Review: Deadman Wonderland
"Naughty little woodpecker..."
What would you do if one day you were suddenly blamed for the murder of all of your classmates? This is only the beginning of Ganta Igarashi's story as his whole world is turned upside down, leaving him to face unimaginable horrors, and forcing him to fight for his life...
10 years after the Great Tokyo Earthquake - a disaster that killed thousands and landed 70% of the city underwater - all of Ganta's friends are brutally murdered by a 'Red Man' during an attack on his school of which he is the only survivor. As Ganta is the only suspect, he is tried and immediately arrested, before being sent to Deadman Wonderland, a prison with a big difference. Ganta, along with the other prisoners, is forced to enter several barbaric contests, all of which put his life on the line for the sole purpose of entertaining the masses that come to watch the bloodshed. He also finds himself face to face with another prisoner(?) named Shiro, who, during their first meeting, ambushes him, before attempting to murder him in cold blood. She is an unusual albino girl who is completely convinced that she is his childhood friend, despite him having no previous memory of her whatsoever, and only seeing her as a violent psychopath. At this point, Ganta is beginning to understand that nothing could possibly get any worse, considering he is repeatedly forced to gamble with his life, and the only friend he has is perfectly happy to kill him if she deems it necessary. However, he is soon proved wrong when he meets the Deadmen that give the park its name. They are revealed to be a strange group of individuals with an even stranger talent: they have the ability to control and shape their blood, which they can easily use to kill a man. After his first encounter with a Deadman who goes by the name 'Crow', his life truly will never be the same, as Ganta is forced into even worse situations than before, and is pulled deeper into the true nature of Deadman Wonderland - and even discovers some special talents of his own...
Beyond the main plot, which contains a lot of unexpected twists and is generally very in-depth and interesting, there is also a lot of detail involved around the backstory of many characters, especially several of the Deadmen. As all of these characters are unique in their own way, a lot of time goes into fleshing them out and putting explanation into why they are the way they are - at one point pretty much an entire volume is dedicated to giving an insight into the dark past of the Deadmen - and a lot of interesting and important issues are covered this way. The characters are all very different, ranging from a transgender woman who killed because her boyfriend cheated on her to a quiet and shy girl with a hidden aggressive and violent side to her personality, which adds a lot of variety to the plot, as well as making the story feel more real and interesting.
As far as the story goes, it is fairly fresh and original, and presents a lot of interesting and sometimes subtle points about how people often handle certain aspects of society, which don't usually seem forced at all. Considering the very extreme and unrealistic aspects of the main story, the execution is actually good enough to make the plot seem believable enough for you to become almost completely absorbed in the world of Deadman Wonderland, while still providing fresh elements and being consistently unpredictable in terms of both long- and short-term events. All aspects of the plot are fairly well rounded off, and there aren't many noticeable plot-holes or inconsistencies throughout. Everything seems to be connected in some way, meaning that even the most insignificant details either mean something later on, or relate scarily well to some other aspect of the plot or characters. Along with the prominent darker tone of the story, there are also some very funny moments throughout, which, although often based on recurring jokes and plot relevance, are sometimes completely random and unnecessary yet don't feel forced in any way, and offer a refreshing break from the usual bloodbath.
In my opinion, Deadman Wonderland is an extremely well-written and executed story, with a very interesting plot, and characters which are not only well developed, but begin to feel very close to you as the series goes on. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes horror with a twist, and provided you can take the recurring - but not extreme - gore and occasional mature themes that the story inevitably contains, anyone who enjoys a good story with an in-depth plot could easily get into this series. In addition to the plot and characters, the art is also extremely good; the style definitely fits very well with the tone of the story, and can switch effortlessly between dark and cheerful, conveying the mood perfectly whatever happens. Although possibly due to personal bias, I give Deadman Wonderland full marks, as I absolutely adore everything about it, and am extremely obsessed with this series. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is willing to give it a try, as I would definitely say it is worth the read.