Anime Monday - Deadman Wonderland

Slit the throat of reason and reality. Cut myself and scream for their insanity. Wake up to this nightmare that will never end. The main attraction of this twisted master plan ~

Deadman Wonderland was a series I listed as one of my favorites from the last decade; however, that's not the entire story of what this series is. In fact it's a show I would strongly recommend, but at the same time I'm not completely sure if I should. You see, this is sadly one of those series where things were altered slightly, and it cuts off before the next major story arc begins. In other words, it's not a finished story, and it most likely never will be. So that's where the manga comes in! But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Despite all of this, I still feel like the anime is worth checking out, and how I came across it is something I'll never forget. It's what came of my childhood finally returning.

The Return:

Back in 2012 something really, REALLY weird happened. April Fools day landed on a Sunday, and unknown to everyone watching, Adult Swim was about to pull something over on us. As the late night channel block began to start up like usual, viewers soon realized something was off. Instead of Bleach coming on like it should, instead the opening of some sort of movie began to play. Yeah it was pretty obvious that this was just some joke before the real show started, but what came next is what no one expected. The camera panned out, and sitting in his chair was none other than the robot TOM from Toonami -- the after school and afternoon anime block many of us grew up with. As if nothing had happened, TOM starts up Toonami, and away we went watching anime just like old times.

Toonami was something special back in the day. It was the Cartoon Network block that introduced millions of people in the West to anime, and is one of the major reasons it became so popular outside of Japan. Up until then shows like Dragon Ball Z were rarely shown and were on odd channels, or we'd only see things like Speed Racer and Pokemon. Toonami is what grouped a lot of major hits together, and helped their popularity spread. Series like Gundam Wing fully introduced the West to the series and continues to sell a lot of merchandise outside of Japan despite being gone for roughly 20 years. Sailor Moon and Tenchi are two other series that aired on the block in the early days, and both of those are still popular in the US as well. Then you had shows like Zoids eventually making their way here, and let's not forget all of the classic anime movies as well. Sure Toonami also aired US cartoons like Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League, etc, but even those fit more in with what Toonami was going for. An animated block for an older audience, with a higher focus on action and story. Still anime did eventually become the main focus of Toonami, and that was something that continued until the block died forever. That was a sad day...

Jumping back to 2012, the Toonami April Fools joke brought fans back to their childhoods, and it also attracted some serious attention from higher ups at Cartoon Network itself. They realized just how much fans wanted this block to return, and this joke of theirs became the perfect way to test the waters. Eventually the numbers came in, and they decided to give the go ahead on a full on Toonami revival -- something that continues to air every week end to this day. And that's where Deadman Wonderland comes in.

The first day Toonami returned I wasn't able to stay up too late because I had work next day, but I did watch some of Bleach (which was the first show to come on). What came next however had me more interested, but I couldn't stay up to continue watching. It was Deadman Wonderland, and what I saw had me hooked instantly -- although it also had me concerned for the network block as well. You see Toonami was now airing on Adult Swim at night, and because of that they didn't have to censor their shows to suit their after school audience. The first thing I saw on the preview for Deadman Wonderland however was exactly that -- censorship! Words were being beeped out, and light beams and dark shadows were being used to cover things up. I didn't understand why they were doing this, but when I finally sat down to watch the full thing uncut on Hulu... I got it... I saw exactly why it needed to be censored, and still to this day it kinda shocks me. This is what Deadman Wonderland really is.

The Story of Deadmen in their so called Wonderland:

Deadman Wonderland starts out pretty typical for a high school themed series. We get to see our main character named Ganta hanging out with his friends in class, and we're quickly introduced to these other characters. Nothing seems out of the ordinary at first, but as the class actually begins something changes. A strange red figure appears outside the windows of the classroom, and the next thing they know everything goes dark. When Ganta awakes following the chaos he's greeted with a sight he'll never forget. The entire room was died dark red with blood. Body parts are thrown around, and no matter where he looks he sees nothing but gore. That and one of his best friend's head as the strange figure holds it by the hair. Ganta of course reacts the only way he knows how by freaking out, but before he himself can even move the "Red Man" takes a red seed like object and shoves it into Ganta's chest -- fusing with him. This is the last thing Ganta remembers before passing out.

Shortly after this insane incident, Ganta finds himself on trial for the murder of his class. He's appointed a lawyer who promises to help him in any way he can, but the truth is he's being set up to fail. A fake video is leaked showing Ganta confessing to slicing up his female friend because he was interested in her insides (the graphic description contains language that couldn't be said on TV, which is why Toonami beeped it), and that's enough to get him thrown in jail for life. Or rather, thrown into a special jail -- the Deadman Wonderland. As for why the lawyer would do this too him? Well it's because he actually runs Deadman Wonderland. Shocker.

So, what is it? What is Deadman Wonderland? It's actually a theme park. Families come here to enjoy the rides, carnival games, and do whatever else you'd expect out of this kinda place, but what makes it special is the fact that it's ran by the prisoners that live there. They put on shows for the visitors, play games and compete in contests that the visitors can watch, and they "die" for the prisoner's amusement. It's all good though, because it's just CGI. Right? Yeah, there's no way those people being splattered allover, or impaled by spikes can be real. They wouldn't show the public... Or would they?

