“Deadman Wonderland,” as you might have already guessed, is a darkly dramatic, rather explicit anime series (might want to make sure the kids are asleep for this one), though it is rather short-lived at only twelve episodes total. The art style is well-executed and quite cinematic. Seemingly utilizing traditional animation techniques, alongside computer generated images. Story-wise, I gather we can expect to see complex character development, dark story lines, vicious, yet stunning, action sequences, and some twisted, suspenseful villainy.
The story centers around a privately owned prison/tourist attraction known as Deadman Wonderland. It is a place for death row inmates to fight for their lives, simply for the amusement of those beyond its walls. The prison itself resides in an alternate future Tokyo, which has become a wasteland, destroyed by a mysterious natural disaster ten years prior. Not to the dismay of those in charge of the hellish facility, as they seem more than happy to open up their doors for the public’s hard-earned dollars (…yen?).
In a school somewhere outside the desolate city, our hero, Ganta, a young, soft-spoken boy, prepares for a field trip with his classmates to the popular prison. Ganta seems nice enough, but also appears to have a mysterious past, as he claims to have no memory of the events that led to the destruction of Tokyo. A claim some of his classmates, and even some of his friends, find hard to believe. Sadly and suddenly, before the school day can even begin, an “incident” (without giving too much away) leaves Ganta arrested for a crime he believes he did not commit, and on trial for his life. Soon after, he is sentenced to death and forced to enter Deadman Wonderland under circumstances he would have never believed possible.
Inside the prison, it is made clear by the guards, led by their chief warden Makina, that any and all inmates will be treated worse than animals. Especially Ganta, who, because of the nature of his supposed crime, is given the least amount of respect or concern. Makina goes on to explain the collars the inmates are all forced to wear, and how they are the means by which the guards track and tame the degenerates within.
Shortly after this rather warm welcome, Ganta finds himself alone, wallowing in self pity, and welcoming the thought of his own death. In this moment of utter weakness he meets Shiro, an even more mysterious young girl, who attempts to give Ganta his mercy killing, but is met with surprising resistance. To me, she seems quite the archetypal naive, yet powerful, somewhat crazy, mysterious girl character, often popular in Anime. After her initial attack, she asserts that she knows Ganta and is actually good friends with him.
“Death Row Inmate,” the first episode of this series, raises many questions, while setting up a world rich with tension, high-stakes, and suspenseful intrigue. The series’ run may be short, but its depth and production value bring it almost closer to a lengthy, episodic, animated film. While it may not be as welcoming or as widely-accessible as say a “Dragon Ball Z” or a “Fairy Tail, ” it is quite alluring and gory. I’m interested in seeing where the rest of this series goes. It’s dark, t’s mysterious, it’s action packed, and deeply dramatic. Be sure to check out “Deadman Wonderland,” and let me know what you think in the comments below!