Anime Review 22: Deadman Wonderland, Vagabond, and MAR
It satisfies my lust for carnage and bloodshed that had made me sad when I got to the end of Yuyu Hakusho. The depraved psychological torture is equal only to that of Evangelion, or possibly Bokurano. It also features an opening credits song that's in English! :)
The first thing I noticed was the protagonist's similarity in appearance to Renton from Eureka 7. This is no coincidence, the manga artist who did Eureka 7 also did this manga.
The story is about a typical high school student named Ganta. Crazy stuff happens out of nowhere, as it often does in anime, and Ganta is left waking up in a hospital bed and quickly being taken to jail by the police. They claim his crime is that he massacred his entire class, but Ganta doesn't remember a thing. They have damning evidence of him on tape, acting uncharacteristically badass while bragging about all the people he's murdered.
Despite his hope at first that the public defender will prove his innocence, Ganta is setnenced to life in prison. The place he's sent is the titular Deadman Wonderland. (Yes I just like saying "titular" hehehe....) It's a bizarre private prison where the prisoners are forced to perform carnival acts and entertain huge crowds. I thought of this place as like the dark and depressing version of the Kaleido Stage from the peppy girl's anime Kaleido Star. The Wonderland show that seems to be at the heart of everything is the Dog Race, which is not a race with actual dogs. It's an obstacle race where the winner basically buys themselves antidote to live another 3 days (the prisoners have metal collars that are used to monitor the prisoners but they also inject poison into their bodies, forcing them to compete in the races and comply with staff in order to earn Cast Points, buy antidote in candy form every 3 days and stay alive). Everyone who participates gets bread, but most people who participate die off because this deadly obstacle course involves challenges like dodging arrows, racing through swinging blades, and avoiding falling onto an electric fence that kills instantly. All while tens of thousands of people cheer madly from the bleachers whenever a prisoner dies.
Helping him out is this mysterious girl named Shiro. She has white hair, red eyes, and clothes that look suspiciously like body paint. If this were a real prison I couldn't imagine a little girl like her being safe from the lust of all the prisoners, but that's beside the point (obviously she has some kind of powers because she seems able to move around the prison freely, unbound by the controls everyone else is forced to live under). She looks a lot like Mimi, a girl who Ganta allegedly murdered. Ganta becomes friends with Shiro, who helps him survive his first Dog Race.
Ganta becomes determined to survive in the horrible prison, even though he knows he will eventually be executed for his supposed crimes. However, the thing that actually killed those students is still on the loose, and Ganta also becomes determined to hunt it down.
I really want to see the end of the story. It was fascinatingly dark and macabre and takes place in a unique and fantastic setting. It reminded me a little of Evangelion too, particularly in a part where the warden of this prison was forced to defend his vision and goals to a board or committee of some kind which resembles SEELE.
Vagabond is one of the most realistic historical fiction manga I've ever read. It follows the life of a legendary "sword saint" samurai named Miyamoto Musashi. The story is based on a fictional account of his life entitled Musashi. It starts with Musashi and his friend Shinmen Takezo waking up and discovering that they are only a few of the survivors of a recent battle. They end up running into two women who make a living by stealing weapons and armor off corpses and selling it, but despite their dishonorable vocation the two seem nice enough and are willing to help the two young men recover from their wounds.The story seems to drag a little but the art is beautiful to behold.
This manga was exquisite, I truly believe any fan of historical samurai-era manga needs to add this to their collection. It's drawn faintly in color sometimes and sometimes more monochromatic. I would call it a masterpiece manga because it had some of the most beautifully realistic art I've seen in a while. So put on your kimono, settle down with some sushi and a bit of hot sake, and let this manga artist take you on a journey to historical Japan.
MAR (Marchen Awakens Romance)
Mar (Märchen Awakens Romance)
I saw some of these in Japanese and some in English so I couldn't really tell you if the "Mär" in Mär Heaven or whatever is supposed to be pronounced like "mare" or like "mar", but the former is grammatically correct in German umlaut pronunciation (thank you my year of high school German!). Anyway, MAR seems to me like a typical kid's fantasy show. A junior-high-aged boy named Ginta with spiky blonde hair keeps having recurring dreams about a fantasy kingdom. In the real world, he would just get beat up for talking about his dreams and left to think about them, broken and bloody, in a shame dumpster behind school. However this isn't the real world and Ginta quickly gets whisked away to this world of epic adventure. It sort of reminded me of Digimon since that show is also about kids who go to a sort of imaginary fantasy land. But to them, going there was like an extracurricular activity, but to Ginta, it's not possible at least immediately for him to return. He soon meets up with a witch/magic chick/treasure hunter girl who reminded me of Lina from Slayers but she looks a little more cute and demure. She hunts these magical treasures called ARMs (pronounced air-ms or arms depending on whether it's subbed or dubbed). Ginta discovers an unusual one, unusual in that it can talk. Then he meets the boy who brought him to the fantasy kingdom in the first place, the emo, spiky haired kid to the far left of the above picture, and homo-erotic subtext ensues! Also some sort of epic battle, I'm guessing.
This show reminded me of Digimon but also had some wacky playfulness in it, but I really think it's a show targeted at kids who are much younger than me so I personally could take it or leave it. But I could definitely see it as the new Cartoon Network kids' anime hit, it was at least as good as Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Digimon, or Naruto, offering kids funny gags and exciting escapist entertainment. Yay...
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