Deadman Wonderland

Deadman WonderlandType: TV Series + OVA
Episode Count: 12 + 1
Genre: Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2011

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 29 Dec 2014

Grade: B

They’re all mad here…

Plot Summary
Fourteen-year-old Ganta Igarashi has a problem. The sole survivor of a massacre of his entire class at school, he has been falsely charged and convicted of this crime. Ganta is sentenced to death at the controversial prison known as Deadman Wonderland, a place where death row inmates play games to the death for the delight of a public audience. Deadman Wonderland isn’t just a prison, it’s a theme park where the prisoners are the entertainment. Ganta is determined to prove his innocence and find a way out of Deadman Wonderland, but things only keep getting worse for him until he meets a mysterious albino girl named Shiro.

The Review
Deadman Wonderland is a series which lies outside of my usual fare. It’s dark, violent, and a bit on the gory side, but more on that later. Still, though it is a departure from the kinds of titles I usually gravitate to, I enjoyed it. The story is fairly straightforward and there isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking about Deadman Wonderland, but things are kept interesting for the duration of the series. The characters aren’t especially layered, but they fill their roles adequately without seeming like mere cutouts.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Shiro was the main factor which drew me to this series. She just about shares the protagonist role with Ganta, who the series focuses on. Aside from her unique appearance (including her trademark white bodysuit), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who I became a fan of after hearing her in the title role of Kobato. Hanazawa gives Shiro a spirited innocence which contrasts with the dark world the series takes place in. Shiro is not in the series merely to serve as eye candy though; she has an important role to play in the story as well.

Back to the aforementioned violence and gore for a moment, it should be noted that the North American video release of Deadman Wonderland is actually the Japanese broadcast version of the series. What this means is that most of the more extreme gore has been obscured by shadows and such to keep the presentation in line with Japanese broadcast standards. Or to put it another way, the series is “self-censored”. Before you get your torches and pitchforks out, this was done by the Japanese creators themselves so the show could be aired in Japan and not by the North American licensor for its release. The Japanese broadcast version is what got licensed, and that is the extent of my knowledge on that particular issue. I bring it up only because those seeking full visual gore in the series will likely be disappointed with the North American release. Still, none of the obscured material is important to the story per se, so from a narrative standpoint, there is no negative impact to the series.

As for the story, it’s fairly straightforward, following Ganta as he tries to gain his freedom before being executed. Deadman Wonderland is dark science fiction, and despite the gore, isn’t really something to consider “horror”. If anything, it’s more of an intense drama with fighting in it (though not truly “action” either), and lighter moments provided by Shiro. The elements work well together for the most part, and it’s easy enough to follow the story. The only drawback is that the series feels like it may have been cut short somewhere along the line. It doesn’t end suddenly or anything like that, but there are some unresolved storylines which I would have thought were fairly critical points deserving of an explanation. It’s not a matter of leaving things open ended and subject to interpretation, which would have been fine, but Deadman Wonderland isn’t really that kind of series. It’s not a huge strike against the series, but I just felt that there are parts of the story I will never know the truth behind. Perhaps the answers lie in the manga.

Deadman Wonderland is dark and brutal, and while not groundbreaking, remains an interesting series. Those seeking gore in all of its uncensored glory will want to seek out the Japanese home video version of the series, but for the rest of us, the version released in North America will do just fine.

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