Review: Deadman Wonderland

Anime: Deadman Wonderland

Studio: Manglobe

Episodes: 12

Original Run: Apr 17, 2011 to Jul 3, 2011

Genres: Action, Science-Fiction, Horror

[Spoiler Alert]

 

Synopsis:

Igarashi Ganta’s life is abruptly turned upside down when what started as a normal, innocuous day turns into a tragedy of blood-curdling horror. A masked, flying man attacks his class and kills everyone except Ganta, who’s then blamed for the crime. A ray of hope appears in the form of a kindly lawyer but even that is quickly snuffed out when false evidence that unquestionably incriminates Ganta surfaces.

Being sent to jail is not the worst of Ganta’s problems though.

The prison, Deadman Wonderland, turns out to be a hell unlike any Ganta’s ever seen. Death games and enthusiastic slaughter abound in the grim walls of Japan’s only privately owned prison, the lines between friend and foe is blurred, and Ganta’s wish to survive and prove his innocence may never come to fruition.

 

Story:

Deadman Wonderland is one of those shows that have amazing potential but the actual execution is thoroughly underwhelming. It’s not bad per se but it’s nowhere near as good as it could have been.

Let’s look at the positives first. This anime has a wonderful premise. The idea of a deadly prison that’s basically a front for forcibly housing people with supernatural abilities and making them battle each other while also doubling as a harmless theme park is pretty great. The deadmen are an eclectic bunch and most of them neatly reflect exactly what being stuck in such a place can do to one’s mind. Nine out of ten characters are batshit crazy but in interesting ways that makes you curious to find out why they are the way they are and how they will end up in the future. Thus we have interesting ideas and an interesting cast to carry those ideas. Logically, Deadman Wonderland should be a dark and messy fun.

It’s not. Despite the abundance of good material, nothing really clicks. A lot of things happen, from dramatic fights to daring escapes to stunning reveals, but all of it leaves you feeling superbly unmoved by the end. The way I see it, the reason for this is none other than the main character Igarashi Ganta. Deadman Wonderland is his story but the boy’s about as engaging as drying paint. Literally every other person is ten times more interesting than Ganta but while they do get a fair amount of attention, it’s Ganta’s experiences that take center stage and that just ruins the whole experience. It’s not even that he’s a particularly bad character. He’s an average kid stuck in an exceptional situation – hardly a new formula. But in this case, it really doesn’t work for the best.

The other thing that makes this anime unsatisfactory is the ending. Surprise, surprise. Quite a lot of cool ideas are introduced during Deadman Wonderland’s 12-episode run but then it ends without resolving most of them. Ganta’s search for his friends’ killer? Goes nowhere. His friend in the prison possibly being said killer? Unexplored. There’s more but basically, most of the story’s best threads remain incomplete and unresolved. Instead, we get some fun bits and a lot of Ganta wallowing.

I would still recommend giving this a shot. Despite my complaints, this show was worth the watch. It’s got a nice atmosphere and an amazing secondary cast.

 

Characters:

In the above session, I more or less said that Ganta is the worst thing about this anime. Let me explain why I think so. It’s not that Ganta is badly written or unsympathetically portrayed. He’s a boy with a normal life whose whole existence is suddenly thrown into total chaos. His closest friends are dead, he’s framed for their deaths and even thrown into a prison that’s basically hell on earth. No one expects him to rally and adapt in a couple of days. He’s pathetic because most people would be pathetic in his situation. His terror and hesitance serve to make him a realistic character. Problem is that realistic is not synonymous to interesting or engaging. Ganta’s boring and this is not helped by the loud and colorful personalities of the other characters. So when the story tries to use the dullest tool in the box as its focus, it’s going to suffer for it. Even Ganta’s better moments, few as they are, don’t come close to being even half as impressive as the worst moments of the others.

Now onto the rest of the cast that I’ve praised so much. First up is Shiro, a really strange girl who latches on to Ganta soon after he sets foot in Deadman Wonderland. They used to be childhood friends but he doesn’t remember. It’s clear early on that Shiro’s not really your average human but for the most part, it’s hard to take her seriously due to her ditzy, childish nature. Things get more serious when it’s revealed that Shiro has another side that’s kinda prone to random mass-murdering but we never get to see if it’s an actual split personality or if her usual ditzy nature is just a front.

