A gigantic amusement park with bright colors and fun times for all ages, where the workers are criminals attempting to serve their sentence, is a front for something more twisted. The Deadman Wonderland amusement park was built on the remains of a mysterious accident that destroyed Tokyo twenty years prior. The story focuses on Ganta Igasrashi, a middle school student who is looking up information the upcoming class field trip to Deadman Wonderland, which he is less than thrilled about, when he is interrupted by friends who remind him that any way to relieve stress before the upcoming exams is welcome. Before the class can begin a masked person in red rips the wall from the side of the school and proceeds to slaughter Ganta’s class. The Red Man, later known as the Wretched Egg, places a red crystal in Ganta’s chest before vanishing. As Ganta fades into unconsciousness, the last image he sees is the bodies and blood of his classmates and closest friends scattered throughout his classroom. When he awakens, Ganta is immediately questioned by police and taken into custody, as he is blamed for the murder of his entire class. A lawyer approaches Ganta, saying that he will represent him, and soon the trial is underway. Ganta is found guilty and sentenced to capital punishment as a video is released that shows him talking to the lawyer, Tamaki, mocking the death of his classmates claiming to have committed the mass killing out of annoyance and fun. Ganta is sent to serve out his last days in Deadman Wonderland.
What proceeds is a tale of a conspiracy plot to profit from an underground fighting ring that features the supernatural abilities of many death row inmates. These supernatural abilities all come from the user controlling their blood to construct tools with which to fight. It seems that many of these death row inmates, like Ganta, never actually committed the crime they were charged with. Instead Tamaki finds ways to bring in those possessing the abilities needed to participate in Carnival Corpse, the name given to the special fighting event that only a few wealthy people are able to see. Within the structure of the privately owned prison is a struggle between Tamaki, to keep this conspiracy hidden, and Makina, the chief warden who knows there is something more to the amusement park.
The amusement park section of Deadman Wonderland, run by the general population of inmates, has its own horrible secrets. Inmates of all kinds are forced to participate in events, for the amusement of the very large group paying tourists, most of which result in the death and serious injuries of many. The park goers cheer and applaud as they watch the brutal death of many inmates, under the assumption that it is all special effects. This brings to light one of the areas as to why this story is intriguing, the idea of the blurred line between an actor and their real life. When people are convinced to fully suspend disbelief it becomes easy to see everything that happens as just, “part of the show.”
Deadman Wonderland, is a compelling story of people trying to fight through the darkness within and surrounding their lives. It is made clear that some of the inmates in this prison are there for a good reason, and should remain, but others it’s questionable as to the truth. People like to reinterpret situations to make themselves out to be the hero, and this story strongly relies on that idea. The deep psychological nature of a well written story about internal and external duality is heightened in this anime by some impressive music that has a mix of genres, which perfectly fits with each situation on screen. The visuals and dialog are extremely graphic, to the point some may consider it disturbing. This is not a show for the faint of heart, easily offended, or younger audiences. Those who enjoy the horror of dark psychological tales will enjoy this short anime series.