Manga Title: Deadman Wonderland
Author/Artist: Jinsei Kataoka/Kazuma Kondou
Genres: Action, Biopunk, Science Fantasy, Psychological
Unlike Alice, Ganta Igarashi finds himself in a nightmare when he steps into Deadman Wonderland. The story takes place in the year 2023 in Tokyo, which has been nearly destroyed and two-thirds of it has sunk into the ocean after an earthquake ten years before. One day while Ganta is attending class at junior high-school, a mysterious being known as the Red Man appears. He massacres Ganta’s classmates and inexplicably plunges a shard of red rock into Ganta’s chest.
Being the only survivor of the incident and not having a valid alibi, Ganta is given a mock trial and shunted off to the creepy prison called Deadman Wonderland.
Placed on death row, Ganta is fitted with a collar that slowly releases poison. To escape death he must eat a piece of candy every three days which acts as an antidote to the poison. The entire place runs on a credit system called cast points, the equivalent of money in DW, and just about anything can be bought with these cast points – from food and necessities all the way up to the candy which is the most expensive.
Later Ganta meets some other inmates, and learns all this information from them. He also comes across an enigmatic girl named Shiro who claims to be his childhood friend. Having the uncanny ability to move around freely in DW, Shiro seems to understand what Ganta is thinking without him even saying it. She comes across as sweet but crazy and has some badass martial arts moves at the same time. The mystery of her and Ganta’s relationship is a pivotal part of the storyline.
Ganta initially accepts that he needs to suck up to the vicious inmates and violent guards to survive, a decision that doesn’t sit well with him despite his helplessness.
To add to his miseries the director of DW has it in for him and initially tries to eliminate him. In order to gain cast points to purchase a candy, Ganta enters a DW event called the Dog Race. The race basically consists of inmates running a deadly obstacle course, loaded with lethal weapons and traps, to reach the other side. It’s an event that’s open to the public, inviting people to watch a live slaughter that they’re told isn’t real, but everyone secretly knows is. The winner is given 100 000 cast points – just the amount Ganta needs to purchase a candy to postpone his death.
The Red Man also reveals himself to be in the facility too, and we find out he is called the Wretched Egg and that the prison is like a holding cell for the Wretched Egg as well, going by the name of the Mother Goose system. Encountering the Red Man once more, this time he speaks to Ganta, referring to him by the name Woodpecker. Enraged by memories of the Red Man butchering his classmates, Ganta lashes out at him with what little power he has – and reveals that he has a kind of dormant ability within him which is released. Unleashing a blast of energy on the Red Man, he withdraws, leaving Ganta to ponder what this bizarre gift is.
DW is a fast-paced, intense and in-your-face kind of manga that doesn’t let up. The art is engrossing, and from the blood-splattered details of the Red Man’s carnage to the depictions of the cute Shiro, there’s not a dull moment. Although the plot unfolds gradually and there is quite a lot of information to process in the first volume, it’s gradually expounded on over the latter volumes.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about DW is its characters; similar to the cast of a freaky circus show, they come in all shapes and sizes and not one is flat or boring.
Ganta’s growth is awesome to read as he goes from servility to eventually expressing his true feelings and showing himself to be pretty self-sacrificing despite initial impressions.
Deadman Wonderland is truly like falling down a different rabbit hole – a place where nothing is as it seems and where surviving is literally all in the blood.
What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?