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Manga review: ‘Deadman Wonderland’ Vol. 1

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 1
©Jinsei KATAOKA 2007 ©Kazuma KONDOU 2007

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 1

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On February 11, 2014 manga and anime publisher Viz Media released the first volume of “Deadman Wonderland”, and they gave us the opportunity to dive into this insane adventure.

“Deadman Wonderland” is written by Jinsei Kataoka and features illustration by Kazuma Kondou. The anime version of the series is available in North America from FUNimation Entertainment.

The series follows Ganta Igarashii, a middle-school student who is framed for murder when his entire class is slaughtered before his eyes. Having been the lone survivor, and witnessing the class’ murder by the mysterious “Red Man” first-hand, Ganta is determined to get revenge against the killer.

There is one problem however, because he is the sole survivor of the massacre, Ganta is accused of the murders and finds himself being found guilty, and sentence to death. His sentence is to be carried out at Deadman Wonderland, a privatized prison with some interesting ways of gaining funding, it also functions as an amusement park where the prisoners work.

The prison has some unusual rules for Ganta to get used to, prisoners must work in order to earn credits, which are then used for food and other luxuries. As a death row inmate, Ganta also has to eat a “candy” every few days, which prevents the collar he always wears from killing him with the poison constantly being injected.

In volume one of the manga, Ganta struggles to adapt to his new life, but he also makes a friend named Shiro, a female inmate who is a little odd but seems to already know Ganta. With Shiro’s help, Ganta enters the Dog Race Show, a race where the inmates avoid deadly obstacles in order to earn credits, while a crowd watches and cheers as inmates die. Ganta also meets the “Red Man” once again, and tries to square off with him using a strange ability that is connected to his blood.

Deadman Wonderland” has a great story, it is dark and there is just a slight amount of comedy to go along with the action and bloodshed, giving it a creepy yet interesting balance. Ganta is completely out of his element in the prison, but even this early in the series you can see that he has what it takes to grow a little tougher in order to survive. It will be interesting to see how he develops and how Shiro is tied to all of this, as well as who he can really trust among his fellow inmates.

Visually I really liked the “Deadman Wonderland” cover, it features an image of Ganta alongside Shiro on the cover that is very well drawn and beautifully colored, while the back has the “Red Man” covered in blood and smiling. Inside, the black and white images are detailed fairly well, especially the more violent scenes (like the bloody aftermath of the classroom). The characters are also drawn well, with facial expressions being a major focus, and the designs fit with their personalities, although Shiro looks much to innocent for someone crazy, though that does fit with her playful side.

The translations all have nice flow and read well. The text is also a good size, while the dialog boxes don’t get in the way of the images.

Included at the end of the manga are a few little extras that fans may enjoy, including a small section where Deadman Wonderland (the prison) is discussed by the mascots. Also included are a few four-panel comics starring some of the series’ main cast.

Admittedly, I’ve already seen the “Deadman Wonderland” anime, so I have some idea as to where the story is going early on, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the manga at all. Ganta’s predicament makes for a great mystery-filled story, and the more you read, the harder it is to put the manga down.

Volume one is just an early introduction to the characters and what is happening, but it moves at a fair pace, so readers have a slight grasp of what is happening, for now. Although Ganta’s journey in Deadman Wonderland is just starting, there is already a ton of bloodshed to keep action fans happy.

If you enjoyed series like “BTOOOM!”, “Jormungand” or “Black Lagoon”, then “Deadman Wonderland” is a manga that you shouldn’t pass up.

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 1

Publisher: Viz Media
Story by: Jinsei Kataoka
Art by: Kazuma Kondou
Number of Pages: 216
Age Rating: Older Teen
Release Date: February 11, 2014

(A review copy of “Deadman Wonderland” volume one was provided by Viz Media.)