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DEADMAN WONDERLAND: Red-Blooded Horror That Eventually Runs Thin - - Blu-Ray/DVD Review

You’ve heard of blood-sports, right?

Were I given the task of reviewing the first half of DEADMAN WONDERLAND’s short, 12-episode season, I’d be able to present a simple thumb's up and be done with it.

This show is good,” I’d say, after watching those initial six episodes.

And then I’d rip off FUNimation and blurt out their own tagline before they had the chance to do it themselves - - “You should be watching.”

Easy assignment. At that point, I’d sit at my desk and stare at my screen, waiting patiently for the remainder of the season to air. I’d be fully compelled to find out what happens to Ganta, Crow, Yo, and the rest of the cast; and then to learn about all the new, unknown inmates who reside in G-Block.

And when those remaining six episodes were done, I’d look at my thumb, confused about which direction to tilt it. I’d go back and re-edit my review.

Should you be watching? I’m not sure...

All that is the long way of saying that DEADMAN WONDERLAND gets off to a wonderfully interesting and provocative start but ultimately squanders that potential as it drifts through a lackluster and oddly-paced second half. Based on a manga that is still ongoing, the anime’s creators apparently decided to wager the quality of their series on whether or not it gets another season to explain itself.

If it does, great. If it doesn’t? Yikes.

So what’s the deal? In the world of DEADMAN WONDERLAND, an earthquake has shaken up Japan and completely ruined Tokyo. Set ten years after that event, a private prison has been put up in place of the capital city; a theme-park style mega-complex housing nothing but death row inmates. Nobody cares about convicted killers, so the prisoners are abused and murdered for the amusement of visiting tourists who (choose to) think the horrible events they see happening are just creative special effects. Profits go to rebuilding Tokyo, so who cares if the occasional serial killer gets his arms torn off in the process?

This prison, itself called Deadman Wonderland, is a creative blend of pop-culture parts - - from SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES to RUNNING MAN to BATTLE ROYALE - - and is a great setting for serious social satire.

Seemingly average middle-school student Ganta Igarashi is Deadman Wonderland’s newest addition. Framed for the brutal murder and dismemberment of his entire class, Ganta is shipped off to the uber-clink only after being kicked down and spit on by the families of his closest friends. They've all been convinced of his guilt by a phony confession seemingly recorded when Ganta wasn’t looking.

But Ganta really didn’t do it! No, it was the Red Man! A flying, superhero-looking lunatic with powers so incredible that the massacre of an entire room filled with children only takes him a second! Except that no one has ever seen this Red Man - - no one but Ganta... and a host of scientists and engineers who work deep within a secret chamber beneath Deadman Wonderland.

This must have something to do with the prison’s constantly grinning promoter and assistant warden, the clearly evil Tsunenaga Tamaki. Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

From the jaw-dropping mass murder that kicks off the show through Ganta’s extended persecution, DEADMAN WONDERLAND establishes a dark and powerful reality that is simultaneously both patently absurd and yet also painfully realistic. It’s hard not to care about someone as thoroughly ruined by fate as Ganta, and his unbelievable conviction goes a long way towards making everything everything that follows seem almost reasonable. By the time it is revealed that Ganta has some special powers of his own, you’re as excited to find out about the true story of Deadman Wonderland as its newest inmate is.

It turns out that Ganta is “gifted” with the Branch of Sin - - the ability to shape and control his blood once it has exited his body and wield it as a weapon. And he’s not the only one; a secret section of Deadman Wonderland called "G-Block" is filled with blood-wielders. And wouldn’t you know it - - they’re forced to fight for the private entertainment of select high rollers!

But just as Ganta is initiated into this elite club of insane warriors, the show decides to shift gears entirely. It jackknifes away from the tournament fighting and towards the least exciting prisoner uprising in the history of super-powered prisoners. Why does it do that? Probably because at some point in Season Two, it will have some serious consequences. But as for Season One? It’s the least exciting part, and it takes up an unjustly large amount of time and attention.

So, instead of learning the secrets of Deadman Wonderland, we learn a lot about a number of characters who seem introduced merely to be dispatched, and all of the most interesting mythology is tabled for another time. While the secret of the Red Man is more or less put out in the open, Ganta isn’t able to piece it together. When he does, things are sure to get pretty crazy, in the best way possible.

