"Deadman Wonderland" Episodes 1-8 Streaming: Is Blood Really Thicker Than Water?
Most shows and movies require the suspension of a certain amount of disbelief, and a show like Deadman Wonderland, whose characters can manipulate their blood to act like weapons, requires a lot. Unfortunately, it also missed the memo about not crossing the line into the blatantly ridiculous, and at times really presses the limits of the viewer’s patience. But when it minimizes the outrageous situations that surround the story’s intriguing mystery, Deadman Wonderland is able to keep the attention of the viewer and explore a rather thought-provoking concept.
Ganta Igarashi quite possibly has the worst life of any middle school student. Ever. After his entire middle school class is massacred by a blood-manipulating entity known as the Red Man, Ganta is subsequently framed and sentenced to death. This sentencing leads to an unusual consequence, as he joins the prisoners at a privately sponsored carnival-prison known as Deadman Wonderland. In this prison the prisoners more or less fend for themselves and earn cast points that gain them various things, ranging from food to freedom (the better the item, the higher the cost). Ganta quickly learns that, unlike the other prisoners, he like the Red Man has the ability to manipulate his blood. Due to this, the Assistant Warden Tsunenaga Tamaki takes a keen interest in Ganta and eventually brings him into what the Deadman Wonderland is really about: a battle arena for individuals who possess that ability, known as branches of sin. Basically individuals are pitted against one another as virtual spectators watch and make bids. If a branches of sin user loses, they are then forced to participate in a roulette where a part of their body will be extracted for research purposes. Adding to the drama is that the Red Man is in Deadman Wonderland too. He also meets a white-haired, white-eye-lashed girl by the name of Shiro, who is seemingly connected to his past.
Warning: This show is not,I repeat not, for the weak, and by “weak” I mean anyone who dislikes blood or who is feeling somewhat depressed, because this show will knock you down quickly and push you to your limits. This show is not gory simply for the sake of being gory, though, but to add drama and real danger to the story. It also helps that the blood is gorgeously animated, really showcasing the abilities of those with a branches of sin. But if you take a look at the first episode and realize you dislike decapitated heads, then get out now.
Other than that, the main plot is actually really fascinating, raising questions about the morality of humans and the limits individual have. However, it is also diminished due to the sheer absurdity of it all, and is mostly invoked in earlier episodes when Ganta is still at the “surface” of the Deadman Wonderland. In episode two Ganta participates in a race to earn cast points, which turns out to be a mass slaughtering of prisoners to put on a show for the visitors (mostly students on trips from school). It makes you question society and its gullibility, as the visitors believe that the death of the prisoners is all just a show. It can also become difficult to really discern what the main plot of the story is, due to the multitude of different activities going on, but they all work well in moving towards the end goal and reveal a rather shocking (or perhaps predictable) detail about the Red Man that has plagued Ganta’s life.
The story immediately gets better when Ganta enters the real Deadman Wonderland and other branches of sins users are introduced. The earlier episodes are necessary to establish just how horrible Ganta’s situation is, but they definitely have their dull moments. On the other hand, the branches of sin battles all make for fun entertainment, since each individual has a different ability/method for using their blood. Normally I am against sticking with “battle” episodes for long periods of time, but I actually hope Deadman Wonderland goes back to these soon, (Episode seven has introduced a new subplot that takes us away from the fights.) I say this because I would have loved to see more abilities, and see Ganta actually use his brain to fight instead of luck. Right now, though, it seems there are more pressing concerns at hand, with Ganta being asked to join a group of sin users (known as Scar Chain) that are planning to expose the Deadman Wonderland for what it really is. The plot works for the story, and makes sense considering their predicament, so I can’t really complain that the story has shifted from battles to a revolt. As long as we get to see branches used more elaborately I am fine with it. Anyways, the story ranges from gut-wrenching to ridiculous, so perhaps with a more concrete subplot things will get more stable.
As far as protagonists go, Ganta is possibly one of the worst. Yeah, he has been through a lot, but at the end of the day all he does is whine and cry. He can barely fend for himself and gets lucky in Deadman Wonderland. For lack of a better saying, I’d say Ganta needs to grow a pair if he is ever going to be likable. Also, it doesn’t help that his branches of sin ability is lame compared to everyone else. All he does is shoot his blood like a bullet. Shiro is more or less the typical mystery girl who seems innocent but really isn’t. Her personality ranges from cute to frustrating, but the connection to Ganta works, especially since he is such a wimp compared to her. At least the supporting cast fills in some of the holes left by a lack of a strong protagonist. Crow, Koshio and Genkaku (leader of Scar Chain) are all standout branches of sins users, mostly due to their method of manipulating blood but also because they are competent human beings—Genkaku especially since he has a horrific past and genuinely seems to be looking out for his group’s well being. The most aggravating character? The Chief Guard of the prison, Makina. I’m not sure if this is Deadman Wonderland’s attempt at portraying a strong female character or what, but it went around the portrayal the wrong way. Having a dominatrix type whose sword can cut anything (like a metal desk!) is just silly, and is just another ridiculous element.
But if there is one thing this show has nailed perfectly, it is the antagonist, Tsunenaga Tamaki. This guy makes the worst of people look like angels. He is the one responsible for framing Ganta and having him placed into Deadman Wonderland, forcing him to watch countless videos of branches members being slaughtered, and also the one who organizes the organs being taken from the losers. He is a control freak who has to have everything his way, everyone in his control, and will use people to his heart’s desire. It is sickening, and yet his depiction has been brilliant, giving the show an edge that others usually don’t have.
Eight episodes in, Deadman Wonderland has some high high points, and also some really low low ones. But it goes far enough with the violence to make its story real and emotional, putting its characters in life or death situations, where the only way to survive is to fight. Deadman Wonderland could have easily been very shallow, but fortunately hasn’t fallen into that trap. If it can stick with the action and make Ganta likable, then it should shape up as a decent series.