Manga Review: Deadman Wonderland Volume One

Deadman Wonderland Volume One is a manga written by Jinsei Kataoka and illustrated by Kazuma Kondou, and it was published in North America by Viz Media in 2014. The series is rated “T+” for older teens; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.

Deadman Wonderland Volume 1
Written by: Jinsei Kataoka
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: February 11, 2014

At the beginning of the volume, the reader learns that a massive earthquake destroyed most of Tokyo. Then, the story has a timeskip of 10 years, and focuses on a middle school student named Ganta Igarashi. He was a survivor of the earthquake 10 years earlier, but has no memories of it and has lived a normal life. One day while he’s at school, Ganta sees a strange person in blood and crimson armor float through the classroom windows. The “Red Man” murders everyone in the classroom except for Ganta; instead, he embeds a red crystal shard into Ganta’s chest.

A few days later, Ganta is declared the sole suspect in the murder of his classmates. He has a quick and unfair trial, and is sentenced to death. Ganta is incarcerated in Deadman Wonderland, which is a massive theme park-like prison. Due to the severity of his “crime,” Ganta has to live out imprisonment under Deadman Wonderland’s “Death Sentence”; he is fitted with a collar, which constantly injects a poison into his bloodstream. However, the poison can be neutralized by a candy-like medicine every three years. The medicine can be acquired through various activities in the prison, as well as through Cast Points (the currency of the prison). Cast Points can be earned by performing in the facility’s lethal games and survive.

While at Deadman Wonderland, Ganta is befriended by a mysterious girl named Shiro. Shiro says that knew Ganta a long time ago, and that they’d made a promise that they’d be friends. Ganta has no recollection of this promise. Even so, Shiro does what she can to help Ganta out, even during the first lethal game that Ganta participates in.

Deadman Wonderland has an interesting premise to it. There’s just enough information revealed by the end of this volume to not give away too much of the story, but provides just enough tidbits to make a reader want to come back and read the next volume. For example, we can tell from the first few pages that Ganta had met a little girl during the earthquake after meeting Shiro, the reader can piece together that Shiro was that little girl. But the question is: who exactly is Shiro? Is she simply a human girl like Ganta, or does she have some kind of connection to the “Red Man”? And why is she so interested in Ganta?

In a lot of respects, the tone of the series kind of makes me think of Soul Eater, especially some of the scenes that take place at Deadman Wonderland. I think this series could potentially appeal to manga readers that already enjoy series like Soul Eater and Future Diary.

It’s a good manga for the genre that it’s in, but I admit that I normally don’t read manga that’s in this vein. However, I wouldn’t be adverse to reading future volumes of Deadman Wonderland; even though I normally don’t go out of my way to read manga in this genre, the story in this volume interested me enough that I’d be willing to continue reading the series at some point.

Deadman Wonderland is off to a strong start, and I would recommend that manga readers who enjoy psychological horror stories give this series a try.

I wrote this review after reading a digital review copy of Deadman Wonderland Volume One that was provided to me by Viz Media.

Additional posts about Deadman Wonderland:

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