is using up his own blood, and will die if he’s not careful.
Like any gift in the show, the receiver of it doesn’t go unpunished. Ganta’s new-found talent awakens the attention of the owners of the “prison”, and he gets promoted to a new kind of debauchery: Enter the Games, where he is nicknamed the ‘Woodpecker’ and pitted to death matches against other Brand of Sin users where the loser (should he/she survive) will lose even more aside from what little pride they have left. Ganta himself is so distraught over this all that he can barely defend himself let alone kill another person. And for good measure Ganta wishes to be the noble one by not even though he watches people dying all over the place.
Oh man! Deadman Wonderland got to its high mark at this point! Ganta’s first fight is with a man named Senji whom he thought was the school killer, and the fight ensuing was pretty cool to look at. Those games, where unnamed people bet on the winners, was really good. The whole beginning was brimming with potential. It is not long after entering the games that Ganta finds a gang who wishes to free themselves from the prison. The whole show involves various schemes to get out of Deadman Wonderland. And while Ganta’s having to decide how far he’s willing to go in their cause (though he wants to be proven innocent), their schemes are pretty legit and very fun to see working out. Things keep piling up on Ganta when he is introduced to a twisted sociopath named Minatsuki, who is as deceptive as they come. She was the weirdest, coolest addition to the series for sure!
Minatsuki was such a great edition here. We see Ganta trying to get away from a particularly nasty Branch of Sin user who has a huge appetite, and is helped by what seems to be a very nice girl Mina stow away in a room to get away. It turns out to be her room and initially she seems to be an extremely sensitive girl who loves to collect flowers…Add the humorous wardrobe malfunction of Mina’s and Ganta’s innocent embarrassment and you even have a flavor of possible romance…so it completely side blinds you when Ganta’s next opponent in the games is none other than Minatsuki herself!! Mina is actually a ruthless killer who finds perverse pleasure in seeing her opponents destroyed by her betrayal. Getting turned on by your opponents being humiliated in death? That is strangely cool. The whole fight scene ensuing between her and Ganta was by far the best of the series, and potentially had some great moments for Ganta to shine when we are about to delve further into Mina’s past via Mina herself revealing it…and then… the show loses control….
Like any decent show there is always a ton of respect given to the characters you are supposed to have empathy for. Deadman Wonderland likewise spent a ton of time NOT disrobing Minatsuki, so it was out of character when they said heck with it and exposed as her breasts in the retelling of her father’s death (yes, he was raping her when she discovered her Branch of Sin via her hair). But why in the world would you do that? The disrobing was not required, needed, nor wanted as the whole thing is presented from her brother’s point of view (and he certainly would not have thought of it like that!).
From a story-arc standpoint, Deadman Wonderland still scores well enough. From an emotional and storytelling standpoint, the show punts in defeat every other major scene after this episode with Minatsuki in the Games. I will save some of the criticism for the Emotional Draw, but it is suffice to say that Deadman Wonderland gets away from its roots of success it enjoyed early on. It literally didn’t make it to another season because of how inconsistent the show became. The acting itself was inconsistent and unstable by having great scenes only to be followed by horrid acting in the next.
Now there is a point where we meet what is known as the Undertakers. They are apparently an elite group of people who wield Anti-Branch guns. The guns themselves insulate the user in a force-field from attacks and do massive damage to their opponents. The leader of the Undertakers is a semi-insane man names Azuma. He is especially wicked and literally kills people as he “saves” them. At a certain point in the show the freedom gang Ganta is with try to find a data chip to earn their freedom. What they don’t know is it was all a setup, and I liked the twist from this as one by one the gang is getting picked off by Azuma’s men. We do have a whole episode where Ganta gets the chip only to have Shiro, his weird friend in the prison, to snatch it from him and save his life. I really felt like maybe this time the show wouldget back to its roots when Azuma snatches the leader Nagi, and gives him medicine to cause his memory to come back. You see, Azuma knows Nagi and also knew that the real memories he possessed would cause him to join forces.