Then there’s Senji, the first deadman whom Ganta fights. Though he seems like a boring musclehead ‘first boss’ at the beginning, Senji soon proves to be the coolest character in the show. He has embraced the reality of his existence and seems to be making the best of it. He is screwed in the head but in a manageable way. Senji’s combination of bloodthirst, battle-savviness, sportsmanship (if borderline death matches can be considered sport) and occasional shyness all make for a good combination.

Other characters include Yo and Minatsuki, a pair of separated siblings who’re simultaneously despicable and sympathetic, Nagi, a resistance leader who seems good to be true until he proves that he is indeed too good to be true, Karako, a resistance fighter with nerves of steel and the skill to back it up, Genkaku, one of the villains who makes the evil and crazy combo work for him, and many others of varying entertainment value.

 

Art and Music:

I loved Deadman Wonderland’s art and music both. The art is nothing exceptional but it suits the story perfectly. Dark, muted colors dominate the palette and reflect the overall tone of the show very well. It is of good quality as well – off-model faces are rare and the animation is smooth.

This is yet another show that caught my eye because of the OP. I say that a lot, I know, but that’s a natural consequence of watching YouTube’s top lists. The opening theme, One Reason by Fade is tailored to fit the show and the lyrics alone are the best summary anyone could ask for. The music is great as well and its visuals complement it perfectly. The ending theme is Shiny, Shiny by NIRGILIS and is drastically different from the OP in terms of both tone and visuals. But that works in favor of the show as the point is to throw light on the characters’ peaceful lives before the series’ events screwed them up.

 

Verdict:

An okay show with many good elements that are sadly not presented in ways that make use of their full potential. Still a worthwhile watch.

Rating: 5/10

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About D

Just another avid anime fan.
This entry was posted in Anime, Deadman Wonderland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Review: Deadman Wonderland

  1. kawaiipaperpandas says:

    Shiro=Best Girl <3! She's the best part of the show! I wish it would have revolved around her instead of Ganta. I think it would have been way better with a different angle or approach.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sounds like I enjoyed this series more than you did. It’s a shame they didn’t make another season. The manga isn’t very long so they could have finished the story with another series or so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I did enjoy it but I wanted more out of it, I guess. I’m not really satisfied. I did try to find out how the rest of the story went and I really like what I found. Another season would have been nice.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. raistlin0903 says:

    This is honestly really disappointing. When I first read the premise for this one, I really thought this would be an absolutely terrific series. Definitely my cup of tea so to speak. Too bad it did not live up to it’s potential. Then again….there is one positive I guess I don’t have to add another series to my to watch list/encyclopedia 😀 But I do think I’m going to give this one a try though at some point. I still think there are enough elements that I usually enjoy.
    Oh yeah off topic, but news that will,probably make you happy: Attack on Titan season 3 has been confirmed for 2018 release. Awesome, right? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Same. And the OP kills it so I was really pumped for this. That didn’t last past the first episode but I don’t regret watching it because it does have a lot of cool elements. I’d reccommend it to you too – I think you may find certain parts appealing as I did 😀

      And holyyyy shit, YES!
      That’s the best news I’ve heard in quite some time (yes, I have a sad life). Thanks so much for telling me. I’d hug ya if I could!

      Liked by 1 person

      • raistlin0903 says:

        Haha, well maybe I have sad life as well than, because that was pretty much the best news I have had in quite a while as well 😂 But yeah…no waiting for a couple of years for the continuation of the story. And after last nights cliffhanger that is great news 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • D says:

        There’s a cliffhanger? I gotta go watch that episode then.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Keiko says:

    I have to agree with you on this one. Deadman Wonderland had all the ingredients (minus Ganta) to be a good anime but it just didn’t deliver. I was hoping for the story to go somewhere and actually start looking into the identity of the killer but it never does. This was probably why when I watched the ending I though “is this it?”. It felt incomplete and so, though I enjoyed some parts of this show, the overall experience wasn’t the best. It was disappointing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • D says:

      Good at parts but disappointing overall is an accurate description of this show. I think I’d have been happy to jsut buckle in and watch a lot of deadmen fight because they’re all so fascinatingly screwed up. But instead we got Ganta being…Ganta and an ending that goes nowhere.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Keiko says:

        So true. The fights were pretty amazing to watch. If the show was just that I wouldn’t have minded at all but there was too much that didn’t work in this show.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Karandi says:

    While I did watch this and enjoyed it while I was watching, the lack of reslution and my lack of care for the characters has meant I’ve never watched it again. Once was enough. If it resolved, or if I liked the characters more, I probably would really love it. But… Great idea just not enough of anything to really work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • D says:

      I liked the characters (except Ganta) but the show didn’t make me care for them, if that makes sense. I was interested to find out how they’d handle Shiro and Toto but none of that went anywhere.

