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First Impressions: Deadman Wonderland

12:00 PM on 05.02.2011 // Pedro Cortes

You walk into your seventh-grade class and see your friends. The cute girl that you've grown up with and your average best bud tease you about being a space case, nothing new. The biggest thing on your minds is the change of local for your school trip and that's interrupted by the school bell. Everybody gets ready to get to work, but you notice somebody hovering outside the window of your classroom. This Red Man rears back and the world goes dark. When you come to, everybody is dead in your class and the murder jams something into you, knocking you out yet again. You awake in a hospital and are promptly arrested for the murder of all your classmates. Your simpering public defender somehow leaks an impossible video of you admitting to the crime you didn't commit.

You are Ganta Igarashi. You're on death row and are sent to Deadman Wonderland, the private prison/amusement park where the condemned are sent to amuse the masses and fight for their lives every day. Life, as you know it, is over. Oh, did I forget to mention that's all in the first half of the first episode?

Hit the jump to find out more.

Since I'm super late with this, you're going to get the first two episodes recapped.

So as mentioned above, Ganta's been sentenced to death for his supposed crime. The feeling of hopelessness was incredible, as we see the parents of the dead beat the crap out of Ganta in the court room post-sentencing. It's made worse by the off-handed way Ganta's obviously crooked public defender mentions the impossibility of an appeal. The cops clap the irons on the kid and he's carted off to Deadman Wonderland, a private prison built on the remains of Tokyo after it was destroyed by a gravitational collapse called the "Dead Hole." It also happens to be an amusement park, where the prisoners entertain the masses and the proceeds go to rebuild the city. The insult to injury? This was where Ganta's class was supposed to go for their class trip. Ouch.

Lined up next to hardened criminals, Ganta is told the basic rules of the prison by Makina, the busty and cruel captain of the guard. She's obviously cruel because she's a hot babe with high-heels working at a prisoner...and she critically wounds a prisoner with her saber when he bumps into Ganta and steals something. Each prisoner is outfitted with a collar that has an RFID tag, tasers, GPS transmitters and slowly poisons the prisoner. More on that later, because we quickly find out that Ganta's public defender, Tamaki, runs Deadman Wonderland. Even worse is that, he wants an immediate death for Ganta. He also seems to know more about Ganta's situation then the show is willing to tell us.

While working outside, Ganta meets a pale girl named Shiro who seems to know him. The odd girl tries to make Ganta feel better, but is interrupted first by the other prisoners and then by a bomb that collapses the tower above them. When it looks like Ganta and Shiro will be crushed, Ganta produces some red energy and defends the the two of them from the rubble. Oh, and that energy looks suspiciously like the stuff the Red Man used to kill Ganta's class.

The next episode informs us that each prisoner is slowly being poisoned by their collars and the only antidote lies in special Candy. The "treats" are sold to each prisoner through the Cast Point system. It's essentially the monetary system given to the prisoners and it controls everything from their daily food consumption to the amount of time left in their sentence. Each prisoner has to earn 100,000 CP in order to buy Candy once every three days or they'll die horribly. Knowing Ganta's luck, somebody stole his first piece of Candy and he has to get one by the next day. The wounded prisoner from the episode before, Takami Yoh, tells Ganta about a Dog Race that has a 100,000 CP prize, so Ganta and a newly-arrived Shiro head off to the races. Yoh hops on a phone and tells Tamaki that Ganta has entered the race before entering himself.

To say that the races aren't what Ganta thought they were would be an understatement. The Dog Race is what you would get if you mixed American Gladiators with Saw. The pitfalls are designed to kill prisoners by the dozens and exiting the race means a bullet to the head. Things are made worse when a bully prisoner beats down Yoh and breaks Ganta's spirit even more than it was before. The race itself is pretty brutal, with Shiro being the only thing that keeps Ganta alive over and over again. The finale has Ganta, Shiro and the bully playing a high-stakes game of rugby with a collapsing stage as the field. In the end Ganta saves Shiro instead of winning the CP, leaving him in quite the predicament.

I'm seriously digging Deadman Wonderland. Good animation, great soundtrack, interesting premise, it's easily the best thing for me this season. The "innocent guy blamed for a crime he didn't commit" conceit is in full force, but it definitely isn't like anything else. I mean, the whole idea of this kid being able to slaughter his entire class is ridiculous, so the fact that he's able to get sentenced so easily implies some serious conspiracies are afoot. I just hope that the show can spin a complete story in 12 episodes. Considering that the manga is at eight volumes and still on-going, that doesn't bode well. Well, it'll at least be a fun ride!

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Pedro Cortes, Associate Editor
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Pedro Cortes has been known to swoon at the sight of a robot. This is understandable, as robots are pretty awesome. more   |   staff directory

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