Deadman Wonderland – 4

Damn, Deadman Wonderland is just unrelenting. It’s incredibly violent and depressing, a world controlled by venal and depraved sickos where innocent kids are tortured and abused. I can see why this show (and the manga) are not for everybody. But in order for this to work for anybody, it needs to be fully committed. This is a story that survives on the adrenaline of fear and despair, and the minute it starts pulling punches it stops working. I’m glad Manglobe understood that – with only very minimal – and understandable – instances where some details were softened, they’ve gone for it with this adaptation. And that’s why it’s really working so far.

This fourth episode is, of course, much further along than we’d be at a comparable point if the pacing weren’t radically hurried from the manga. As a result we get an awful lot of exposition going on, though it feels pretty natural. The prisoner Ganta meets in the tunnels isn’t, in fact, the Red Man – he’s Kiyomasa Senji, known to the Promoter as “Crow”. He can manipulate his blood as a weapon like Ganta – and the Red Man – can, and he’s damn good at it. In fact, he’s a real badass – but he didn’t kill Ganta’s friends any more than Ganta did.

Senji is a prisoner in G Block, which is the real Deadman Wonderland. That’s where all of the Branch of Sin (that’s what they’re called) users are held. This number includes the Wretched Egg – apparently the source of the “infection” that causes humans to become Branch of Sin users, and The Red Man – if the slimy Promoter is to be believed. So he tells Ganta as he’s in the midst of torturing him in a scene lifted from the annals of “A Clockwork Orange”. Ultraviolence, indeed – like many scenes in this story, it’s a hard one to watch.

The purpose of all this is the “Corpse Carnival”. If you thought the exploitation going on in the main prison was bad enough, the carnival is where B.O.S. users are paired off in death matches for the amusement of Tamaki and his faceless – and presumably insanely rich – friends. Crow, as it happens, is very very good at this – and though he says he likes Ganta, one supposes he’ll have a rather harsh way of showing affection.

What makes all this so vile and infuriating is that everything Ganta is suffering is simply in the interests of greed and sick amusement – there’s no cosmic justice at work. As graphic and action-driven as this story is, there’s a boatload of social commentary here – just as there was in “A Clockwork Orange”, one of the most disturbing films ever made. I certainly don’t put Deadman Wonderland in that class, but it is a very powerful experience – both in manga and anime form, thanks to the excellence of this adaptation. Viewing it is indeed powerful – but not necessarily pleasant. With it’s breakneck pacing and overload of GAR, though, there’s no denying that it can be a lot of fun.

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