While this is happening, we see the head of the prison has been stepping on toes other than the inmates , in particular the Sergeant Manika (from whom the size G comment derived). Manika begins to suspect everything when her power is being thwarted by the head over and over. She didn’t know that the Undertakers themselves existed and that there is a whole area of the prison that isn’t on the prison map. (As a side note, I did actually kinda like Manika and was hoping the show would delve deeper into her if not for the untimely death Wonderland meets upon its cancellation). So Manika decides to head up to the Prison leader to ask him some tough questions.
After this, we see Ganta having to decide what he really wants to be. He’s so scared that he actually had put himself out of the group before. So when Senji brings this up, Ganta decides he wants to finally grow up and do the tough decisions. While he is learning this a girl named Karako, who follows Nagi everywhere and apparently is in love with him, gets caught by Azuma. In true spirit to form, Azuma broadcasts this to the surviving members of the freedom gang and shows them about to do something nasty to Karako, spurring Ganta to finally become a man. So with some awesome music we see Ganta come to Karako’s rescue….and what the? That video of Karako was a little racy, but we are being “treated” to the beginnings of her molestation, but it feels more like wrong. Aren’t you supposed to be mad at the perverts and not lusting after the victim here? Why the heck would you draw her so seductively. Ticked me off and I almost stopped watching the show. Unbelievably sick and prophetic to how the rest of this show went.
I was really hoping the show would redeem itself, but instead the ending was cheesy, discombobulated, and way too convenient. Ganta enters with what’s left of the gang and everyone but the heroes and Azuma are left standing after a fight ensues (well, there were a few soldiers, but they die from Nagi’s rage). Sure, they may have JUST SPENT AN ENTIRE EPISODE getting Ganta to become a man via Senji’s help, but never mind that now. No, Ganta is just gonna lay flat on his face as he doesn’t want to take anymore blood when he sees the Karako, appealing to Nagi to come back, get stabbed through the heart by Azuma. What do you mean he can’t take the violence? Ganta just saw half the gang die before, and he was spurred through vindication before, why all of the sudden the cowardliness? Even with Karako somehow living with a pierced heart, it doesn’t encourage Ganta in the least and it is up to the same stabbed girl to plead with Nagi to snap out of his insanity and save them. Oh, and by the way, the whole time Azuma (who is clearly the bad guy) just stands there like an idiot….which makes sense, how? Why would the guy who wants to slay everyone let someone try and talk his number one pet from playing along?
I wish I could just stay here and say how nice that scene was, but you just can’t make up for stupidity in this show: In the process of attempting to save Naji, Azuma finally awakes from his second trance and blasts half of Nagi’s stomach out with his cool anti-Branch gun (the guns stop the powers in like a force-field of sorts). And yet Nagi is not only able to live, but when Ganta finally does something amazing when he recoils the killing shot from Azuma, Nagi finds strength to grab Azuma and by using ONE hand stop another grown man from moving….So they get blown up, yet magically Nagi is able to live long enough afterwards to give a whole goodbye speech….what in the world….
What really ticks me off is how much the show tried to be taken very seriously and equally scientific, so such convenience was just laziness on the writer.
Oh, and did I mention a hole in the Prison was blown open for the prisoners to escape from? But no one is thinking about getting out save all the useless characters. We don’t see anyone attempting to arrest or otherwise find the same guy who sent them all to the prison in the first place. Nope, none of that even though that was the WHOLE POINT of the inmates. Instead, we are treated to some of the most painful excuses for music you will ever hear when Shiro sings a terrible version of a song that sucks and isn’t memorable on top of a random building in the prison complex (I know people like to hear songs in their language, but often the quality is lost in translation as is the case here). Because apparently all they really wanted to do was go back to their cells and feel good about the other’s escaping while they dream up a new plan to do something….
I don’t know, it was all just so frustrating to watch a show fall to pieces like that. Sure, the whole “wretched egg” thing is cool with Shiro and the hints about what and who she really is ought to be enough to grab interest in the show, but the audience had lost its interest…no matter how neat a story is on paper, it must be able to breath and feel its audience. Deadman Wonderland fails to do this with its inconsistencies and stupid logic. A sad ending for such a promising show.
