Deadman Wonderland Review

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Forced to live his days in the Deadman Wonderland, Ganta not only has to adapt to his new life but also his new powers.  Falsely charged, thrown in a prison, faced with certain death, and the only way to survive is to kill. 

deadmanwonderland05Synopsis
Ten years after a catastrophe destroys most of Tokyo and ravages Japan, Ganta Igarashi enjoys a seemingly ordinary life as a student. However, one day a figure appears outside his classroom window. That figure, he later calls “Red Man,” massacres the entire class and kills Ganta’s friends. As he regains consciousness, the Red Man places red gem into Ganta’s chest before he loses consciousness again.

Following this event, Ganta is placed before a court and found guilty for the murder of his classmates.  A sentence of death carried out at Deadman Wonderland. A publicly run theme park-like prison that is funded by events that the prisoners are forced to partake in. These events grant the winners specially designed candies that extend their life time allowed by the timer on their collars. If the time runs out, they are poisoned and killed.

deadmanwonderland03While at Deadman Wonderland, Ganta soon discovers that the Red Man lives deep within the depths of the prison.  Also within the prison is a special G Block that houses people with special abilities called “Branch of Sin,” which allows them to turn their blood into weapons. An ability that Ganta now also wields.

Story
Deadman Wonderland starts out with a very interesting premise. One that I actually found to be quite refreshing, even if it has battle arena elements throughout it. That’s because it manages to keep a good balance of content within the prison and making the focus less about the battles.

I found each character to be somewhat interesting in their current state.  The choices of living within the prison over the shattered outside world, the system of deadmanwonderland01losing and gambling body parts, the divided 3 tier governing system within the prison, and even the Red Man was all interesting coming into this series.  However it was in its execution of said story that really causes this show to crumble.

For starters, the character backstories and logic within them did not feel properly written.  Constantly thrown small clips of character flashbacks with typical horror stories of random murder just didn’t feel genuine and lacked any writing care or depth.  At some point, I honestly shouted at the show for even bothering to tell me the backstory of some random bad guy that I knew wasn’t going to be alive in a few minutes.

Then there’s the constant logic breaking in character actions throughout the series.  While I’m not a fan of nitpicking minor logic flaws, these ones generally made the situations unbearable.  Characters responding to obvious betrayals or characters becoming typical turncoats for stupid reasons.  It was all just deadmanwonderland06cringeworthy.  It got to the point where I really only liked a couple of characters, and the main character rivaled that of Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion in whininess.

Of course, you could probably overlook all of this with some dosage of patience, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the series really having no conclusion.  I’d liken it to a game where you fight the first mini boss, and you can see 3 big bosses still ahead of you.  There’s very little really resolved and too many questions created.  Even the main focus of the protagonist is never addressed for him.

Animation
If Deadman Wonderland has one thing going for it, it’s some good visuals.  The dark tones and creepy design really sells the world and the madness the characters are put in.  A lot of the character designs and branch abilities were really well done.

deadmanwonderland04In moments of action and combat, the show turns from its storytelling issues to an enjoyable ride of good entertaining sequences.  Seeing the blood flow into the air, or a character get pummeled by a giant sword seemed brutal and awesome.

Blu-ray Quality
Unfortunately, even with the great visual design to hold this show up to be a decently entertaining show, Funimation chose to limit a bit of that viewing pleasure in order to keep its content for a younger audience.  Despite its still relatively violent and mature content, what’s left still a violent and graphic show, with black shadows here and there.  A choice that, quite frankly, makes little sense.

That’s not to say that it’s heavily noticeable nor is it very distracting.  What is distracting is the censorship beeps in the dialog.  About once or twice an episode, foul language would be [bleep]ed in both the audio and subtitles.  Which is also as deadmanwonderland02puzzling as the visual censorship as many foul words, especially later, were completely exempt.  All bad choices that just weren’t necessary for the audience the show is intended.  Adults.

Verdict
Deadman Wonderland has a lot going for it.  With the great visual design and entertaining action all put within a great premise, one would figure it had a recipe for great success.  However it’s held down by some very dreadful writing and truly bothersome logic breaking.  Couple with that the unfinished story and you have a tough sell.

If you’re just looking for some violence and truly awesome action, Deadman Wonderland is definitely a great pick.  Just brace yourself if you’re looking for anything else.

NOT BAD, BUT NOT GREAT..

REVIEW VERDICT:
Fun but with several issues

Goods:

  • Great visuals and action
  • Some shocking moments
  • Great design
  • Great premise

Bads:

  • Poor story execution
  • Logic breaking writing
  • Unfinished plot
  • Tonal issues
  • Bothersome censorship
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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.