Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Release: S1 (2011), OVA (2011)
Time to review another classic! This time, we take a look at Deadman Wonderland back from 2011.
If gore, super powers, mystery, fighting and betrayal are up your alley, then this one’s for you.
The story goes (per Wikipedia):
“A massive anomaly caused a great earthquake that ravaged Japan’s mainland and destroyed most of Tokyo, sinking three-quarters of the city into the Pacific Ocean.
Ten years later, the story shifts to Ganta Igarashi, a seemingly ordinary student attending Nagano Prefecture’s middle school. As an escapee, a survivor of the great earthquake, Ganta has no memories of the tragedy and has lived a normal life.
This all changes when a strange person covered in blood and crimson armor floats through his classroom windows. Grinning madly, the “Red Man” massacres Ganta’s entire class. Instead of killing him, the “Red Man” embeds a red crystal shard in Ganta’s chest.
Within days of the massacre, Ganta is subjected to a kangaroo court as a suspect and is sentenced to death at Deadman Wonderland, a prison that doubles as a theme park.
Arriving at the prison, Ganta is fitted with a special collar which monitors his location and vital signs. A lethal poison is constantly injected into his bloodstream through the collar, but it can be neutralized by consuming a peculiar candy-like medicine every three days.
The candy can be acquired through various activities in the prison, e.g. performing for audiences, working backstage and purchasing with Cast Points (a form of currency among inmates). To gather Cast Points, an inmate must perform in the facility’s lethal games and survive. Fortunately for Ganta, he is aided by a mysterious albino girl named Shiro who apparently knows him but whose existence is unknown to others.
While trying to survive as an inmate on death row, Ganta intends to find the “Red Man” to clear his name. In a bizarre twist, he begins to develop the ability to manipulate his own blood, to the point of turning it into a weapon. Due to this, he has become one of the prison’s “Deadmen,” an isolated group of prisoners possessing the Branches of Sin- an ability which makes them capable of controlling their blood for their own uses.
A demonstration of prisoners running out of time because of not having ‘candy’:
After his ability is discovered, Ganta is forced to participate in brutal gladiatorial death matches with fellow Deadmen known as Carnival Corpse, whose anonymous spectators pay large amounts of money to watch. In his long struggle to survive, he manages to befriend some of those he fought off in the arena and with their help, Ganta continues his quest to uncover the identity of the ‘Red Man’, why he turned into a Deadman, and the dark secrets the prison authorities are hiding.”
Despite being only 12 episodes with a glaring cliffhanger at the end (you can read the rest of the story in the manga), watching Deadman Wonderland was still a fun and worthy ride.
Ganta is your typical naive protagonist who believes the world is fair. He is irritating that way but being a school kid, you can’t blame him. Long story short, he’s not an interesting character from the get-go.
What’s interesting though is how wicked and twisted the prison is, and you, as the viewer, gets front-row seats on how Ganta responds and to all kinds of evil in that hell-hole. And the longer he stays there, the more his moral compass is skewed.
His transformation from a useless brat to a capable and dependable adult who knows the weight of what it is to kill people is one of the highlights of the show. His handicap on his power also makes one curious. With his power being able to shoot projectiles with his own blood, he’s bound to have anemia. And he does, multiple times in the show, in fact. It’s a wall he has to overcome.
The battles are unique. Each fighter has their own quirk when it comes to controlling their blood- making a blade out of blood, a whip, etc. What’s more, the stakes are upped when the loser of each battle is subjected to a game of roulette to determine which body part will be extracted from them next. Forcefully, and without anesthesia. Ouch. It then becomes utterly unbearable when the ones who will fight are close friends.
He is already on death row, and now he’s forced to fight for his life as a Deadman where even his own powers slowly kill him. If it was me, I’d just give up. But he presses on for reasons you’ll find out when you watch Deadman Wonderland. So like I said, if you’re up for something dark, broody and bloody, try it out for size.