ANIME & MANGA - Article
13:12 - 24th September 2013, by NEO Staff

Deadman Wonderland

Surely at some point we've all been blamed for something we haven't done, but rarely are the consequences of any misplaced punishment as severe as what poor Ganta Igarashi goes through in the first 15 minutes of Deadman Wonderland, the brutal new series from animation studio Manglobe, released in the UK by Manga Entertainment. Framed for savagely murdering his entire class at school, Ganta is wrongly trapped in a cruel carnival prison built where Tokyo once stood, forced to perform for tourists and somehow clear his name - or face the death sentence that awaits him.

Rebuilt from the Ashes

Ten years prior to the start of the series, an environmental disaster ravages Tokyo - three quarters of the city is wiped from the Earth. What's left is re-developed not into the neon metropolis we know today, but rather into Japan's largest prison, a privately owned concern known as 'Deadman Wonderland'. Inmates are collared with devices that slowly inject them with poison, giving them three days to live unless they eat a foul-tasting piece of 'candy' that purges their systems and resets the timer. The prison's chief warden Makina is a no-nonsense ball-buster who never hesitates to punish insubordination or misbehaviour, often with a slash of her lethal sword. This is the harsh environment that Ganta is thrust into, the authorities deaf to his pleas that it was actually the 'Red Man' who killed his friends, leaving only a crimson gem mysteriously embedded in his chest.

Despite a curiously rushed trial and having utterly no idea what's happening to him or why, Ganta finds his feet in the prison's vicious social hierarchy. Befriended by the thief Yoh Takami (though he has his own motivations for getting close to Ganta) he determines to find out why he was set up. More curious is the strange girl Shiro - an albino with the same face as Ganta's schoolfriend Mimi, but who has the mind and mannerisms of a child. Even more bizarre is Shiro's remembering of Ganta - while he has no knowledge of her - and her incredible physical abilities. She's tougher and stronger than anyone else, and helps the confused young teenager survive the dangerous games held at Deadman Wonderland. When the gem in Ganta's chest powers up from the stress he's under, he gains the rather macabre ability to wield his own blood as a weapon - just the trigger the manipulative deputy warden Tsunenaga Tamaki needs to conscript Ganta for his top-secret super-battles in the heart of the prison!

Are We Not Entertained?

It's a seemingly endless web of mysteries in this fast-paced series, adapted from the manga of the same name written by Jinsei Kataoka, with art by Kazuma Kondou. There are a number of influences at work in Deadman Wonderland, most notably Koushun Takami's Battle Royale with its 'three days or dead' collar system, and the ghoulish entertainment for the masses of forcing the prisoners into fatal games - a modern take on Roman gladiators, with added superpowers! The series also explores similar themes to Natsumi Itsuki's Jyu-Oh-Sei, which also saw a teen protagonist plunged into a wrongful incarceration, with both series looking at the unique social constructs that develop in such abnormal situations.
The animated version is the first series helmed by director Kōichi Hatsumi, though his resumé boasts episode direction and key animation roles on some of the biggest titles in anime history - Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Slayers, and even an early position on in-between animation for the legendary Akira! Having clearly picked up a few tricks along the way, Hatsumi's debut as head honcho is no disappointment - a dazzling display of animation brilliance, with some outstanding sequences of camera-defying angle hopping and impressively frenetic editing whenever Ganta is forced into the arena.

Balancing frantic action with just the right amount of suspense, Deadman Wonderland is a tour de force of anime - check it out now!

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