Dead Cells horror anime podcast: Deadman Wonderland

Today on Dead Cells we are going to talk about Deadman Wonderland.

This one is from from Manglobe, who also worked on Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, and Samurai Champloo. This was a one season, twelve episode anime aired in spring 2011. Right now, you can catch it on Netflix, Funimation and sometimes The Cartoon Network.

I loved the first episode and while I liked the season, it never quite lived up to that level of carnage. if you are just idly checking this out for the gore, the first episode is totally worth it. by the last two episodes it comes around again with a lot of really brutal kills and madness galore, but I felt I was wading through the storyline for the sake of characters that would be introduced just to be killed off which is essentially what happened –  though the lingering death scene in episode 9 was pretty cool.

A summary from the Deadman Wonderland wikia reads: “Deadman Wonderland is about Ganta Igarashi being sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. He is sent to the privately run prison Deadman Wonderland, where he meets his lost childhood friend, Shiro. He soon figures out he isn’t like any normal prisoner, but that he’s a Deadman, someone who has a Branch of Sin. This means he can control his blood freely. He is sent to G Ward and meets all the other Deadmen. They discover a plot set up by the Chief Warden Tamaki that has to do with the Red Man, the man who has framed Ganta into Deadman Wonderland.”

29 kills in the first episode alone. no wonder I fell for this off the bat. The Red Man is the mysterious antagonist that slaughters Gantas class before his very eyes. this is the crime he is framed for. during that first massacre, he is infected with a parasite that appeared during a devastating quake that produced the Red Hole, which is almost all that is left of Tokyo afterward. Ganta barely recalls the quake that killed his family, and it seems the families of most of his classmates and many of his future prisoner friends also perished in this tragedy.

It seems i liked nearly every character except the lead role. The simpering emo whining of Ganta drives me berserk. I get it. he’s human. he’s fifteen. he’s in jail and all of his friends and family are dead. sure. but wow. can it! if he doesn’t trip, fall down, whine, or doubt himself to hell in back every episode, it’s a miracle. Sometimes he is like the Caillou of anime.

Crow, or Senji, is pretty bad ass. The thirteenth bonus episode is devoted to his backstory, which just leads me to think he could have been expanded upon within the series proper, or adding to a second season. His relationship with Ganta eventually develops into what saves the storyline and Ganta entirely in my opinion, as teacher and student.

Ganta reminisces on how he knew Shiro when they were kids, and it is kind of touching and also introduces the Visco Elastic Soldier Aceman. This is a fictional show that Ganta was a fan of as a kid. I don’t know about you, but I certainly had a fixation on Gatchaman and maybe even HeMan when I was a kid, so chibi Gantas fixation on Aceman is totally relatable if not straight up adorable.

Shiro is another beast altogether. skin tight lycra outfit aside she is super fun and just a perma kid. since I have a huge amount of permakid wriggling inside me I really related to her. From what I read on wikipedia you can unlock her costume after playing through Lollipop Chainsaw, but even that doesn’t tempt me to play that game. i like her as a female character that is not yet hypersexualized and retains her childlike exuberance for adventure and sweets even though she can kick major ass and is pretty much immune to all the things going on around her precisely because of those two things.

Chang and en are fascinating and two of the three albinos in the story, Shiro being the other. They are the Directors bodyguards and though we see very little of them are quite striking in their look and limited backstory. These twins are in fact named after the famous and at one time longest living Siamese twins, Chang and Eng. being a fan of oddities, I noticed this hommage right away. always drawn to twins, I wish they’d played a larger role.

The chief warden makina is a super cool character that remains far too underdeveloped. its okay if you don’t relate to or get attached to anyone in the group of rebels she is fighting for that matter since they get wiped out almost as fast as you get used to them being around. She is around until the end, and though interesting her character remains very surface level.

It seemed so much storyline was wasted in this freedom fight thing :/ although it did introduce you to the gestapo style Undertakers, a breed of guard that is pitted against the deadmen when the prison is at a loss to control them.

One of the few showcased female Deadmen, Minatsuki aka hummingbird seems to be there as fan service. the psycho nymph type. with Shiro flaunting her lovely hair and perfect though fully clothed body, I suppose it is needed for some who come for the flesh to be sated. I found her boring and cliche, though a really good vehicle for brutal language and distressing adult themes.