It doesn't take Ganta long to realize what kind of place Deadman Wonderland really is. Everyone there is on a timer. They are going to die. The only way to survive is to eat the horrible "candy" like object they are given, and to continue getting them they must partake in the different events the park holds. All of these events are games of death, and if the convicts don't get killed playing the game, they'll still die if they don't come out on top and win. This is the reason the prisoners put on these "shows" for their audiences, and what keeps everyone in line. If you escape you die, and if you do nothing you die. There's no way out of this place, and Ganta is too weak of a person to be there. Thankfully Shiro is there for him.

Shrio is a strange girl. She appears seemingly out of nowhere, and claims to be Ganta's friend. She wears a skin tight white body suit, and keeps gloves over her hands. While it's not shown in the actual series right away, from the opening (which was blacked out on Toonami since it contained nudity) we see her body is fully covered in scars. We don't know what happened to her, or why she likes Ganta so much, but she becomes the main reason that he is even able to survive the prison. She protects him from traps as he plays their "games," and is there to stand up for him when others try to mess with him. Ganta doesn't seem all that grateful for it, but she continues to help him even so. She likes Ganta, and will do anything for him. But again, who is she? And why does she know Ganta?

The Real Deadman Wonderland:

After the show gets past its intro, Ganta is eventually brought into the real Deadman Wonderland -- a hidden cell block that's located deep underground. This is where the red "seed" implanted in Ganta during the opening is awakened, and he realizes his new powers that he gained from it. By using his own blood Ganta is able to form projectiles and shoot them, and because of this he gains a permanent spot at what is known as "Carnival Corpse." This is the real reason Ganta was sent to Deadman Wonderland, and it is now his new reality.

Carnival Corpse is an underground "game show" where different convicts are forced to fight each other. (Possibly to the death.) Each person here is supplied with all the "candies" they need to survive, but the price is having to continue playing this so called game. People bet on the fights, just like in real life, and winners end up pretty rich to say the least. Every "Deadman" fighting has some sorta special power related to their blood, and because of that you never really know what will happen in these fights. While the fight winners themselves are rewarded as well, the real prize here is not having to go through the loser's game. This is where things become... Horrifying...

If you lose in Carnival Corpse you must spin a wheel. Whatever that wheel lands on, is what will happen to you. What will you lose this time? An eye? A leg? Maybe your arm? Only the wheel can tell. This is why you don't want to lose, and Ganta gets to see first hand how it all works.

I normally don't have to say this, but I want to make this perfectly clear. Deadman Wonderland is not a show for kids, and it's possibly not even a show for many adults. Toonami censoring the language, and using light beams and shadows was done for a very good reason, and that's because it's easily one of the crudest anime series made for TV. The English dub especially gets away with saying a lot which is normally avoided, and the violence itself holds nothing back. We see eyes being ripped form their socket, limbs being removed, body parts everywhere, people being impaled by spikes, and just a lot of blood and gory details in general. The show pushes horror as far as it can go, and that ended up being too much for what TV usually allows. But that's also what helps sell this series.

This is not an anime where everything will end up always being okay, this is one where you'll never know what happens next, and you'll fear for the character's lives. One minute you think someone will be their forever, and the next you're watching their leg melt away to the bone, and then snap in half before they die. It gets worse and worse as the series progresses, but ultimately we never get to that conclusion we were all hoping for...

Onto the Manga:

As I mentioned before I began all of this, Deadman is sadly one of those series that didn't get an ending in anime form. In fact it even begins things slightly different by ignoring a few main characters. These characters were meant to be introduced before Ganta makes his way to the underground, and would then come in after the anime's story arc to become major players in the following events. Without them being introduced though, it's easy to tell where the anime would end. Assuming you read the original manga that is. However even if you haven't read it, that doesn't stop the anime from being a good starting place.

While there are a few minor changes due to those character's missing at the start, the anime adaptation is very faithful to the source material. The way it leaves things off you can easily jump into the manga to continue without missing a beat. Sure I personally recommend that you start at the beginning again just so you can see who the removed characters were, but other than that there's not much else you need to see before moving on with the story. To put it simply, this anime is pretty much only there to sell the manga to you later, and serves as an easier way to get invested in the series. The story is good enough to get non manga readers to continue it, and it's crazy enough for even long time fans to give the animated version a chance. It's also a series that for one reason or another appeals more to the Western audience, so it might even attract non anime fans to it if they give it a chance. But again, it also depends on how much gore you can handle.

Should You Watch It (or Read):

Yes!!! If you like horror survival that is. Deadman Wonderland relies a lot on it's shock value, and if you're not into this sorta thing, then you might not even want to look at it. The opening of episode 1 alone should be enough to tell you if you want to keep going or not, and it only gets "worse" from there. That being said, it's still an interesting show that is filled with suspense and mystery, and keeps you guessing on what will happen next. The only real problem with it is the fact that it's only the start of the story, and that it may never be finished (it didn't do all that well in Japan either). Even so, I strongly recommend at least giving it a chance, and then moving onto the manga after. The anime is a great introduction, and the manga itself is a great read. All of the volumes have been officially translated and released outside of Japan, and the story itself keeps getting better as it progresses. It's one that is worth seeing through to the end. But again, that really depends on you.

Deadman Wonderland still to this day is one of my favorite horror stories to come out of Japan, and for me it became the perfect way for Toonami to make it's return. Oh, and did I mention that opening song? It's pretty great.
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