A huge part of me has to wonder that if Deadman Wonderland had a full 26 episode run, would it be even more enjoyable than it is? Created by Manglobe, a studio that has put out plenty of great shows and based off the manga by writer Jinsei Kataoka and artist Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland happens to be a really mixed bag. Ganta Igarashi is a 14-year old boy that is thrown into a chaotic situation, when a mysterious figure shows up floating outside of his classroom and slaughters the entire class. Ganta wakes up to the dismemberment of his friends and the figure standing over him, who then projects a red gem into his chest. When he wakes up in the hospital, he is arrested for the supposed murders of his classmates and is sent to the correctional facility, Deadman Wonderland. This correctional facility operates as an amusement park, where the inmates perform activities for the general public, that include basic carnival games, to events and death matches that pits inmates against one another. It is here where Ganta must learn to cope with what happened and try to figure out a way to survive.
The premise and visuals of Deadman Wonderland is nothing short of brilliant, with its juxtaposition with carnival and theme park imagery with insane amounts of violence that make this show something to watch. The levels of violence and its thematic content very much show that this was something that aired on late night or even a paid cable network back in Japan. Just about every single character has a tragic backstory, that includes everything from rape to torture, that makes them who they are now. While its certainly visceral and harkens back to earlier days of anime, it suffers from some problems.The major problem with this show, is that the narrative eventually goes nowhere for the duration of its 12 episodes and single episode OVA. There’s a decent character arc with Ganta, attempting to get stronger in this hellhole that is now his home, but never really leads him anywhere. This isn’t Manglobe’s or Funimation’s fault either, but the fact that the original manga creators haven’t finished the entire series yet leads to the other elephant in the room.
While there are these problems that certainly bring the show down a bit much, one of the saving graces came in episode 11, where Akitoshi Yokoyama serves as animation director. Immediately seeing this episode next to the others, you’ll see that there’s a distinct difference. The character’s outlines are a bit sketchier and the fluidity of the animation looks absolutely phenomenal. The man has lent his hand to many great productions, like Gainax’s Gurren Lagann, Sunrise’s Cowboy Bebop and was the key animator for Madhouse’s feature film Summer Wars. If the story never bother’s you and all you care about is the level of blood and gore that’s in the show, you’ll find yourself in for a real treat, as well as seeing a real master of animation in true form in episode 11.
The extra’s for the boxed set of Deadman Wonderland, include some episode commentary from the English voice cast, Japanese commercials for the show, textless intro and outro’s and trailers for other Funimation shows. The extras are certainly light, but there probably wasn’t any extra content created, because the show was a massive failure in Japan. The extra OVA episode is a prequel and doesn’t deal with Ganta, but another character named Senji, who was a police officer before he was locked up in Deadman.
As much as I enjoyed the series for its boldness and violence, Deadman Wonderland fails to deliver a responsibility for the graphic violence its presenting. If you just want to see some senseless violence, look no more, but for those that truly want something out a series that has the potential to truly say something with its premise, will be sorely disappointed.