Recently, Cartoon Network’s Saturday night anime block known as “Toonami” premiered a new(ish) show known as “Deadman Wonderland,” and it is freaky as hell. Based on the manga series Deddoman Wandarando that ran from 2007 – 2013, this new show begins ten years after the demise of Tokyo in what was known as “The Red Hole” – in which Tokyo was hit with an earthquake (registering 11.4 on the seismic scale) that killed 148,000 AND sunk 70% of Tokyo into the sea. During said quake – which was caused by “The Red Man” – a ton of red diamonds were released into the atmosphere, turning those “infected” into what’s known as the Branch of Sin, which allows them to use their own blood as a weapon any time they choose. Flash forward to the present and we meet Ganta Igarashi, your run-of-the-mill student who survived said Red Hole — with no concrete memories of it or his past — now living in Nagano and talking with his two friends about the upcoming field trip to Deadman Wonderland. We don’t quite know what “DW” is yet, but we do know that Ganta is not really a fan. It is then that Ganta sees a mysterious man covered in red armor (oh, and blood) floating outside the classroom window; with a mighty blast, every student but Ganta is killed and when the Red Man is close enough to Ganta, he shoves a red crystal into his chest, then walks away with the head of Ganta’s best friend – leaving Ganta to be the main and only suspect in the killing. Somehow framed for the massacre with a cleverly made videotape where jurors see Ganta smugly confessing to said crime, he is immediately sentenced to death at Deadman Wonderland…which we then learn is a privately-owned prison/theme park, where prisoners — both male and female — not only work in the park, but are the star attraction. Outfitted with a tracking and life-monitoring collar on the neck that would resemble a Nike Fuel Band from hell, a poison is constantly injected from collar into the wearer’s bloodstream. Complete with a timer – if it’s your time to be executed, it will simply countdown to zero and you die; once that happens, the collar reads “DEAD,” then “UNLOCK” and is removed in order to repurposed for another incoming inmate. In order to avoid this fate, prisoners must eat a special candy every three days in order to survive. The candy itself can be earned through different things like working backstage or using “cast points” (below) to buy said item…which can only be earned by participating (and surviving) in the dangerous games inside the facility; all to the delight of the general public attending the park that day. How gross and dangerous? Well, I’ll tell you! The most popular public attraction at DW is what’s known as the “Dog Race Show,” where inmates compete for 100,000 cast points and (laughably) a red bean roll – but considering everything (including food) has a price, said red bean roll can taste like paradise – AND park attendees can bet on the runners. Sounds cute and fun like the show “Wipeout,” right? WRONG. When the park’s promoter learns Ganta will compete, he sets the race to “Maximum Kill,” and the blood flows like spilled claret from a upturned wine glass. Ganta and his mysterious (and nearly naked girl in white) snack-obsessed friend Shiro run the course together and he quickly learns that it’s do or die but because he knows his life span is three days at a time, he goes for it. AND, the attendees have NO idea these people are dying for real; they assume that it’s just great special effects. And because I know some of you enjoy watching these kinds of shows with your kids, I wanted to include the Dog Race Show clip – as it gives you a good idea of the violence and graphic language (and both are turned up to 11). NSFW for violence and language – headphones recommended. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tevWzNqI3bI There’s also a secret “Thunderdome” style one-on-one battle — known as Carnival Corpse (below) — in which fighters are all Branch of Sin, given bird-like names (Ganta’s is “Woodpecker”) and fight until one dies or is incapacitated in front of an audience of the very rich hidden behind internet avatars, with the loser – should he or she survive – to a penalty round where they spin a slot machine that will determine which organ will be removed by the prison’s doctor for “scientific research.” We’re talking eyes. hair, vocal cords, lungs, kidneys, the whole magilla…all broadcast throughout the prison’s closed circuit system for all the prisoners to see. The winner gets 1 million cast points, antidote candies, flowers and a trophy. There’s more than meets the eye to Deadman Wonderland including the origin of the Red Man, as well as rebellion group of Branch of Sin prisoners known as “Scar Chain” (below) who want to expose the prison for what it REALLY is to the public and to the prison guards as well – because there are some aspects of the park they aren’t even aware of. There’s SO MUCH MORE (seriously, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the weird stuff that happens on this show) I haven’t covered but that’s on purpose because I want YOU to watch the 13-episode series for yourself either every Saturday night on Toonami OR you can binge watch the entire series on Netflix. SHOULD you choose Netflix, something interesting happens there. When you go into the audio/subtitles setting for the show, you can choose either Japanese or English audio as well as Japanese or English subtitles. My suggestion to you is watch the series once with Japanese subtitles then switch to English audio the second time around, as the dialogue is very different and – in a way – fleshes the series out a bit more! If you’re into the more gorier anime shows like “Death Note,” “Attack On Titan,” and “HellSing,” then this show is your jam. I give it 4 out of 5 candies.
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