Review: Deadman Wonderland

I first found this show as it was airing in the spring, and it immediately intrigued me.  But also, made me flinch. The show starts off with our protagonist, Ganta, at school tossing around happy memories with his two friends.  Then a drippy person in a red cape floats down and slaughters everyone but Mr. Protagonist.  While Ganta takes a moment to freak the fuck out and the director gives us a squicky dismembered head moment, the red cape man makes some sort of glowing crystal coalesce in his hand and then shoots it into Ganta.

He wakes up in a hospital, is charged with killing his classmates, and within three cuts he is convicted and sentenced to death. They kinda make it look like he has split personalities, but no, that show isn’t interesting like that.  Later on we find out that he was set up (Uh duh duh). Then he goes to the theme-park/prison Deadman Wonderand, and some surprisingly gruesome things happen.  Thus our fucked up dystopian premise is finally established! Even the title makes sense! Later on it adds some sort of blood magic to spice up the interest and eventually turn it mostly into a bloody fighting show, where they also rail against The Man.

A chick who needs to put some clothes on then shows up and appears to be an exploited young lady with some kind of autism or something.  I think we’re supposed to think she’s cute or innocent or something, but to me it just seems like she has a developmental disorder. She’s also a main character. She establishes a pattern of female characters you can’t relate to, though the majority of which are extremely busty and sadistic and force you to question whether or not the writer is too obsessed with his kinks, and needs to control the libido a bit more. Then a Bitch guard shows up, and I am saddened by her for the aforementioned reasons.  The badassery the character whips out over the course of the show is kinda awesome, but the fact that she’s set up as some sort of fap-fantasy dominatrix is pandering and disgusting to me, so that is pretty intrusive on my enjoyment of her.  She even get’s a good proportion of her shots as low-to-the-ground-looking-up-shots. Nothing like typecast, flat female characters to ruin a good time.  Annoying things aside, I did actually enjoy her impressive “grip” on the events in the show and her strong will and determination to figure out things I want to know.  And after episode 7 many of the female characters get more fleshed and believable and interesting, so that’s a plus.

The second episode is where the show gets ludicrous.  Ganta finds out from Trowa- I mean, sis-complex, I mean Yoh-kun, that he needs candy to live and he has to buy it. Ganta goes out to this ninja warrior of death obstacle course and the stands are filled with people.  And frankly, its just unbelievable to me that people would find people scampering around and mistakes ending in gruesome deaths to be that entertaining or interesting.  I make a real break with the show here, which was sad since I was enjoying it for the first episode.  And then the whole black market, betting, magic, watcher’s club thingie?  I’m not buying it or really enjoying it.

Why the hell did I keep watching the show then?  Well it does do a good job at maintaining tension, and Yoh’s double-faced antics are pretty great.  Ganta’s OMG moments aside the fleshed out characters have good reactions and interactions.  I especially want to know what’s going on, and tantalizing hints are dropped enough to keep me coming back.  I also enjoy a good fight, and since Ganta’s not really that amazering, his fights are usually interesting.  And let’s not forget, the directing, art and animation are really alluring.

It’s a handsome show.  The character design, apart from the RIDICULOUS LOOKING and TERRIBLE female character(s) (sigh… target boob!), has unique looking and interesting characters. I love Owl, from the awesome voice to the fluffy hair to the geta and backstory angst.  The all move beautifully throughout the show.  Hell, half of what makes the blood magic so cool is the way that it’s animated, the way it shines and moves and curves. The do some wonderful and tasteful things with colors, and they’re pretty subtle and skillfully added to the overall grey-world dystopia.  There are a lot of unusual angles and hard to draw foreshortening shots, and it really gives the show a good feel to it.  the use camera movement, zooms, rotations, all sorts of difficult to do things and do them really well.  The backgrounds are detailed and well done. The only criticism is that the show is too dark sometimes, but even then I agree with the decision to make it that way, and that the quality goes down over the course of the show, but then again, so few don’t.  The high production values are a strong draw to the show for me.  There is a lot of “cool” in this show, things, moves, shots, characters, actions, voices.  It’s the main appeal other than violence and blood, and the directing helps that immensely.

Also, frankly, I love the opening.  Not only is it so lacking subtlety that they LITERALLY show the bad guy behind it all puppet-mastering them, it’s all about the color red, flashing patterns, and pictures and obviousness as well as shiny, sexy, squirmy bodies. But I like it because I like the song (don’t know why, but I do) and I like that the male fanservice shiny sexy squirming is just as hot as the lady fanservice, and since the mains are mostly men, it proportionately is mostly the thrusting gyrations of men.  Very sexy, equality.  I also like the end theme, though the visuals are dull, dull, dull and I never watched them.

So, overall this show has great production, is interesting to look at and art animation and directing is good.  The show is cool and filled with action, most gorey, as well as intrigue, but there are persistent plot problems, mostly centering on the way over-the-top-ness of the show and around stereotypical characters, that interrupt the interest and really hold the show back from being a great show.  It’s almost got as much bleeping as Blood-C, but it still can’t hold a candle to the greatness of Gantz.  Nothing wraps up at all and it’s very anti-climactic, the OVA just goes into a side-character’s backstory.  Perhaps they’ll be another season but it’s not enough to earn this show more than a “good in it’s category” for being a fun ride, but for having story problems, even though the production was so nice.

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