When I think of the anime adaptation of Deadman Wonderland, what I think of mostly is missed opportunities. This OVA certainly isn’t going to change that, but it does show what Manglobe can do with this story when they take on bite-size chunks of it.
You wouldn’t know it from the 12-episode TV series which fell under the umbrella of “pretty good”, but this is a vey good manga. In fact, it may be in my top 10 manga of all time – I love it almost as much as the one whose adaptation just started, Mirai Nikki. It’s a ruthless, preposterous look at Hell on Earth and a treatise on how cruel fate can be and usually is. The mistake Manglobe made was in trying to take a story that was not only way too long but also unfinished and turn it into a one-cour anime. Brains Base did the same thing with Kamisama Dolls, of course, but the difference is that they decided to adapt a very small part of it and do an amazing job in the process.
With this OVA (bundled with Volume 11 of the manga) the focus is on one of the best characters in the series, Senji – better known as Crow. In the incredibly heartless and cruel world inside Deadman Wonderland, Senji was one character who showed real human consideration. That’s not to say he wasn’t a complete badass and more than happy to kill anyone who went up against him, but he showed a surprising regard for Ganta, becoming the closest thing to a big brother Ganta had in that terrible place. What this OVA does is show how Senji got where he is, and that he always had a soft spot for kids in trouble.
Set two years after the Great Tokyo Earthquake (ouch) the focus is on Senji and his time as a rogue cop in the ruins of Tokyo. The story is pretty much Hollywood cliché – Crow’s a young hothead cop and former thug, taken under the wing of his much older partner. He’s a loose cannon, and he’s killed before – but he’s a good friend to the local orphanage and the pretty young woman that runs it, keeping the boys out of trouble on the streets and sharing the tomatoes they grow. Things take an ugly turn when one of the boys runs afoul of Goreless Peace, the local Yakuza gang. Senji’s rescue leaves one of them badly wounded, and their leader – also a Branches of Sin user – takes an unhealthy interest in Senji, with tragic results for all concerned.
What makes this work is the pathos of knowing where Senji ends up – which, coupled with the fact that he’s such a compelling character in the series, makes watching him in this younger and more vulnerable form rather poignant. As I said, the story is pretty much a standard but it’s executed well, and it’s interesting to see the origin of the “clean slice” once and for all. It’s no substitute for a second season (which I think is unfortunately very unlikely) but it’s a nice coda to the anime. My recommendation to all concerned: go read the manga. If your tastes are remotely similar to mine, you’ll find it’s well worth it.