Home > Deadman Wonderland, Episode Reviews > Deadman Wonderland Episode 12 – But to Lay Down His Life for His Friends

Deadman Wonderland Episode 12 – But to Lay Down His Life for His Friends

If Deadman Wonderland can do one thing right, it’s stick to its narrative themes. (Actually, it does several things right, but I’ll get to that.) The finale of the series starts off with Tamaki, the instigator behind so much of the death and violence we’ve seen throughout the show, blithely dismissing any responsibility for it. The outside world, he says, is just as brutal, cutthroat, and hopeless as Deadman Wonderland and the Corpse Carnival; what Tamaki does is do away with the pretense.

This episode, like many episodes before it, does its best to prove him right, but it also refuses to give him the last word. In the end, the show suggests, there can be genuine goodness even in the midst of a crapsack reality, so long as you are willing to fight for it. That is, Deadman Wonderland preserves the classic themes of its shounen predecessors, even as it puts them to the test in its horrific setting. Now and before, the juxtaposition works in the show’s favor.

Owl switches to fists when Ganta gets in his way, allowing for Ganta to take a beating without being killed as quickly as the remaining Undertakers. Convenient, but it helps Ganta redeem himself a little in Shiro's eyes

For the themes to work, Owl has to be coaxed out of his rage by the words and bravery of Ganta and Karako, and he is. Genkaku then has to intervene to restore an external threat, which he does. And then Ganta needs to save the day, perhaps with a little help from his friends; that happens too. It’s all required by the formula, and it works out well in practice. Owl’s return to sanity doesn’t feel forced or out of place, and Genkaku’s desire for destruction is consistently applied across the board.

Genkaku is obsessed with killing everyone because in his warped mindset he’s really setting them free from the horrible prison that is the world. Apparently he playacted as an Undertaker just long enough to try to corrupt Owl into a killing machine; when that hits a snag he starts slaughtering his fellow Undertakers himself. He also wounds Karako and blows a hole through Owl, finally delivering the deathblow that should have come a few episodes before.

Likewise, when Genkaku faces death himself, he does so with a smile. He believes death will save him just as he "saved" other people

I’ve gotten over my previous complaints about Owl’s miraculous survival, however, given the use to which it was put. Likewise, I’m ok with Ganta overcoming his wounds at Owl’s hands and the sudden spread of his collar’s poison, as there appears to be an in-story reason for it. Both he and Shiro (who temporary awakens her alternate personality) seem linked somehow, and the same absurd regeneration ability she has channels into him through the stone implanted in his chest. He’s still obviously living the “charmed” life I complained about in my last review. But it’s linked with Shiro, who has brought misery into his life even as she has kept him alive.

That leaves the themes of salvation through brotherhood, loyalty, and friendship both intact, and at the same time somewhat subverted. Scar Chain maintains their fellowship to the end: Karako and two others successfully escape the prison. Ganta is loyal even to those who betray him, and such actions have won over You Takami and his sister Minatsuki. His stated reason for fighting and living on in such a horrible world, as he fires a killing blow at Genkaku, is because of his hope in his friends. He even stays behind in the prison for Shiro’s sake, rather than escaping.

Both Shiro and Ganta sport the same tattoo-like pattern on their faces as Ganta recovers. True to form, he doesn't notice

But Shiro’s secret—that she is the “Red Man” who killed his classmates, implanted him with his Branches of Sin, and got him sent here—makes the nature of that friendship much more problematic. As this season wraps up, he begins to wonder at the possible connections between the Red Man and his own past history.

How will the series deal with that ultimate tension—Ganta’s desire for vengeance and his care for his friends—is an open question, one that remains unanswered in this installment. So far, no matter how dark a path Deadman Wonderland has taken, it has always let the power of friendship win out in the end. But Ganta has only wished death on two people: Tamaki and the Red Man. When he finally gets the power to achieve that goal, it will be hard for him to stop halfway.

Speaking of death, I think Genkaku is the first person Ganta has killed. There's too many other things going on to make much notice of it, but I wonder how, or if, that milestone will get any attention in a future season

Putting that aside, Deadman Wonderland offers the one season finale of the Spring season that didn’t leave me fundamentally disappointed. Maybe that’s just because it isn’t a finale to the series proper, but the fact it closes out with all the themes so well executed and on display gives me hope that the true ending, whenever that comes, will be just as entertaining.

Series review: Deadman Wonderland sold itself as a show about a dystopian future where even the most innocent and pure are a few steps away from being broken by the cruelties of an arbitrary, uncaring world. And yeah, that’s exactly what we got. While tragic backstories are not uncommon in shounen action series, it’s rare for them to be employed so consistently (and with such a degree of brutality) as they are here.

Genkaku's backstory includes a history of abuse—physical and probably sexual—at the temple where he worked. It's another bit of evidence to back up Tamaki's view that the outside world is as bad as the prison

What also sets the show apart is it’s pacing. Deadman Wonderland isn’t the slickest, coolest, or most popular among the many, many shounen action series out there. But among all those I have seen, it has the most focused, driven narrative and unrelenting sense of progression. One of the reasons the show is taking a season break, I think, is because the writers realize how much filler episodes would be completely out of place here. The show moves like a freight train through plotlines, characters, and even whole organizations. Putting everything on hold for a comic relief episode would just feel wrong.

The show’s ending would be unconscionable if the series were not based on a longer running manga; as it is, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Many of the deeper plot threats involving Ganta and Shiro’s long history together and their connection with the disaster ten years ago have yet to be fully unraveled, while Makina’s plot against Tamaki is just coming to fruition. And Mockingbird, only in his last few scenes, comes to be not just a future opponent for Ganta to defeat, but a major player in his own right.

Mockingbird, true to his name, has the ability to copy the Branches of Sin ability from anyone whose blood he's tasted. Here, he uses Crow's ability to kill Hibana, who might well have been the last of the Undertakers

All this will have to come up in a future second season (and maybe a third) to be given its proper due. And I am hoping for future seasons. So many shows in this genre would be worth watching if they could just get to the bloody point (figuratively and literally) rather than stalling in a drawn-out attempt to keep the series running as long as possible. Deadman isn’t stalling at anything. That, as much as the unrelenting darkness of the subject matter, makes this a sample of the genre worth watching.

You can watch the episode here.

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