Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Manga Review: DEADMAN WONDERLAND Volume 1


STORY: Jinsei Kataoka
ARTIST: Kazuma Kondou
LETTERS: Annaliese Christman
ISBN: 978-1-4215-5548-5; paperback (February 2014); Rated “T+” for Older Teen
216pp, B&W, $9.99 US, $12.99 CAN, £6.99 U.K.

Several years ago, TOKYOPOP sent me a copy of Deadman Wonderland Volume 1 for review.  Now, VIZ Media has the license to publish Deadman Wonderland in North America, and they sent me a copy of Vol. 1 for review.  VIZ Media announced in a press release that they plan to publish Deadman Wonderland as a 13-volume graphic novel series, scheduled to be released bi-monthly.

Deadman Wonderland is a manga from the team of writer Jinsei Kataoka and artist Kazuma Kondou.  A science fiction comic, the series takes place in a near-future world version of Japan.  The story opens ten years after the Great Tokyo Earthquake put 70% of Japan underwater.

The action occurs in Deadman Wonderland, a privately run, carnival-like penitentiary that has risen from the ruins of Tokyo.  It is a bizarre and fatal theme park, where the prison bosses force the inmates to perform in notorious gladiatorial fights to the death.  While the inmates are the performers, the tourists who watch them pay the money that helps to finance the Tokyo reconstruction.

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 4) introduces 14-year-old Ganta Igarashi, a student at Nagano Prefectural Middle School No. 4.  On the day of a class trip to Deadman Wonderland, Ganta’s 21 classmates are slaughtered before his very eyes.  Ganta is charged with the murders, convicted at trial, and sentenced to death for a crime that he did not commit.

Now, Ganta is Prisoner #5580 at Deadman Wonderland.  The other inmates are strange, and the guards are brutal.  And the real killer of his classmates, the mysterious “Red Man,” has also found his way to Deadman Wonderland.

Just the fact that Deadman Wonderland was set in a prison was enough to give me the chills back when I first read it.  I liked it, then, and I may like it even more, now.  The characters were what really interested me the first time I read the series.  Now, I find myself intrigued by the setting.

Deadman Wonderland is like a co-lead character with Ganta Igarashi, and it is good that the authors make Ganta both a prisoner and an explorer of his new home.  I think this prison drives the characters to act the way they do.  If they were someplace else, they might still be bad guys, but they would likely do things differently.  Readers who like the venerable future-prison science fiction subgenre will want to try Deadman Wonderland.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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