Saturday, 16 April 2011

Deadman Wonderland - Episode 1

Life seems pretty normal for Ganta Igarashi as this new season big-hitter kicks off, with him casually sitting in his classroom talking to best friend Mimi about a forthcoming school trip to a far from normal place - The show's titular centrepiece, Deadman Wonderland, an amusement park-cum-prison block built from the ruins of what is left of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.

This rather odd centrepiece soon because important to Ganta for an entirely different reason, as his (and his classmates) peaceful life is ripped asunder by a sinister floating being that destroys the classroom entirely, wiping out all of its occupants save for Ganta before embedding some kind of weird crystal (a Philosopher's Stone perhaps?) deep within his chest.  As the sole survivor of the incident, it's no real surprise to see Ganta fingered as the prime suspect, although it appears that there's more than a simple assumption of guilt at work as Ganta is quickly handed out a death sentence for his alleged part in this crime complete with evidence that he has no knowledge of.

From here, it's off to Deadman Wonderland itself, a weird compound that is part circus for the general public and part high-security prison, with the inmates used as the primary attraction in said circus in return for their survival... assuming they can make it even that far surrounded by dangerous inmates who are largely allowed to roam free.  With suggestions that all involved want to see Ganta dead, he finds himself with one friend alone - the decidedly odd but appropriately named Shiro, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Mimi.  Is this going to be enough to ensure his survival in such a harsh environment though?

If there's one accusation we can't throw at Deadman Wonderland, it's one of the series dawdling around - this opening episode tears through events at a rip-roaring and frankly breathless pace, and without having read the manga to compare it to I have to say that from my point of view it's all the better for it.  Arguably we could have been given more time to get into Ganta's head after the incident which killed his classmates, but in truth it was so brutally depicted that I think we got a good grasp of that immediately, leaving us ready to go on to the more important aspects of the story.

All you can ask of an opening episode is for it to draw you into its world and feed you compelling reasons to continue watching as it does so - Deadman Wonderland achieved this absolutely for me with this first instalment, setting up a tantalising presence and some interesting characters (even if Shiro is kind of annoying thus far) that leaves me well and truly ready for more.

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