Title: Deadman Wonderland
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 17 Apr 2011 – 3 Jul 2011
Synopsis: Igarashi Ganta, a survivor of an earthquake that ravaged Japan a decade prior, once again finds himself the sole survivor of a catastrophic event when a mysterious being, the Red Man, slaughters his middle school class and bequeaths supernatural powers to Ganta. Ganta is soon framed for the murder of his friends and railroaded through the justice system until he is thrown into the notorious prison-cum-amusement park, Deadman Wonderland. There, Ganta befriends a mysterious girl, Shiro, and engages in fights organized by the sadistic, bloodthirsty assistant warden, Tamaki Tsunenaga.
Action: Occasionally good, but often goofy and marred with censorship.
Violence: Too over the top to be taken seriously and not stylish enough to be entertaining.
Plot: Ultimately pointless and goes absolutely nowhere by the end.
Ganta: Super generic, whiny lead extraordinaire.
Shiro: The latest in a growing line of Hanazawa Kana typecasting that will drive me to suicide.
Deadman Wonderland begins with a semi-intriguing premise. Clearly there is some sort of conspiracy going on in the background considering how quickly Ganta is swept through the justice system and all but declared guilty by media coverage of his trial. By the time Ganta gets to the titular prison, there is a solid base for a decent mystery and some good, old fashioned revenge against those who wronged him; however, any intrigue established by the opener is quickly swept away by idiotic plotting, generic characters and inconsistent action.
But before that, there is a problem that is unfortunately out of the show’s hands: The censorship. It’s a tenuous climate for violent anime right now, and many of Deadman Wonderland’s most intense moments are made laughable because 90 percent of the screen is covered in black blobs. The funniest instance of censorship is in the finale when a character shoots several people with a massive gun, but instead of blood and guts flying everywhere, it’s mostly black blobs clinging to the wounded. Any level of seriousness that could be gleaned from the action is wiped away in an instant.
The series should not be given a pass based on that, however. In fact, it might be more fortunate for Deadman Wonderland that the audience often cannot view the violence. The action itself is inconsistent; sometimes, it looks great, and others it’s shoddily animated and viewed through absurd camera angles that make orientation difficult. This does not work well with the level of ultraviolence in which the show engages. Because the action is often shoddy, it’s almost as if Deadman Wonderland responds by amping up the blood, guts, and gore to ridiculous in the hopes that nobody will notice. The show desperately wants to be badass like many of the more infamous OVAs and movies of the 1980s and early 1990s, but instead, it’s so over the top that it’s laughable. Acid-shooting robots, anyone?
But what about the plot? Sadly, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Everything built this season amounts to a whole lot of nothing save for some small plot points that essentially scream, “Man, I really hope that we get a second season so that we can actually do stuff with all this!” The biggest problem is that audience basically sees all the cards (or at least the cards that matter in the context of this season) by the halfway point, and knows more about what is going on than the characters. That level of dramatic irony can be interesting if written well enough; alas, the vast writing power in this anime went toward thinking up ways for the glasses girl assistant to hit on Makina.
The characters are the final refuge of Deadman Wonderland, but they are all failures, as well. Ganta is about as generic a protagonist as it gets; his reaction upon being thrust into an insane situation is understandable, but Deadman Wonderland is not a character study, so sitting through his whining and lack of growth is irritating and pointless. The worst part is that his victories come through luck and almost unfair levels of outside help. How is anyone supposed to root for him? The side characters are barely worth mentioning — the villains are cardboard cutouts and killers with “shocking” backstories who are easily dispatched, and the heroes are worthless and stupid.
Shiro deserves her own paragraph. She is the latest in a growing trend of Hanazawa Kana-voiced characters whose IQs are lower than the episode counts of the series in which they reside. I generally like Hanazawa; I think she’s a capable actress, and she plays to the level of the roles she is given. Unfortunately, when she is given cutesy garbage, she is going to be cutesy garbage. Shiro is not an especially inspiring character to begin with (a mysterious, childlike girl who has a dark secret? Yawn), and the cloying nature of Hanazawa’s performance makes a dumb character utterly irritating. It’s not entirely her fault; I doubt many seiyuu could do well with this character. Still, a bad performance is a bad performance, no matter the excuse.
Deadman Wonderland is an anime that does not need to exist. Its story is uninteresting, its characters are uninteresting, and its absurd levels of violence are done much better in other anime (such as Black Lagoon). Unless it turns out to be some sort of cash cow for Manglobe, the studio should just forget this series was even created.
The Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Shinmaru