Anime Review: Deadman Wonderland

It’s been about a month since I actually reviewed anything. I generally avoid watching shows for reviews when the new season is starting up, and after that I was preoccupied with other stuff. I did manage to go back and take a look at a series that originally aired in the spring though. Main reason I even checked this show out was because it’s supposed to be a violent and bloody show, which is something of a guilty pleasure of mine.

Ganta Igarashi has been convicted of a crime that he hasn’t committed, and sent to a new, privately owned and operated prison, where the inmates are forced to provide entertainment for the masses. Ganta finds himself in possession of a power known as the Branches of Sin, which allows him to use his blood as a weapon. Shortly after his arrival at Deadman Wonderland he ends up in Level G, where people with powers like his are forced to fight for the amusement of spectators.

Deadman Wonderland is guilty of one of the most annoying things present in anime lately: not having a proper conclusion so there can be a second season if the first sells well. The last three minutes of the final episode are shockingly similar to the last three minutes of the Sekirei‘s final episode of the first season. The creators put a great deal of effort into showcasing a bunch of potential plotlines and showing characters who were introduced but never really featured so you’ll realize that things aren’t done, so you should go out and buy DVDs and Blu-Rays so they can make more. And like Sekirei, Deadman Wonderland completely lacks any kind of overarching story. You can hardly blame the series for lacking a proper conclusion when there wasn’t really any major conflict going on.

The last several episodes are about the series’ protagonist Ganta joining up with a group that wants to expose what the prison really is, and the ensuing fight when that plan doesn’t really work out. The last leg of the story is basically devoted to a character and a villain who were introduced more than halfway through the series, have no connection to Ganta or his problems, and who ultimately add nothing of value to the series. It essentially ignores the real story, Ganta finding out who the Red Man is and why he attacked his class in the beginning of the series, to focus on a fight between a side character and a minor antagonist. Not some great climactic battle between Ganta and the person responsible for ruining his life, just a fight between some other guys that leaves no sense of satisfaction when it’s all over.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Deadman Wonderland demonstrated horrendous writing long before the god awful ending. The worst of it easily comes from the very first episode. After Ganta’s class is killed he’s put on trial for the murder, because he’s the only person who survived so obviously he did it. We’re talking about a room filled with mutilated bodies and destroyed desks, covered in blood from floor to ceiling, and there are honestly people who think a 14 year old kid could pull that off. It’s not just a case of Ganta being framed, the parents of the other students attack Ganta at his trial, so obviously they think he did it.

The best part in all of this is how the series just completely skips over the actual trial. Ganta’s just arrested, and then we see him being found guilty and being sentenced to death row in Deadman Wonderland. The obvious reason for this is because no one couldthink of a way for the prosecutor to actually convince anyone that the kid could pull it off. Obviously he was framed, but even when framing someone it has to be believable, even to the viewer. It would take a monumental amount of bullshit to come up with a way that Ganta could have possibly done that, so it just gets swept under the rug in the hopes that no one will notice. The icing on the bad writing cake is guards who willingly explain things about the prison to inmates, perfectly faked videos being used to conveniently move the plot along, and most characters having the depth and personality of a bowl of pudding.

But enough about that. The story isn’t what this series is really about. It’s all about gruesome senseless violence. Too bad all the violence is censored for the broadcast in the hopes that people will buy the uncensored DVD/BDs. Apparently the marketing strategy used for fanservice shows is starting to be applied to other things, so god help us all. This does raise one question though, why bother broadcasting this at all? If the main hook of your show has to be censored for broadcast, why not just release it straight to video? Deadman Wonderland would make perfect sense as an OVA. It’s practically the archetypal OVA already with its terrible writing and senseless violence. Why waste people’s time with a broadcast where the only good part is censored when you could just sell directly to them from the start?