Mockingbird however, is none of those things as a bisexual-ish and androgynous blood tasting type, he is the strongest deadman and can absorb powers not unlike the X-Men rogue. we only get to meet the coolest deadman, mockingbird, at the end and that is a real shame, though on the other hand, another point of redemption within the last four episodes. I probably like him best since not only is he super crazy strong, has a really cool way of coming about in the anime, but is also a male version of Shiro.

Throughout the series, their weapons get increasingly bloody, and that is what I stayed for. The Branch of Sin as it is called, is blood from the Deadmens bodies that has solidified and can be melded by their will. They were infected by the Nameless Worm during the Great Tokyo Earthquake where many lost their lives. Upon rebuilding, Deadman Wonderland was built at the epicentre as a massive prison reminiscent of The Running Man, the film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the novel by Stephen King. Those that enjoyed that movie and shows like The Hunger Games and Battle Royale will love the game show atmosphere. I sure did.  Then again, I am also a huge fan of horror anime and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge so you can see why I love this blend so much… or well, wanted to love it. it’s not without it’s faults for sure. what this falls prey to is late introduction of too many characters stealing stage from the three or four that have been developed and you actually care or wonder about.

There could have easily been two seasons with what material there is regarding Shiro, The Red Man, the Deadmen, the Branch of Sin… all of that is sort of dulled for the sake of some kind of military and political intrigue. I found a lot of the drama quite boring  – and that is not just the horror hound in me howling, it really was that boring. The game show atmosphere, the fights, the relationships between Ganta, the two girls and Crow were ten times more fascinating. This is one where it may do well to read the manga which is getting a North American release as we speak thanks to Viz media who have picked up the series..

The opening theme song is pretty brilliant. Typical japan-american-fusion-metal from Fade but for once the song actually has something to do with the story. Pretty catchy song and nice and heavy which fits the theme well. Within incidental music, I hear some twin peaks Laura’s theme and beautiful people by Marilyn Manson type riffs.

There were rumors of a second season and I really hope there will be one. it would be good timing as there is an extra boon to gory horror action anime since streaming and pay services have been popularized more and more with the great titles coming out and accessibility of these services.

I may sound like I’m on the fence and maybe I am. while I liked the basic story, I could have done without the embellishment of freedom fighting and delved more into the histories of the inmates and the warden, the promoter and the director, let alone all of the initial deadmen we meet. the end was a bit of a tease as the audience is privy to things ganta isn’t. had he not hinted in the last three minutes that he would continue his quest to have his questions about the death of his classmates answered, there would be no need for a second season really. it could have ended with one line… a line you will know when you hear it, right before the very last scene.

Also, for the lack of sex I don’t think anyone even kisses, don’t think it is without very brutal adult themes. some of the words that are used will be intensely offensive to some delicate little flowers out there. as will two scenes of animal violence. i wouldn’t say the animal deaths are gratuitous at all, and they are both intrinsic to the plot. I’m personally okay with their use here but some draw a hard line with that so be warned.

Next, I’d like to talk about Hell Girl. I’ve watched this off and on and since it isn’t entirely linear, and not a splatter horror i think it would be a nice break from all this blood. We can get into a little more psychological and social horror in the vein of Death Note with a little X Files and Final Destination. Thank you for listening and if you have anything that you think I need to watch for Dead Cells, let me know here splatterpictures.net, on twitter, tumblr, instagram or wherever you hang out online.

Dead Cells horror anime podcast: Wicked City

Hi there. This is typicallydia on Dead Cells, part of splatterpictures.net. You may notice an abrupt shift from the Dead As Hell Horror podcast, where this show was once known as ReAnimeTion. Here we are now alongside my other home Dead Air with Wes ‘Dead Air’ Knipe, and I must say it’s nice to be here. The commute was killing me.

So. Dead Cells. Today we are going to talk about Wicked City. One of the seminal ‘japanimation’ from a time where bootleg VHS reigned at parties and in highschoolers basements in the mid-late 90s. I say ‘one of’ since Legend of the Overfiend was beyond seminal, and one that I may or may not talk about on the show. I’ll think about that one.

Wicked City is a 1987 standalone OVA directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri who also brought us Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – two titles that are certainly on the Dead Cells list, alongside Demon City Shinjuku, another one of those that we watched stoned on sugar and Jolt Cola on VHS back in the day. Before I was aware, I was watching his work on Gatachaman, or Battle of the Planets, which it was known in syndication. I urge you to perv his extensive credits online with no doubt you have watched something he’s had a hand in.

