While Ganta is sitting in class, drearily staring out the window, a man in red clothes appears before him, floating in midair. He breaks through the window, and kills all of Ganta’s classmate. Ganta is accused of the crime, and sentenced to prison in Deadman Wonderland, a prison which doubles as an amusement park where spectators watch death row inmates compete for a lease on life. Ganta soon learns that he has become a Deadman, who can activate powers using his blood, and must fight against other deadmen in underground fights to survive.
The world of Deadman Wonderland is cruel. All the characters have to deal with unbelievable shit. In just the first episode, the main character’s entire class gets murdered, he is sentence to death, and his defense lawyer turns out to have been the prison warden. Body pieces get chopped off like nobody’s business. Ganta is forced to fight in death matches, where if the loser survived they play a penalty game of losing a body part by roulette wheel. It’s a dog eat dog world.
With the shounenesque superpower and tournament setup, I was initially worried that Deadman Wonderland would devolve into some sort of power leveling competition where the power of friendship won. Fortunately these fears were completely unfounded. The games to stay alive are forgotten after the first few episodes. There are the underground battles, but the focus isn’t really the fighting but the characters: there’s some drama surrounding both of Ganta’s matches, and he ends up befriending both of the people he fights. The real foci of the show lie in revealing the secrets of the prison and showcasing the inhuman cruelty of both the prisoners and management.
Deadman Wonderland has some strong characterizations: Ganta’s fellow prisoners are twisted beyond belief due to their environment, but still maintain some level of human decency. Shiro and Hummingbird, two of the female characters, initially seem cute and innocent, but their darker sides are later revealed. Some of the strongest characters, from my perspective, are the show’s villains. These guys redefine what it means to be evil. Especially the promoter who acts as Ganta’s defense lawyer, he is messed up beyond belief.
Unfortunately, Deadman Wonderland’s biggest weakness is its protagonist Ganta. In a show filled with ridiculous levels of cruelty and badassery, this guy is just pathetically weak. And to make matters worse, he spends half the show whining about how weak he is.
Aside from Ganta, though, Deaman Wonderland made quite a strong showing. It had some great characters and explored the depths of human darkness. It really needs a second season though— let’s hope it gets one.
- Plot / Script – 9 / 10 – Excellent dark setting.
- Characters – 8 / 10 – Ganta is pathetic, otherwise interesting.
- Production – 8 / 10 – Serves its purpose, not stellar.
- Overall – B-
Recommendations – Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Higurashi, Mirai Nikki (manga, but getting animated in the fall, can’t wait!)