      So yeah, it remains a great idea and only that.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. TheWarner says:

    Man I hated Ganta, just as I hated Yukiteru Amano from Future Diary.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really love this anime. It’s actually one of my fav anime.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Artemis says:

    Honestly, I think the aspect of Deadman Wonderland that turned me off the most was that it felt like it was trying soooo hard to be cool. Don’t get me wrong, I do actually like to settle down to watch something violent and gory and over-the-top from time to time, but I absolutely hate it when I feel that an anime (or any other show/movie) is just attempting to be ‘dark’ and ‘edgy’ by pandering to the cool kids via graphic action/horror material. It’s one of my pet peeves (and is probably the main reason why I also dislike shows like Attack on Titan or Tokyo Ghoul or Gantz, even though I have zero problem with, say, Quentin Tarantino movies, or with anime that don’t seem to take themselves overly seriously despite having the same kind of violent content, e.g. Mirai Nikki).

    Liked by 2 people

    • D says:

      I never thought of it from that angle tbh but I’d say that I have no issue with edginess provided that it’s got an engaging story to back it up. Deadman Wonderland didn’t, not really. Gore on its own isn’t interesting. AoT and Tokyo Ghoul did appeal to me though.

      On the other hand, I hated Mirai Nikki, mostly because the main duo drove me up the wall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Artemis says:

        I think I liked Mirai Nikki because it felt like it was actively mocking itself, at least at times. Like it had all the gore and violence and craziness from Deadman Wonderland, but thankfully decided not to take itself too seriously. I sometimes almost thought of it as a comedy more than just a straight action/thriller piece.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Remy Fool says:

    Sounds like this show was mostly a disappointment despite its cool ideas. Oh well. Still better than KoS, though, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Yup, pretty much. How they went wrong with crazy people who can weaponize blood, I don’t know. And oh man, yes. KoS is a whole other level of trainwreck.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Adam says:

    I definitely agree that Ganta’s character was one of the biggest problems. Granted his situation was pretty crazy, but since the story didn’t choose the routes of comedy or tragedy, a character like that doesn’t really work.
    I think my biggest complaint about this series is how once again a protagonist who normally would get eliminated early on is instead protected by a strong, crazy female character, who just happens to have a rather serious attachment to him.
    In many ways it felt like Ganta’s real “power” was the passive ability to make people care about him. Shiro is the first, but more than one character starts out as an enemy and then suddenly gets turned into a supporting character.
    The first half of the series was okay, but the second half tries to rush through to some kind of “ending”, while also remaining somewhat loyal to a manga that clearly keeps going.
    I would have been happier if they picked a more natural stopping point in the story, rather than hurrying to the end, only to seemingly run out of time just shy of their goal.

    Like TheWarner, I feel that this series falls into many of the same traps as Future Diary: weak protagonist who only survives because of an insane girlfriend, interesting premise that quickly settles into a standard “special power tournament”, and antagonists quickly turning into protagonist support without a good reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      True, his situations sucks on many levels but that alone doesn’t make him a compelling protagonist. Really, he should have died early on, especially once he got stuck in G-Block without Shiro to bail him out of trouble. But instead, he survives Senji and Minatsuki and even Genkaku…somehow.

      That passive power you mentioned makes sense in Shiro’s case but from Senji onwards, it wanders into the realm of incredulity. And Minatsuki, who’s been established as batshit crazy, just randomly starts liking him for…reasons. And now that I think about it, I don’t really understand why he became a big part of the resistance group so quickly.

      I didn’t consider the Mirai Nikki parallels before but now that you spell it out, they are there. Honestly though, a special power tournament would have been more interesting than what we got at the end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adam says:

        Yeah, there could have been more meaning to it. My biggest regret is not exploring Shiro further. Her identity has some real hidden complexities.

        Liked by 1 person

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