Saturday, 12 October 2013

Deadman Wonderland (manga)

There’s only a few manga like this I’m reading – where I started with the manga, then watched the anime adaptation when it came out, and then continued with the manga – but they’re some of my favourites of all time. There’s Fullmetal Alchemist, Rozen Maiden and MÄR, though the latter had a disappointing adaptation. Well, there’s also Death Note and Bakuman, but I never have gotten around to finishing the anime for those.

But Deadman Wonderland was posited a while back as the next big thing, and for a while it was everywhere. But then its anime came out and ended just as it was getting big. OVAs followed, but frankly they were too slow getting a continuation to happen, which may have been down to a delay in the newer chapters materialising – almost coincidental with the ending of the anime, the manga went on hiatus for a good two years, and only recently concluded. Twelve episodes was enough to make a small splash but there was definitely potential to get to a much higher degree of recognition. Alas, it didn’t happen, and as I feared in 2011, the anime will likely never continue, and to see the conclusion, one must read the manga.

But fortunately, that’s exactly what I can do. On the other hand, Deadman Wonderland has never quite been quite as high up in my affections as Rozen Maiden or Fullmetal Alchemist, despite me describing it as a favourite in my review of the anime. When it went on hiatus, it fell out of my regular reading and I never really missed it…and when the final chapters came out, it took me a while to get around to reading them, unlike what happened with Soul Eater. The trouble was that for me, Deadman Wonderland attempted what I described as one of anime’s strengths in my thoughts on Shingeki no Kyojin, but fell a bit short – it started with a truly absurd premise (a themepark prison where for outside entertainment, prisoners take part in games and suffer extremely violent deaths) and then attempted to get very serious and personal. The trouble was that – as was one of my problems with the Harry Potter series – the initial episodes of daft humour, exaggerated cartooniness and plot contrivance were so prominent and memorable that the transition didn’t work. The second part of Deadman Wonderland had its awesome cast functioning outside the context of the Wonderland, but the sheer absurdity that something that ridiculous was allowed to exist in what actually seems a much more grim and normal world never sits well and becomes something of a pink elephant. I just don’t find the last chapter of the characters becoming members of a normal society compatible with the bizarre world we were introduced to where people accept the grotesque entertainment of the theme park-prison. The two elements are just not compatible for me.

Which is a shame, because I really liked the action sequences, the characters – especially Ganta – and the central tension of his relationship with Shiro and the ‘Wretched Egg’. The conclusion of their story, though – which is also the conclusion of the manga in general – feels a bit obvious, though, and rather as if mangakas Kataoka Jinsei and Kondou Kazuma (whose story I already detailed in the anime review) wracked their brains for something clever and ended up with only the obvious conclusion to fall back on. It works, but it feels underwhelming, especially after a hiatus.

Deadman Wonderland was well worth the time I spent on it – but ultimately it feels like an opportunity missed.

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