Home > Deadman Wonderland, Episode Reviews > Deadman Wonderland Episode 2 – Dog Eat Dog

Deadman Wonderland Episode 2 – Dog Eat Dog

To recap, Deadman Wonderland has as its central premise middle school student Ganta getting framed for the murder of the entire rest of his class, sentenced to death, and sent to the country’s only private prison/amusement park. Once there, Tamaki, the senior park official who masqueraded as Ganta’s attorney and framed him, decides to take him on as a little pet project, attempting to kill him to see if it unlocks an inner power, which is does.

If you have trouble accepting that premise, you might as well back away now. This show is perfectly willing to drop boulders on Ganta (figuratively and literally) to increase the sympathy of the audience and to drive the plot forward. It’s not subtle, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. In fact, this episode, for all the lines it will cross, convinced me that the writers are thinking very carefully about the narrative.

You uses his injuries as a way of winning sympathy from Ganta; it's a neat trick given You got those injuries by robbing him

Deadman Wonderland (the prison/park, not the series) is privately owned, so that means it puts its inmates to work. For performing in acts, serving as clean up crew, and the like, prisoners can earn cast points, which are the currency of the prison. Even basic sustenance costs cast points, but with a large enough stock of them, you can live like a king even while behind bars.

Oh, and the antidotes that death row inmates need to eat every 72 hours to live? 100,000 cast points each, a veritable fortune. And Ganta’s only free one got stolen within moments of arriving.

In addition to great food and luxury items, enough cast points can even earn years off a sentence

Ganta needs points and fast, so he promptly signs up for the Dog Race, a semi-regular obstacle course where the winner gets—you guessed it—100,000 cast points. (Every one else who completes it just gets a loaf of bread.) Alongside Shiro and new-found “friend” You Takami (who both stole his antidote, and is reporting on him to Tamaki), he signs up, only to hit two different complications.

The first complication is that prison gang leader Kazumasa Kouzuji signs up. A famed martial arts fighter currently serving a term for battery, he makes it clear that he’ll brutalize anyone who dares try to beat him, and hospitalizes the hapless You to prove his point.

In the unlikely event that the audience needed more evidence that Kouzuji was a dick, he uses his own lackeys as human shields later in the Dog Race

The second complication is that Tamaki decides to do another little test, and sets the lethality level of the Dog Race to absurd levels. Suddenly, the contestants realize that they aren’t competing for points but for their lives, as gruesome deaths await them for failure.

On the one hand, this is the show dancing across the boundaries of realism yet again. Even accepting that the audience members believe that what they are seeing is an example of excellent special effects, rather than literal blood sport, there’s still the major financial cost of burning through a few dozen inmates just to test Ganta’s spirit. Tamaki might fool the audience, but someone is going to have to do the paperwork to explain why those (non-death row) inmates aren’t getting released.

The show is still censoring some of its more explicit violence. Given one of the themes of this episode, that's actually quite appropriate

But putting issues of realism aside (and some of these concerns are addressed next episode), it again points to the vision that this show has of the world: a place where the powerful manipulate the uncaring masses while abusing the weak. The audience accepts that what they are seeing are from special effects, because they don’t care enough about the criminals who populate the prison to think twice about it.

It also calls into question our tendency to take enjoyment from seeing the pain and suffering others. People already go see movies like Hostel and Saw which revel in showing the most gruesome, horrific abuses of other human beings. Deadman Wonderland is perhaps being hypocritical in highlighting and condemning this trend (after all, it is also benefiting from it), but it’s right to call it into question.

In one horrible moment Ganta visualizes himself and his class as the self-deceived audience to blood sport, watching with the same callous indifference as the students who are watching now

Besides, this episode is still ultimately about Ganta and his decisions. Last episode, he decided that he wanted to live, and avenge himself and his class. This episode, he decides how he wants to live, as his own man, without fear. He spends the early parts of this episode desperately trying to play by the rules, thinking that this will protect him. But prisoners like Kouzuji ignore the rules, and officials like Tamaki can change the rules at whim. Sticking to simple obedience will just get Ganta killed.

But even if it would keep him alive, Ganta realizes it’s not worth it, that he has standards that he isn’t willing to violate. In the final section, he has the choice between winning the Dog Race, or saving Shiro from falling to her death. Realizing that he’s only managed to survive the race by Shiro’s constant intervention, he makes the conscious choice to save his friend, even though this forfeits his chance of earning enough points for an antidote.

I'd think that Ganta would notice the blood seeping through Shiro's body suit (evidence of the steps she took to save him) before now. Although Shiro's absurdly bright personality calls her awareness into question, it's possible she knew she was suiciding to pass Ganta the ball, and she certainly knew she was saving his life throughout

Of course, we the audience know that Ganta will survive past the first 72 hour deadline because The Plot Says So, but that doesn’t change his bravery here. The show hammers home this episode, as it did in the last one, that the whole world (save Shiro) is against him. But Ganta makes it clear in return that he’s willing to stand against the whole world.

You can watch the episode here.

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