Emotional Draw – 2.5
Humor in the show is limited, as it probably was meant to be, to just a few characters. Shiro makes up most of the humor with her innocence, and I thought in most cases it came across innocent enough. Senji offers some humor with his hilariously distraught over Shiro’s tight fitting clothing..although even this is subject to being stupid as sometimes Shiro is made to look like she doesn’t have a bra and sometimes she does…and that is making me uncomfortable just to say this. It didn’t make any sense other than for fan-service for the director to do so and it comes off gross (after all, Shiro is just a kid still).
I spoke earlier about Minatsuki’s arc and want to cover the other side of it. Introduced right as the show is going off to new heights (and new lows), I thought the whole arc was rather spectacular. Mina is a girl that is as twisted as they come, so seeing Ganta genuinely wish to save her was very admirable. Even when Ganta is treated to Mina’s weird getting-off from seeing her opponents shocked, Ganta won’t hurt her. In a culture nowadays that throws masculinity and a true gentleman’s spirit aside, Ganta is truly the noble one as he refuses to touch Mina and only attacks her hair (which happens to do the trick). I know the arc fails when we enter the last part of Mina’s past, but I still thought Ganta comes off as a champion you route for.
Of course, one cannot go any farther than to mention a few of the failures of the show. From Shiro’s lifeless appeal for pity, to Ganta’s falling flat at the ending as a coward, there was a lot to hate about the show. Shiro we gather throughout the show is interconnected to Ganta, and perhaps even a part of Ganta himself. So it was necessary that the show delve into a little of her past with the hero to connect the audience with her. Some of it went well, and some of it just came out flat. Sure, her innocence can shield from some stupidity, but after a while you get tired of the lifeless approach it takes. Now I will say I was impressed by the arc where Shiro gets rid of the bomb Ganta is holding, those scene were pretty good. But overall, Shiro just doesn’t hit off like the show needed.
Ganta, as I did mention, has this firm resolve to both prove himself innocent and get out of Deadman Wonderland. It is at after Ganta meets up with a group of rebels, who hope to free themselves, that we are treated to more of the meaty side of the show. Well, meaty is what could maintain to its audience, at least. Obviously being a kid, Ganta is forced to make grownup decisions fast. I get that. But what the show fails to recognize is being 15 is old enough to experience and cement principles…even if your just scared. Ganta literally repents first chance he gets after we spend so much time with him getting his mind supposedly “made up”. And you wonder why people lost interest? The hero is hated…of course the show is going to lose interest. And…it continues. Ganta’s firm desire to leave the prison is thrown mindlessly out the window as he goes back to jail for some silly reason. Such a terrible conclusion to his “desire” to be free, how it was unexplained even though the whole group wanted out of the place. They all go right back into their cells? what the? What idiot would do that?
Before I hit off the romances in the show, let me share with you one of the amazing arc plot twists in the show. Nagi Kengamine is a really cool guy with a really big problem. He formed the gang in part so he could find his missing daughter, who’s mother died just as she gave birth…well, that is what he claims. A girl named Karako (the one in the stupid rape scene) finds out about it when she recovers his lost neckless with the picture of his daughter inside. I really was impressed by how sad the revelation of there being no picture on in the thing and realizing he is diluted. So when Nagi is captured, the arc certainly pulled off some great moments until the stupidity started flowing. For favorite scenes, Nagi’s empty picture locket earns my star as well as the arc with Ganta and Minatsuki.
Now romances, everyone loves a good romance, right? There is something to be said about the way Deadman Wonderland toys with its readers that I didn’t appreciate. When Ganta enters Mina’s life, I really hoped that as she is letting go of her former ways, that her blushing over Ganta’s affection meant something. I mean, their conversations made for some great emotional moments in the show, I just was puzzled that the halfway point meant the death of most of the interactions with the characters. Everyone knows that Twilight would never had made it if not for the main actor being a good looker, but it actually was the cheesy romance itself that propelled the movies into stardom. Such a careful push of the show would also have further cemented Mina’s changed character, because she herself had spoken rather ill of the other sex and such a change, even if just as a crush left undone, would have helped push the show to new heights. Sadly, that was not meant to be.
