For the first time this week, I feel a real sense of disquiet about this adaptation. That’s because this was the first episode where it really became clear – at least to me – that things were moving way too fast for a believable conclusion.
The events of the episode were coherent enough. We got Owl’s back story, we found out Rokuro is a double-agent. Got the 411 on Gankaku and the “Undertaker” program. The Underground put their plan into motion – smuggle out a chip with all the dirt on Tamaki and the goings-on at Deadman Wonderland.
The problem is, there wasn’t a moment to breathe – it was one plot point to the next. Character development gets tossed out the window when there’s no transition, only exposition – because it’s in those transition scenes that we learn who the characters are and why they do what they do. Two episodes ago we didn’t even know who Owl and Karako were, and now they’re in the middle of a grand plan that’s already being torpedoed because they were betrayed by another character we’d never even met until this week. Well, that’s a problem. There’s no sense of betrayal on the part of the audience, for starters – we don’t know Rokuro well enough to feel betrayed. Owl’s back story is grisly and painful, but we weren’t given a quiet moment to dwell on it. The entire rebellion takes on an air of fantasy, as does the rapid-fire mutual acceptance between the Underground and Ganta.
One consequence of all this is that the short scene involving Crow had more impact than the long ones with the others – because we know Crow, and we understand who he is. Why isn’t he in the resistance? There’s a good answer, but not enough time to share it with us. There’s plenty to be disturbed about, don’t get me wrong – starting with the Undertakers. That’s an old tactic used by everyone from Nazis to slavers, but using prisoners to enforce discipline on their brothers is particularly vile. The demise of one of the resistance in an acid attack – and the subsequent threat of the same to Karako – was almost as grisly as Crow’s punishment game. But it all came on us so quickly that it lost some of its impact.
Fortunately, no matter how much plot and how much development of the supporting cast is sacrificed for expediency, DW is actually an extremely simple story at its heart. It’s about injustice and depravity, and as long as you can identify with Ganta at the core of that, the overall plot can still work. Ganta and Shiro’s relationship is still solid at the heart of things, and that can’t really be short-changed or the story ceases to exist. Tamaki is still the epitome of cruelty and at the heart of these terrible events, and he’s easy to hate. Of course I’m going to remain hopeful that there’s some sort of surprise announcement of a second season, and the anime viewers will get a chance to to see this series play out in all it’s grand spectacle – but if not, at least Manglobe is still managing to deliver an important piece of it – for now.