A fair bit of warning: Deadman Wonderland is exceptionally brutal.
After a mysterious figure storms a high school classroom and violently butchers the students, young survivor Ganta is unjustly framed for the crime. As punishment, he is sentenced to a publicly funded prison built over the remains of a sinkhole that consumed the heart of Tokyo years before. The prison, Deadman Wonderland, is a horrible, twisted environment where inmates compete against one another through a series of gladiatorial-style games designed for an adoring public. Despite the ugliness surrounding him, Ganto is aided by an aloof young girl from his past and, upon discovering that the true killer resides within the prison, he finds the will to survive in order to clear his name. As with most anime, there’s a lot more to the prison than meets the eye, as the blood-wielding Deadmen are the subject of strange medical experiments and research.
This is the kind of show that should be used during those “Scared Straight” programs. Granted, this is a work of fiction, but Deadman Wonderland‘s horrid carnival atmosphere makes Shawshank and Alcatraz look like Disneyland. Sharing similarities with Battle Royale, the prisoners are equipped with a collar that will explode after three days if they don’t ingest a special type of candy. Sadistic doctors and wardens stand out from an already wild pack of savages. Once Ganta discovers his unique ability to turn his blood into a weapon, he is thrown into one-on-one fights with similarly gifted individuals and the loser gets part of his or her body surgically removed (determined by the spin of a slot machine). Blood flows freely, limbs are joyfully ripped apart and the worst part is the whole spectacle is wrapped up in a TV-friendly package for the masses.
Seriously, this is one messed up show.
The content in Deadman Wonderland can be quite revolting, such as the scene in which a doctor becomes sexually aroused while pulling out an inmate’s eye. And yet, I found myself unable to turn away. I was captivated with the series, if only to see how it was going to top itself. I thought the obstacle course scene was pretty crazy, but after watching Ganto’s eyes pried open in order to watch previous Deadmen battles, I shuddered noisily. Discovering what will happen to Ganto has been the main reason for sticking around. With only twelve episodes (plus an OVA), there isn’t much room for the narrative to grow; as such, it feels like the show is hastily running towards a conclusion.
With extreme violence and harsh language placed center stage, Deadman Wonderland isn’t for everyone. Prisoners are mutilated, the atmosphere is terrifying, and the Deadmen find joy in cutting themselves in order to fight. Horror fans will enjoy the tension and unease of the unexpected while others are likely to find the extreme material to be quite sickening.
directed by Koichiro Hatsumi
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 3
Company Age Rating: 17