If/When that time arrives, you can count on me to be among the audience.

If it never does? I’ll probably have forgotten how eagerly I was once waiting.

Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.

sickVisionz moderator on Oct. 11, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.
While the secret of the Red Man is more or less put out in the open, Ganta isn’t able to piece it together. When he does, things are sure to get pretty crazy, in the best way possible.
If/When that time arrives, you can count on me to be among the audience.
If it never does? I’ll probably have forgotten how eagerly I was once waiting.

You've summed up my thoughts on the series right there. I think this show is entertaining in general, but while it ended in a way that had me excited to see what happens next, a month later I forgot it existed. Multiple years later and I'll probably struggle to remember what it was I enjoyed about the series in the first place.

sora_thekey moderator on Oct. 11, 2012 at 3:42 p.m.
All that is the long way of saying that DEADMAN WONDERLAND gets off to a wonderfully interesting and provocative start but ultimately squanders that potential as it drifts through a lackluster and oddly-paced second half.

That's dissapointing. I am only a few episodes in and I'm loving this series... With this, now I just hope it has some elements that will save the franchise in order to get even more interesting on Season 2.

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 11, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.

@sora_thekey: watch the dvd sales if their not all that then second season is even a longer shot.Tom Pinchuk has hit the hammer on the nails head.. or something like that. This series half way in your like wow its amazing.Then like those of us with feet of clay, we think of the potential of the series.An then see it used so poorly.

Still worth a watch tho.Better than average over all.Just the last 3 episodes id say bring down the grade on a downward curve.If the dvd was 19 or so id think about it for a buy.

AURON570on Oct. 11, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.

I am interested to see a second season too. The anime wasn't executed in the best way, and felt very cliché at times, but it was interesting enough that I ventured to read some of the manga after the series finished (which I hardly EVER do). Honestly the manga feels almost as cliché as the anime. I still think the concept is really great, just again.. maybe not executed in the best way.

sora_thekey moderator on Oct. 11, 2012 at 9:23 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: Small correction. This review was written by Alexei Bochenek...

Om1kronon Oct. 11, 2012 at 11 p.m.

first 6 episodes were tight butthole, last 6 episodes VERY LOOSE BUTTHOLE!

Made me mad I finished the show. And without an immediate season 2 follow up or any chance there will ever be a season 2 it's like the budget for the show completely squandered after the first 6 quality episodes. I mean watch for yourself, or just skip the anime completely and read the manga which is ongoing if you can find scanlations anywhere. I was so tainted by the show I had no desire to see how it panned out on paper.

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 12, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.

@sora_thekey said:

@Marshal Victory: Small correction. This review was written by Alexei Bochenek...

but but it says

"By Tom Pinchuk | Oct. 11, 2012"

at the top....

an i didn't see

"Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb."

at the bottem... um log in problem here?

sora_thekey moderator on Oct. 12, 2012 at 4:50 a.m.

@Marshal Victory: Tom Pinchuk (the editor of the site) posts the articles for everybody else. I write articles and at the top it always says Tom Pinchuk while at the bottom it always has my signature.

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 12, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.

@sora_thekey said:

@Marshal Victory: Tom Pinchuk (the editor of the site) posts the articles for everybody else. I write articles and at the top it always says Tom Pinchuk while at the bottom it always has my signature.

Ok i am more then confused but its a state i am used to.So this means your Alexei Bochenek ?

At any rate i stand corrected .. err even while siting typing this.Nail was still hit on its head with the article .. err hammer..er...ill stand beside that part..even while siting typing this..

heyalexei staff on Oct. 12, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: No no no, *I* am Alexei Bochenek. I've tried to put these articles in myself, but my own brand of dumb & lazy has made it much easier for Tom to just put them in. Maybe one day I'll move all my reviews over to my name. One day.

sora_thekey moderator on Oct. 12, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.
@Marshal Victory I am not the author of this article. I do write other articles though... Always look for the signiture under the article for who wrote it.
Marshal Victoryon Oct. 12, 2012 at 9:44 p.m.

@heyalexei: Ok now i can uncross said eyes :) good work by the way.

Dig Deeper into Deadman Wonderland

Deadman Wonderland is a dark-action series about a young boy who's framed for the slaughter of his classmates and sentenced to the privatized prison that doubles as an amusement park for the public called The Deadman Wonderland.

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