Ganta used to live in Tokyo when he was a little boy. That was until the Great Tokyo Earthquake, which submerged 70 percent of the metropolis. People had to be evacuated, including Ganta.
Ten years pass, and he’s now a middle-schooler living a normal life. He doesn’t even remember Tokyo. He talks about sports with friends and will get upset at his father over insignificant details.
Then his life is turned upside down. One day at school, a robotic-looking being --- referred to as the Red Man --- appears at the window. The Red Man goes into Ganta’s classroom and slaughters everyone in sight. Ganta is blasted through the chest yet somehow survives the massacre.
When he comes to in a hospital, the police are ready for him. Ganta is arrested for the murder of his classmates. Sentenced to death, he’s placed in a Tokyo prison known as Deadman Wonderland. Here, a collar is placed on him that feeds him poison. Unless he constantly finds the antidote, he’ll be dead in three days, thus carrying out his execution.
Not only does Ganta have to struggle to stay alive, but he also has to prove his innocence. However, his odds of being released look bleak.
Deadman Wonderland opens with a few colored pages before morphing into the black-and-white prints that will last the rest of this volume. From the beginning, it’s creepy and disturbing on purpose. Genre-wise, it mixes horror and science fiction. By the end of the first volume, it’s not known exactly what the Red Man is, but this being does return to plague Ganta.
This series earns the rating Older Teen for its scattered scenes of blood, gore and violence. While never getting over-the-top, certain panels might bother more sensitive readers. Nevertheless, the book tries to be scarier through psychological means. Somehow showing the remains of the classroom isn’t as creepy as when Ganta is accused of murder and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit. Who wouldn’t be scared of that happening?
Because Deadman Wonderland uses both visual and psychological horror, and because it conjures up a future full of mysteries, it shouldn’t have a problem attracting readers. Though some of its elements are similar to other manga (the apocalyptic future is a common theme), it doesn’t feel trite. It succeeds in feeling creepy, dark and cryptic. This is one of those manga series that sets itself up in the first volume, letting details and background get told later on. A reader can’t tell yet what exactly will happen here, but Deadman Wonderland has a strong opening.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on October 18, 2011
Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1