Anime: Deadman Wonderland–Season 1 Final Thoughts

Deadman Wonderland begins with our protagonist, Ganta Igarashi, settling down in class. He is your average Japanese student in an average Japanese anime setup. He likes the girl who sits in front of him, but is afraid to speak up. Ganta has a charming, loud mouthed buddy by his side to ride his case. While daydreaming out the window, he spies a floating figure in a red cloak. Zap! Ganta’s classroom is hit with a beam of mystic energy that knocks him unconscious and we know he will awaken with some kind of superpower. This marks the last occasion when our lazy anime assumptions will be correct for quite some time.
deadman Wonderland

Unfortunately for our hero, when Ganta does wake up he is promptly arrested for the murder of his classmates. After a brief trial, Ganta is judged guilty and sentenced to death row in the privately owned hybrid amusement park/maximum security prison/Running Man styled game show Deadman Wonderland.

Stunned, bewildered, and innocent, Ganta is quickly befriended by Shiro, a seemingly insane teenage girl, and begins learning the ways of his blood based superpowers, The Branches of Sin. Achievement Unlocked! You just survived the roller-coaster ride that is the first TWENTY MINUTES of Deadman Wonderland!

The next several episodes take you deeper down the rabbit hole: The Candy; The Collars; The Carnival of Corpses; The Penalty Game; Deadman Wonderland forces us to stare deep into this wretched world where insanity and death are the only things you can count on and super powered attacks are made up of your own blood.

Somewhere around episode 8, The Pattern becomes too obvious to ignore: Former enemies become fair weather allies; All roads lead to a single Big Bad; The cast prattles on about hope; and characters have flashes of Mysterious Pasts so banal that even they don’t care enough to wonder about ‘em. Yep, we’re in yet another Shonen series, albeit one drenched in blood and marketed to the Western ‘Emo’ crowd. By the time we limp into the final episode, Ganta survives events that should have killed him outright 3 times in 10 minutes. How does this meek teen avoid certain death and deliver a final Super Hadouken to save the day? Because he believes in his friends. And he trained for the first time an hour before The Final Battle.

Deadman Wonderland goes in with a thunderous, bloody rampage of originality and emerges as nothing more than yet another Naruto. To say this is a squandered opportunity is an understatement. It is by no means a bad show, simply one that fails to live up to the imagination of its setting or the shock of its opening. Go in with expectations set to “the usual” and there is a lot of shockingly bloody fun to be had.

Except for the finale, which is borderline terrible by any standards. Well, except maybe anime standards where bad endings are more of the rule than the exception.

Would I watch another 12 episode season? Probably, but not with the rapt attention I showered on it the first time around. Would I be upset if there was no second season? Not at all. In for a disc version? No chance.

Deadman Wonderland is streaming, free and legal, on Crunchyroll. It is undoubtedly intended for ‘mature’ audiences.

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