Deadman Wonderland at a Glance

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Eight episodes have come and gone now for Deadman Wonderland so what’s the verdict?

There’s a very pulpy feel to this anime. Our main character, Ganta, is thrown into a very bizarre situation and for every question each episode answers, the anime raises even more. Terms like Red Hole, Wretched Egg, femtomachines, and Nameless Worm are thrown around as if we’ve been using them for a long time.

To further compound matters, it appears as if every other episode introduces yet another important character or group of characters, each with their own (sometimes overlapping) agenda:

• Of course, it all starts with Ganta and Shiro, an innocent boy and his idiot savant of a childhood friend. The latter (spoiler alert, but honestly, is this even a spoiler?) is so clearly the ‘Red Man’ that the anime’s lack of secrecy with regards to this development must clearly be intentional. Ganta, on the other hand, sounds like he’s about to break down and cry every single time he opens his mouth.

• Then there’s Promoter Tamaki and whoever follows him (like the lab coat lady whose name escapes me at the moment — the one who carries out the penalty games), his ghastly prison experiments and inhuman gladiatorial matches. They may as well just name him Mengele.

• Chief Guard Makina and her cadre of cruel soldiers. At first assumed to be working with Tamaki, Makina seems none too pleased lately that Tamaki is hiding things from her. Alongside Makina, we often see a meganneko who looks as if she belongs more at Kissuiso than a tortuous prison full of psycho inmates.

• The Deadmans to which many people belong, including Ganta, but there are plenty of stragglers with no particular affiliation to others on this list.

• The Undertakers, a group of anti-Deadman fighters. At the moment, their leader appears to be some dude who can attack you with his guitar. Oh by the way, he’s a monk. Huh? Other members include a murderous loli because the novelty of a tiny, little girl who is actually evil and strong hasn’t quite worn off in any media, anime or not.

• In the latest episode, we meet yet another group: the Scar Chain, a resistance group working to bring down the private prison facility from the unmapped G-block.

• And we can’t leave out the clueless denizens outside the prison facility — the twisted populace not unlike the ancient Romans, feasting on the death and suffering of the prisoners within.

And who knows what other individuals or groups of individuals will arise as later episodes air.

As for everything else, Deadman Wonderland busies itself by primarily cramming the visceral down the audience’s throats:

aciding melting skin,

eye-plucking torture, and blood, gore, sinews — the entire works.

And finally, when Deadman Wonderland isn’t introducing characters or ripping them apart as soon as they appear onscreen,

the anime quickly moves to distract the audience with nubile girls (in a prison seemingly full of men — where are the women at?)

or big-breasted Makina throwing her chest around.

Why such a relentless bombardment of the senses? Deadman Wonderland is like a shark — if it ever stopped moving, it DIES. The entire premise would fall apart if the audience could ever pause for a second to think.

Take the Scar Chain dudes for instance. Not only is there a resistance group within a private prison operating under no surveillance, as if the prison itself wants Scar Chain to exist, they have a facility equipped with a

flatscreen TV that gets news reception from the outside world,

the ability to serve up an ample feast,

and even delicious parfaits topped off with fresh fruit. How the hell?

As for the anime in general, we don’t even have much of a plot. Ganta vaguely wants to avenge his classmates by hunting down the ‘Red Man,’ but the anime often shuffles this story into the background as we treat ourselves to another showdown in the Corpse Carnival. There are obviously deeper plot machinations behind the scenes, but as with most pulpy stories, Deadman Wonderland operates best by keeping the audience in the dark.

The success of pulpy stories hinges on their ability to be page-turners. The plot needs to drive the audience insatiable to the point that they can’t put the story down. Considering all that I’ve heard about the manga, maybe Deadman Wonderland did succeed on those terms in that format.

Likewise, the anime needs to keep up an enormous sense of momentum or else everything collapses. If done right, if every episode was charged with a certain kinetic pace, Deadman Wonderland could become effervescent, i.e. a never-ending thrill ride. This is somewhat easy for two hour movies to accomplish, but considerably harder for a series due to the technical constraints inherent to the format. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible — I think Gurren Lagann (once it got started) and Panty & Stocking both come closest to what I’m describing for anime — but I think Deadman Wonderland is currently a couple steps short of this achievement.

So where do we stand? Deadman Wonderland is an anime where I often have my finger on the seek button because the slow moments simply don’t and won’t work for it. It’s not a harrowing plunge into the depths of its characters’ psyches, it’s not a brilliant commentary on anything in particular (at the moment), etc. Deadman Wonderland set itself up to be — and needs to be — pure action.

6 thoughts on “Deadman Wonderland at a Glance

  1. tomphile

    It’s fine and all to nitpick at everything, but at the end of the day the whole thing has been, and always will be about the action. And maybe Shiro, maybe.

  2. inushinde

    Once it threw in the monk who attacked with his guitar, I lost any and all bit of me that saw this as anything but hilarious, over the top shounen action that tries its best to be dark and disquieting, but ends up just looking goofy.
    Regardless of such facts, I’m enjoying it as a mindless bloodfest.

    1. E Minor Post author

      The problem is that it isn’t mindless enough. It isn’t over the top enough. It’s not as wild as it could and should be. When the anime slows down, it’s too painfully obvious how stupid it is.

      1. inushinde

        Oh no, this is one thing that you’ve gone on about that I agree with. It could be quite a bit more stupid, silly, gruesome, etc, but it doesn’t quite scratch that itch. I’m enjoying it, but it could go a lot further.

        I think the one piece of media that’s best done the “Leave your brain at the door before you watch this” approach, and thus should be given some kind of award, is RoboGeisha. If more shows that aspired to be mindless slaughterfests would take a cue from that, pulp entertainment would get a lot better… or rather more enjoyable, not necessarily better.

  3. Josh

    I’ve been waiting to drop this show for a while now, and I might just take this chance to do it. The inertia in this anime hardly gives it time to reflect on its own characters and devices, instead leaving plenty of roadkill and eroding my patience. But besides the occasionally good soundtrack, plot twist, or action scene, it is just a contrived mess with layers upon layers of what-the-fuck… I mean, really, Ultra-Monk?!

    I’m still curious enough to give the manga a try but the roller-coaster quality of the animation and storyline on this thing is just exhausting — which is sad, given how interesting it can be when it wants to.


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