Did you ever see the “Shawshank Redemption”? What are the three rules you have learned about prison?
1) Prisons are not nice places.
2) The people guarding the prisoners are at least as psychotic and, in some cases, MORE psychotic that the people they are guarding.
3) No one is truly your friend, just someone who won’t stick a shiv between your ribs.
The year is ‘the future’ and an incident referred to as the Red Hole triggered a massive earthquake that ravaged Japan’s mainland and destroyed most of Tokyo, sinking three-quarters of the city into the ocean. It also created a bizarre side effect in that some people were given unusual powers. Well, you know about unrestrained power: people go nuts and there seems to be no way to counteract these abilities.
To this end, a new prison is constructed on parts of ruined Tokyo and it would be Japan’s first, and only, private prison: Deadman Wonderland.
We now fast-forward 10 years. 14-year-old Igarashi Ganta, is a seemingly ordinary student attending Nagano 4th District Middle School. He and his classmate are working on the school field trip to Deadman Wonderland, as it is a prison-amusement park. While making their plans, a strange person, covered in blood and crimson armor, floats outside his classroom windows.
Grinning madly, this Red Man massacres Ganta’s entire class but instead of killing him, embeds a red crystal shard in Ganta’s chest. Within days of the massacre, Ganta is declared the sole suspect and, following a quick trial, is sentenced to death for slaughtering all of them. (I guess evidence is just too pesky of a thing to worry about.)
All death row prisoners are fitted with a collar that slowly injects poison into the system. If you do nothing, you will reach toxic levels in three days and die. This can be avoided if you eat this special antidote candy. It’s as bitter as a contested divorce, but it keeps you alive. However, it costs 100,000 credits a piece. Crap! How do you get that money? How do you survive in prison?
Two ways the prison keeps costs down is whatever revenue it takes in through the admission gate for the amusement park part. The other is charging prisoners for their stay. So, you earn money by having a job at the amusement park. You can also enter contests and competitions to earn credits or even a coveted piece of the candy.
However, the competitions can be positively fatal, as the intensity can be changed and no one in the audience knows that prisoners are being killed off before their eyes. But there are secret contests. Since Ganta now has this mutant power, he is subjected to the Corpse Carnival, where he goes up against another Deadman with the power. Whomsoever wins, wins big; whomsoever loses, loses big, as they have to play a slot machine and whatever comes up as the ‘prize’ means that particular body part is removed.
Ganta is aided by the very strange Shino, whom he met about six years earlier. She ‘lives’ in the prison, but has seemingly evaded any kind of detection or classification. Let’s not talk about her unitard and the target logo on her breast (as observed above). Also rather naïve and potentially child-like, she is a very vicious fighter.
OK, if you liked “Gantz” and “Elfin Lied”, then this show is right up your alley for the huge amounts of violence. I had two problems with the show. The first was the unrelenting violence, as people are slaughtered, one by one, in an endless sea of blood and carnage. I do not think this makes for good viewing, especially when someone gets a through-and-through chest wound.
The second is the presentation of the show itself. I had to check out two locations and I still had a hard time seeing anything. I thought the scenes were dark for mood, but it was so black, it might as well have been radio anime. I guess they were protecting me from the violence. Huh? Then why bother going to the trouble of having a guy getting his eye scooped out of his skull with a melon baller if you won’t show it?
The third is the fan service. Now, for some odd reason, I find fan service in horror shows unsettling, in the fact that someone had their legs blown off, then we see jiggly boobs. The gear -grinding is much too much. I bring this up as the warden is a very buxom number. When one of the prisoners gets snarky and asks how big she is, rather than beating the ptarmigan out of him, she proudly states “I am a J-Cup”. (Or is it a G-Cup? Does it matter? She rarely showcases them!)
So now we have reached the stunning conclusion, involving a prison escape, freedom out there for all to grasp, the show….stops. What? I have to work through ANOTHER season?
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Stark, but the ‘splash panels’ get annoying)
Plot 7 (Rather standard)
Pacing 7 (Slows down in places)
Effectiveness 8 (This really works)
Conclusion 8 (It stops, but at a logical point)
Fan Service 4 (A similar show would “Gurren Lagann”)
Overall 8 (It gets a bit maudlin)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. That, and a really big poster.