Speaking of genders, while doing further research on the show I couldn’t help but notice a statement on the Sergeant’s assistant (-). Apparently she is thought to be a lesbian. How anyone with half a brain can think that is a testament to the power of personal bias to pervert what a show is communicating. (-) is a dreamy girl who is constantly comparing herself to Sergeant (-) and tries to ask her what she does to get such a great body. I suppose if you watch porn all the time one could think that a girl looking dreamy at her superior might construe that as lesbian tension, but that is so stretching and shows the people making such a bogus claim are themselves men. I happen to have 2 sisters and I can tell you they certainly did talk and compare themselves with other “hot” looking girls, both personally and in the media. If I may give remind us men a hint into what makes a woman, beauty is definitely high up on that list. Don’t insult or mar someone’s character by lumping lust in the mix.
Honestly my reader, there is literally no evidence for the yuri tones other than someone inserting it on an online page. If you want to see real yuri tones, try watching out for it in Code Geass, or in Bleach. Those are legitimate examples (although it was not condoned), Deadman Wonderland has none. Basically, unless there is some empirical means to claim something, be very wary of what a fan-site may claim and who is doing the claim.
Characters – 4.18
Ganta Igarashi/Woodpecker – 3.5
Greg Ayres did a decent job in this hero. Subject to iffy performances throughout, a lot of that was the plots holes themselves. As a kid who is being framed for the death of his classmates, Ganta is a rather messed up kid that you do genuinely want to see become a man. Just wish that the ending didn’t destroy him.
Nagi Kengamine /Owl – 4.2
The leader of the resistance gang, Nagi had a solid performance by J. Michael Tatum. I thought whenever his number came up he did a great job (even if for the dumbest plot holes in the world), and together with his character’s noble nature, should make a fan out of anyone. I especially liked his Branch of sin. Those fierce balls of sheer power, the way they would destroy anything in its path was truly fun to watch.
Shiro/Wretched Egg – 3.4
She’s rather an oddball, and has the weirdest looking clothes, with bulls-eyes on the top of the chest. Almost like what Target would be dressing people up of they had a school uniform…just kidding. There is something to this girl, and we get the hint that she is actually the cause of all this, but at the same time is genuinely on Ganta’s side, something that does play well later on. A likable character, Monica Rial does a decent job on her, if not for the lifeless appeals for sympathy every other episode. If only they didn’t try to get racy with it. Sigh…(and a lame attempt too)
Minatsuki Takami – 5.0
Leah Clark does a fantastic job on this crazy girl. From being the softest spoken person when Ganta first meets her to the craziest maniac in that arena fight, Leah nails every part she had with her. I loved the scenes that Mina had with Ganta, they really hit off very well. I was also deeply moved by Mina’s back-story (aside from the stupidity) and thought she was a very easy to empathize with and certainly a character you like to root for her repentance.
Kiyomasa Senji / Crow – 4.8
A solid character who apparently can’t handle the fairer sex, this lovable tough guy takes a liking to Ganta and to your heart. One of the few heroes who makes it to the end, Senji is as awesome as they come. A great performance by Patrick Seitz, and sure to be one of your favorite characters.
Creativity – 3.9
The idea with the Brand of Sin itself is cool. Along with the symbols it offers you, there are a lot to like from the artistic side of things. Characters are drawn well, though sometimes too sensual in a manner inconsistent with where the show is taking us. Of course I’m mainly speaking of the rape scene, but I believe the viewer will appreciate the show in general.
Music had a decent rock theme about making people bleed. weird but fit for most the series. The song’s title is “One Reason” by fade; honestly though, much of the inspiration seems to have suffered along with the show’s failure to be consistent, something that is unfortunate with the big worthless guns being employed.
Grade Overall – 3.18
(Deadman Wonderland tries to be too many things without being consistent with the characters. Too often the emotional scenes are fantastic, only to have the next scene suck professionally, or ignore a realism that the show took pains to maintain.)