Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Manga Review: Deadman Wonderland Volume 1

Originally released in 2007 in Japan and ongoing with six installments already, Deadman Wonderland is the brainchild of Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou (Eureka Seven). The manga has been doing well and in all honesty it's probably only a matter of time until there's an animation produced. Until that happens, however, the franchise has found its way into Tokyopop's hands and recently the first installment has been released.

Deadman Wonderland takes place a short distance into the future where a massive earthquake has hit Tokyo and submerged more than 70% of it. In the aftermath there was a whole lot of destruction and lives lost. Despite this dark time there were some survivors as well, and this book follows the life of a teenager named Ganta, whose life is once again about to be turned upside down.

At the beginning of the book Ganta seems to be a normal high school student. He's sitting in class talking with his friends about an upcoming field trip, but that's when things take a turn for the worst. He spots a floating red being outside the window and soon the man attacks the classroom, slaughtering everyone except for Ganta. In his case the red man impales Ganta with a red crystal. Naturally Ganta is taken aback by these events, but making matters worse is the fact that the courts have deemed him responsible. They label him a cold-blooded mass-murderer and sentence him to life inside a privately run prison facility named Deadman Wonderland.

Now, for reference, Deadman Wonderland is basically a Disneyland where inmates are the cast members. They entertain the people who come to watch them through various events. It's kind of strange and a hard concept to grasp, but as long as you just go with it in the context of the story it works well enough.

Once Ganta winds up in Deadman Wonderland he quickly learns the rules. If you don't eat a special piece of candy every three days then a collar around your neck will kill you. You need a form of currency known as CP in order to live, eat, and buy things. You also don't want to piss off the guards unless you want to end your stay the quick way. In between all of this he meets other fascinating characters such as the mysterious Shino, who appears to be a girl from his past, a fellow inmate named Azami, and a person who seems to be up to no good named Yo.

As fascinating as all of this is, the biggest draw for Deadman Wonderland is the red man known as the Original Sin. He's greatly powerful and connected to Ganta in some way. In fact it would seem that some of his powers have been bestowed upon Ganta. What purpose this will play out in the future isn't really revealed in this installment, but I'm sure it's something that will be explored in the coming installments.

With all of that set up in place Deadman Wonderland's first volume certainly takes a lot of out of you. It's an exhausting read in some respects and by the end all you'll have is a head full of questions, rather than answers of any kind. It's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, though I can't help but feel lost in the shuffle somehow. Hopefully that feeling will change in the coming volumes.

As far as how this book is presented, all I can say is the artwork by Kondou is as stunning as one would expect. Every character looks great and is attractively designed. Deadman Wonderland's unique looks truly stand out and all around there's a great sense of action and emotion in each panel. The translation of this book is handled pretty well and all around the quality stands up to scrutiny. At the back of this book there are also a couple pages of four-panel comedic pieces from the Deadman Wonderland universe as well as a preview for Hanako and the Terror of Allegory.

From the first page to the last Deadman Wonderland is a book with a lot of promise. It's an entertaining read, packed with action, and there's enough mystery to keep you strung along. I'm not 100% sold on the franchise from this first book, but it's certainly done well enough to keep me tuned in to see how things shape up in the future. If you're looking for a dark series with a bunch of action then this release may be right up your alley!

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by Tokyopop. Deadman Wonderland is rated OT (Older Teen 16+) for Non-Sexual Full Body Nudity, Moderate Violence, Moderate Gore, and Moderate Language.

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