Unlike many anime, I prefer watching the english dub. The voice acting is actually not bad. Both versions are equally entertaining and not much of the storyline is filtered. It is also the first way I watched it, so it has a special place in my tiny cartoon heart. Specifically, the voice and lines of Giuseppi Mayart who has got to be a bizarro 21st century Yoda if there ever was one.

He is filthy though, be warned. Worse than the oversexed type with no filter that will say any dirty thing that comes to mind and is eternally trying to get laid. But then, the show does start with a sex scene less than five minutes in, so… there’s that. By the end, his power far outweighs his clammy perverted old man exterior. Somehow, even before the final fight where he is truly awesome, his personality’s rubbed off on you. Take that thought straight to the gutter..

Mayart is a 200 year old spiritualist and magi who is sent to Tokyo to assist in signing a new peace treaty between humans and the demonic “Black World” that exists alongside ours. The treaty is renewed every few hundred years, but this time the Radicals, demon types who are not interested in peace, want to stop it. Enlisted to protect Mayart are special agents of the Black Guard. Renzaburō Taki is the human male and a damn good and honorable Black Guard when called upon. His only real weapon other than agility and strength is his gun. He is a salesman by day- a fine job for a single Japanese man who wiles his days away playing MahJong and entertaining female friends –  as his counterpart’s cover job is modelling. Equally fitting as Makie is an ultra beautiful, super tough woman from the Black World who lucky for us is more interested in peace. Her power, other than being super sarcastic, agile and crazy tough are demon fingernails that can grow, lance-like and pierce her enemies. Picture red adamantium with what appears to be unlimited length and you get the picture.

I came for the demonic story line, but i stayed for the monsters. While awfully misogynistic, recall this is a time when this art was not necessarily intended for north american audiences, nor was it intended for women. While the Spider Woman may strike a special fear into the hearts of men and boys, I dig the hell out of her and mourn her very insectile death. That said, the treatment of women may appear terribly brutal but there is a sense of gentleness and beauty even in the most horrific scenes. There is an awkward adoration of the female in the form of vagina dentata, giant pussies grown into chests of female monsters that engulf male prey, a succubus type that engulfs Mayart into her flesh as if she were made of melting wax. While Makie is raped by a demon as punishment for betraying her Black World brothers and sisters, there is only the suggestion of a penis as she is bound by tentacles. Fairly typical of cock-phobic anime that didn’t want to be branded pornography. While the treatment she receives orally is quite brutal, the resulting rape scene is more erotic than traumatic. Recall, she is being punished and to see her being treated poorly spurs Taki into rescuing her and calls his developing feelings for her to the forefront. If her kind had walled her up or simply killed her, he may well have walked away.

There is little blood to be seen. Most of the gore is in the form of bewildering transformations, sexual violence, saliva, jizz, tears and spider web type vaginal secretions. There are a few scenes of gutting and punching through enemies, but even there, visceral goo is largely absent. That is not to say there is any lack of gore. It is almost as if you are tricked into thinking you have seen blood when in fact you saw a body ripped in two, light or smoke, spit or something else entirely. Not unsatisfying for the gorehound, though you will have been cheated.

The music is very typically 80’s with ominous syth melodies and occasional incidental music woven in. The animation style is in line with other Madhouse releases, notably Demon City, Street Fighter and Ninja Scroll. Fans of those, and the near motion comic style cutscenes used in action will enjoy the variety. The colour palette veers into blues and blacks, which makes sense given it’s dark and futuristic bent. In the film noir flavour, many of the scenes are meant to be dimly lit or overly bright and the colour schemes change to adapt to ambient light. This is a change from contemporary horror anime which tends toward reds and browns, and more visceral colours.

I really enjoyed this one when i first watched it and must say it has aged wonderfully. I bought my DVD from CDUniverse about eight years ago and certainly rewatch it every few years. There is a version on YouTube at the moment, but it is well worth the money.

Fans of Bladerunner, Pitch Black and Aliens will see definite parallels, and if you like a nice fast-paced crime action type feel to your occult horror, this is the ticket.

Next, we get back into the 21st century and talk about Deadman Wonderland because the first episode sold me. I am catching up on Parasyte too, so some input will be forthcoming.

If there is something you want me to watch, leave a note on the site or soundcloud.  This is Dead Cells, and I am typicallydia – you can find me on twitter, tumblr, instagram, or wherever you hang out online.