Logic of the broadcast aside, the senseless violence in the series isn’t actually that great. The censorship certainly doesn’t help things, but the real issue is the main character’s fighting style. Ganta’s power allows him to shoot his blood like bullets, but they never actually pierce the target. Both of his major fights in the series, and yes there are really only two, end with rather anti-climactic attacks that don’t do any visible damage. If you’re in it for the blood and gore, which is the entire point of the series, it’s disappointing. Things get much bloodier toward the end but most the series is spent watching dull fights and when there is any amount of gore it gets censored anyway. It’s probably a much better experience when you watch the DVD or BD, but the broadcast version of this series is completely pointless.

One thing I do really like about Deadman Wonderland is the soundtrack. It’s filled with great rock themes that go along great with some of the the brutal (albeit censored) fights. It’s really the highlight of the series. Great background music can make even dull fights seem somewhat intense, and it’s one of the few things the series manages to get right. Ganta’s fights may not be that intense or exciting on their own, but when you throw a hard rock track into the mix it does make things a little more enjoyable. Despite the series’ failing in pretty much every other area, it was at least fun to listen to from time to time.

There’s really not much to say about the animation or art in Deadman Wonderland. Nothing really jumps out as exceptional or amazing, it just good enough to get the job done. There is a scene near the end of the series where Ganta learns to shoot his blood at supersonic speeds, which leads to a really great scene of him demonstrating this power, and later using it to rapid-fire at a group guards. It’s one of the few great action shots in the series, and the only time Ganta does anything remotely impressive with his powers. None of the fight scenes really showcase any great animation, again because Ganta’s style consists almost entirely of standing in one spot and firing shots. From what little can be seen, it does appear the animators put a great amount of detail into any shots of people being dismembered or disemboweled or any scene with a great amount of gore really. But they’re censored so you can’t see any of the detail that went into them. Again, it’s a case of the only part of the series worth looking at being censored for broadcast.

In the end, Deadman Wonderland does nothing to really impress. The writing is terrible, there’s no story structure, and it ends without conclusion in the hopes of getting a second season. The one saving grace it had to rely on was completely censored for the broadcast, and what remained wasn’t really worth watching. The series might be worth watching on DVD or BD when those are available, if only for the uncensored blood and gore, but the broadcast version is entirely a waste of time.

Score: 2/5

Pros: A couple good action scenes, great soundtrack

Cons: Terrible writing, no conclusion, most action scenes are dull, anything worth watching is censored

Deadman Wonderland is available streaming on Crunchyroll

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One thought on “Anime Review: Deadman Wonderland

  1. I find this review disappointing. I was recommended to this series by a friend, and decided to read a few reviews (including this one) before watching it. As most of the others were positive/average, I decided to watch it.

    I think you’ve exaggerated the (negative) quality of the writing. Apart from the (admittedly rushed) court scene, there are very few major plot holes. The reason the guards explain the rules of the prison to the inmates is because they’re in an extremely strange amusement park, and want the inmates to participate in the events (to earn candies and give a show).

    The obviously fake video was also an interesting plot device. It was so strange, you KNEW that there was some huge conspiracy going on, and that the lawyer was in on it. It makes you wonder WTF is really going on.

    After that, the writing went smoothly. It was obviously an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sorta thing, but with a giant chessboard of a prison instead of Wonderland. I don’t see what’s ‘horrendous’ about that. In ‘dark wonderlands’ things aren’t supposed to make sense (at least not until the very end. They give you frightening hints (Shiro’s grin?), but nothing is certain. If you don’t like it, I’d suggest steering clear of the (popular) genre.

    After that, I think you missed the part where this was based on a Manga. The seemingly random fights ARE actually part of an overarching story, but the anime was not given enough episodes to make this clear. They managed to set the stage for a crazy sequel, and if they actually make it, I’m sure it will be fantastic.

    I actually thought the storytelling was good, or at least better than your average gore anime. It’s certainly better than Hellsing and Pandora Hearts, at the very least.

    I do agree though, that the current ending is very unsatisfying- it stops right when it seems like the main plot is about to begin.

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