Monday, March 22, 2010

Deadman Wonderland, vol. 1

By Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline:  Prisons and amusement parks are not a good combination

In the near future Ganta is among the few survivors of the Great Tokyo Earthquake but by the time he is a teenager he barely remembers it and has adapted to high school life.  The mysterious Red Man then kills everyone else in his class and Ganta is convicted of the crime and is quickly sent to Deadman Wonderland, a combination private prison and amusement park built on Tokyo's ruins.  Private prisons are never nice places in fiction and Deadman Wonderland is no exception with prisoners pitted against each other to entertain visitors and earn privileges.  In the case of death row prisoners like Ganta, the privileges include living for another three days.  To help him survive long enough to prove his innocence a childhood friend from pre-earthquake Tokyo is helping him while Ganta also learns to master the powers that the Red Man left in him while killing his classmates.

While there are some similarities to such titles as Battle Royale and Death Note (here are our reviews for Death Note 1-6 and 7-10), here the main tension seems to be from Ganta coming to grips to the mysteries that surround him.  The Red Man is central to these mysteries and at this stage in the series he is like a storm that comes in and upsets the natural order of Ganta's life. Shiro, Ganta's childhood friend, helps lighten the title though still leaving the danger in it intact. That way the story is not too dark though how maniac Shiro is will have to be managed so it doesn't become silly and descend into parody, admittedly not terrible danger. This is a good start to a potentially complex emotionally charged thriller, but it is still only a good beginning not proof of a successful continuing title.

Deadman Wonderland, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


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