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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.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 11 – Cutting Corners

This episode, as we all knew, Deadman Wonderland would take the usual path for shounen action shows: spend some time having Ganta learn new attacks and otherwise train to be stronger. Shounen action shows just love incrementally upping the power level of their protagonists so as to throw every more powerful villains at them.

Shounen action shows also like stalling, however, but Deadman Wonderland has never had much patience for that. So Ganta’s training barely takes up half the episode before he’s back in the fray. I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I’ve always liked this show’s tendency not to waste our time with filler. On the other, shortcutting the training process and upping Ganta’s power level so quickly really grates against suspension of disbelief.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 10 – Only the Strong Survive

Well, everything I was worried might happen this episode happened. Ganta is enraged at Shiro for destroying what he considers his one chance of freedom, and Shiro isn’t bright enough to explain herself properly. This leads to a falling out between the pair which still hasn’t been resolved. Meanwhile, Owl survived, although this is partially explained by the fact the Undertakers give him medical treatment I wasn’t expecting them to provide.

Worse, Rokuro shows up to both gripe (about the bomb he planted in the data chip not killing anyone) and gloat (about how Scar Chain is powerless before him). We get basically no insight into why he’s a traitor or psychopath, and are instead treated to megalomaniac ranting that makes Hummingbird look well adjusted by comparison. The series is perfectly capable of giving us hissibly evil villains who don’t need to overact to express their depravity, with Tamaki being a great example. But occasionally it crosses the line into camp, and it’s a disappointment every time.

That having been said, this episode begins to lay the groundwork for Ganta’s next major development. And, perhaps more than anything else in the series, it does so in a way that is remarkably true to life.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 9 – Selective Brutality

After having its third episode closing cliffhanger in a row (although this one doesn’t have the same feeling of imminent danger as the previous too) it doesn’t look like Deadman Wonderland is inclined to slow down its narrative in any way. For a variety of narrative reasons, its obvious that the escape plan is doomed to failure. The trick is keeping the important players alive for round two.

One problem is that this process occasionally feels a bit too predictable. Although the escape plan keeps dancing the Charlie Foxtrot and the body count starts piling up, Ganta and a few other main characters continue to show off their plot armor. That plot armor doesn’t apply to everyone—once character I wasn’t expecting to bite it gets mortally wounded this episode (at least, he better be)—but it applies to enough people to lessen the tension. And knowing that extras exist to get brutally slaughtered can diminish the emotional effectiveness of their deaths just as much as knowing the main characters won’t get axed.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 8 – Past Scars

Deadman Wonderland continues to advance at a rapid pace, with every plot revelation of last episode having an immediate impact. Tamaki learns of the Warden’s death, Makina starts overt countermeasures against him (although we still have only gotten hints as to what these might be), and Scar Chain not only gets a fuller introduction but also reveals and implements an escape attempt. Unlike several other shounen series—not to be named—that have been going on for the past decade, this series never feels like its stalling for time, or even for breath.

That’s mostly a good thing, although I suspect that certain character relationships (and characters, such as the Warden himself) could have stood a little more examination before being shuttled off to the side. Even here, Deadman Wonderland manages to keep the focus on the themes that matter to it—in this case, justice and revenge.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 7 – Child’s Play

Last week I was a bit annoyed at the clash between Deadman Wonderland’s shounen battle series roots and its desire to offer greater levels of violence, depravity, and despair. This episode avoids such a conflict, not be smarter writing, but simply by moving too fast for any possible plot holes to get noticed.

And the narrative is on full throttle: after three or so episodes of introduction, the show gave another three to Corpse Carnival battles that looked to define the rest of the series, only to move on again this episode. At least, so it seems: Many of the new characters and plot hooks offered this episode point to the Battle Royale trappings being dropped, if not immediately, then at least very soon. Compared to shows like Bleach or Naruto, with can spend over a season’s worth of introductory episodes before even suggesting the main plot, Deadman Wonderland is in a hurry.
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Deadman Wonderland Episode 6 – Evil for Evil’s Sake

Well, all good things must come to an end. Finally I’ve come to an episode of Deadman Wonderland that didn’t impress me. Not that it’s ruined the show and I’ll stop writing writing reviews over it. But this episode commits several errors—some technical, but mostly narrative—which I find rather annoying.

On the surface, episode six seems to follow the same pattern as last time: introduce a character, put said character in the ring against Ganta, have Ganta defeat said person in an honorable/worthy foe manner, which by the logic of defeat means friendship means Ganta has a new ally for the future, and life goes on. As I mentioned last time, it’s a staple of shounen action series, and that Deadman Wonderland amps up the violence inherent in the formula doesn’t mean it isn’t recognizable.

This episode, however, finally shows the inherent conflict between Deadman Wonderland’s shounen plot and its darker, more mature themes. It also shows that “darker” and “more mature” don’t always mean the same thing either.
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