We finally get our OP this week, and it’s a good one – a suitably industrial-sounding J-rock number with blood-red tinged visuals of the characters in grotesquely sultry poses.
Based on the PV for episode 3, it definitely looks like Manglobe is planning to tell this story in 12 episodes – and God speed, because I think that’s close to impossible – because things appear to be accelerated quite a bit. I was holding out hope that this would be some sort of split-cour series or something similar, but it doesn’t look that way. I won’t spoil the manga, but if they do indeed squeeze this into a cour a lot of the detail is certainly going to be lost.
For all that, I think Manglobe has done a very nice job capturing the essence of what makes the manga so successful. This is all about brutality. The brutality Ganta faces at the hands of those bigger and stronger than he is, like the martial-arts master turned murderer Kozuji Kazumasa. The brutality of just how unfair Ganta’s fate is – and the fact that he has to accept that unfairness if he’s to survive it. And the brutality of a government that would use prisoners as profit-generators in a grotesque theme park of a prison. Yes, there’s some social commentary going on here, sorry, but that’s just part of the deal with Kataoka and Nondou’s manga.
The dog race concept isn’t a totally original idea, I freely admit – we’ve seen setups like this before, and the special “high stakes” version of the race scumbag Tamaki puts on for Ganta’s benefit is something straight out of “Prince of Persia” with spinning blades, acid pits and plunges to a splattering doom – all to the shrieking delight of a paying audience trying to convince itself it’s all faked. Fortunately for Ganta – naively never even having read enough of the rule book to realize he needs the prison’s special candy every three days or the poison in his collar win kill him –
Nessa Shiro is along to protect him from the many death traps and from Kazumasa, besides. Ganta doesn’t realize this right away, of course – it’s only in the end, when she tries to help him win the race and the 100K “cast points” that go with it – that he realizes she’d been saving his butt all along and not larking around.
What the anime is slowly doing is revealing the nature of the characters surrounding Ganta. He has a few allies in his despair – most obviously Shiro, but also a Chief Guard, Makina, who bridles at some of the things Assistant Warden Tamaki forces her to do. Ganta also thinks he’s found a friend in fellow inmate Yoh Takami, but unfortunately for Ganta he’s a mole reporting to Tamaki. Just how many people are in on the secret of Ganta’s innocence isn’t made clear yet, but there are certainly those who can see something isn’t right with this whole picture.
But of course, in this world founded on lies Ganta (and we) can’t really take anything we see at face value. This isn’t a happy story and it isn’t going to be a pleasant ride, but if they continue to succeed in capturing something of what makes the manga great it’s going to be a gut-wrenching, emotional and breathlessly exciting one. I wish Manglobe all the luck in the world – they’re going to need it.