It’s quite unfortunate to have your entire class slaughtered by a mysterious, powerful villain, get framed for the crimes, become a hated public figure, and get sent to one of Japan’s worst prisons, where you’re forced to participate in fights to the death. It’s been a long (and sometimes arduous ride), but at last the first season is over.
Deadman Wonderland is quite literally a bloody anime, which is finally a bit different than all those “moe blob” shows I’ve been watching. Manglobe does a good job of selling the story, and the plot’s a pretty strong aspect overall. There isn’t really much to criticize about the plot, but I wasn’t exactly happy with how they decided to go about telling it. First, they decided to change a bunch of fundamental issues. Apparently (guilty of not actually reading the manga), various important characters are removed from the anime, which means the synchronization pretty much gets screwed up after a while. The show certainly doesn’t turn away from the gore and violence (albeit with a bit of censoring), since people get holes blasted in them and their eyes ripped out. It doesn’t really try to be anything except what it’s supposed to be, a gory action show.
I actually got pretty emotionally invested while watching. For pretty obvious reasons, I really, really hated the people running Deadman Wonderland. There was no doubt whose side I was on, seeing as the brutality and sadism of the workers was off the charts ridiculous. Tamaki was one sick dude, and Genkaku and Hibana weren’t much better. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand Ganta to the point where I actually hoped he died during one of the various battles.
They really spent too much time showing Ganta as a weak, complaining, whiny guy. It brought me back (like a week) to the original Neon Genesis Evangelion and how Shinji was constantly wallowing in self-pity. While it’s certainly an important part of his life, it does get stale when he’s still trying to deal with it for almost the entire series. But really, that’s the thing. Almost every character faces the harsh fact that they’re absolutely powerless, yet they choose different ways to cope with it. Yoh resorts to desperate measures, Ganta retreats into a (very annoying) shell, Genkaku decides to wrangle it with his own hands, Nagi tries to deceive himself otherwise, and Senji is just apathetic towards it all. Rather philosophical side to everything, as Ganta begins to become a less passive player in everything.
I was a little bit annoyed with Hanazawa Kana’s acting on Shiro, especially with the onslaught of roles she’s been playing. When the show started, I couldn’t get the image of Nessa out of my head, since she always uses the same voice. Probably just me, though.
Thankfully, some of the supporting cast was pretty good; even though none of them are quite unique, they still were unpredictable enough so that I was interested in what was going to happen. This is mostly aimed at the characters that were actually important enough to get named (and screentime), considering there were a lot of cardboard cutouts that for some reason were in the background. For example, Karako sacrificing herself (sort of) and Nagi being a cool guy who doesn’t afraid of anything when Rokuro betrays him characterized them well. They managed to paint the characters despite putting so little effort into it. Senji was a pretty cool character, especially since he was still relevant in the end-game, well after his “arc”.
I feel like Yoh and his sister were kind of thrown away at the end (except that short appearance where Minatsuki saves Ganta’s arse (but like everyone saves his arse at least once). Tamaki (who was voiced by Suwabe Junichi) came off the evil bastard he was supposed to be, which made everything black and white. His evil grin was pretty priceless, too.
As for the ending, it felt rushed. They decided to go into Genkaku’s backstory, which felt abrupt considering it was when the action was supposed to reach the climax. Everything about him was “explained” too quickly, so it didn’t really have the effect they were going for. His insanity was pretty sudden too (“I’m being abused, now I want to kill everyone indiscriminately”), but I can overlook that for now.
The battles weren’t exactly that creative either, since most of them consisted of Ganta getting beat up numerous times and then pulling something out of his arse and one hitting the opponent (case in point: last battle). It took way too fast for Nagi to be “reconverted”, and everything in the last arc just went by so quickly.
The final episode is pretty open ended (rather, very open ended), and we don’t really figure out the point of the carnival nor who Sakigami Toto’s real identity (or his past). The main overarching plotline of Ganta trying to get revenge on the Red Man (who’s like, right next to him) is also mainly unresolved, as indicated by the final scene. A second season is set up pretty indiscreetly, and there’s an OVA coming out later this year, so there’s a likelihood that everything will be wrapped up then. Unlike Hidan no Aria, though, this might actually get a second season, so the open-endedness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (Oh Aria…)
In the more technical aspects, the music was in general nothing special. The opening sequence was pretty funky (I like to call it SHAFT-esque), but the rock song (“One Reason” by Fade) was a pretty good fit with the anime. I was pretty indifferent about the ending (“SHINY SHINY” by NIRGILIS), since it felt like it didn’t really go well with half of the cliffhangers. The animation was pretty standard, as I’ve come to expect from Manglobe (Kami Nomi), so it doesn’t really get any points there.
Now that Ganta’s character has really changed for the better, I’m pretty open to a second season. I like the plot a decent amount, and while it doesn’t exactly follow the manga (perhaps for the worse), and the characters are what make it worth watching for me. My verdict: a slightly above average show, but if you’re able to stomach the violence (which isn’t really that bad), it’s worth watching.
Deadman Wonderland’s OVA will be released October 26th, 2011.