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.