Deadman Wonderland Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 01, 2010
The sophomore slump hasn't been kind to Deadman Wonderland.
Writer/Artist: Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou
Translation: Ray Yoshimoto
Adaptation: Bryce P. Coleman
What They Say
As Ganta begins to understand his new disturbing power, he becomes more determined to destroy the Red Man. However, his strange abilities prove to be an obstacle to Chief Makina who is resolute in maintaining peace and order in her territory. With conspiracy and monstrous attacks from every angle, Ganta manages to arrive at Ward G, a mysterious, detached location in Deadman Wonderland where the horrendous bloodbath continues...
As a reader, there are few more disappointing things to watch a series do than dropping from promising to merely average. I almost prefer those rare cases where a once-great series completely self-destructs -- at least in those situations there's usually some massively failed experiment to pin everything on, and in a way I can respect the effort.
Having said that, it's not that surprising that I got such an underwhelming vide from the second installment of Deadman Wonderland. Kataoka and Kondou seem to have forgotten the elements that made the first volume feel like a refreshing entry into a well-treaded genre; if the first installment stood out for its occasionally clever social satire and layers of intrigue, the second is remarkable only for the lazy exposition that replaces them.
What we're left with, then, is a wholly competent but otherwise bog-standard sci-fi action piece -- not the worst thing in the world to end up with, mind you. In this volume, the action mostly revolves around a couple of major action sequences where Ganta breaks into Ward G in the hopes of finding the Red Man (with the walking Deus Ex Machina herself, Shiro, in tow) followed by a staged battle with the inmate Crow who he meets there. By themselves, these sequences are fine; the pacing is reasonably swift, and the artwork stays consistently at the high standard that Kataoka and Kondou set last volume.
Where the laziness kicks in is the story development that surrounds the action. Why does Ganta look for the Red Man in Ward G? Because some guy who's heard about Crow happens to be in the next hospital bed over and happens to overhear Ganta talking to himself. How does Ganta discover that the whole "branches of sin" thing means he has the power to fight people by turning his blood into a weapon? Because Crow tells him all about it right before engaging him in a fight. (Even more brazen than bringing a knife to a gun fight: going into a gun fight after first teaching your opponent how to load his weapon.) The story sets up opportune coincidences like these again and again: Ganta's doctor explains why he was framed, for no apparent reason other than 'cause he can; guards blab about the prison's secrets while escorting away prisoners; inmates chat about seemingly-mundane noises that only one character knows how to interpret, meanwhile coincidentally walking right by that person's holding cell. While it's nice to have some stuff about the story explained, it's less nice to see Kataoka and Kondou seemingly determined to blow through most the story's mystery in the span of a few chapters -- and, on top of it, through a string of implausible coincidences.
Oh, well. At least the artwork's still pretty.
People who're particularly into action and sci-fi series will probably still find Deadman Wonderland readable enough, as none of the action-heavy segments of the story have taken a hit compared to last time. But readers like me, who were mainly drawn to Deadman Wonderland for the above-average writing, should expect to be let down by the disappointingly mediocre direction the second volume has taken.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Deadman Wonderland