Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Now that the word is out about the Warden's synthetic Deadmen, and that Ganta knows that his friend Azami is one of them, plans are set in motion to take them down. But now that Ganta has alientated all of his friends in G Ward, including Shiro, does he stand a chance? Or is he destined to become another one of the doctor and the Warden's sick experiments?
Ever since 1864, a “wonderland” has been a world where the rules of logic do not apply, a carnival that can be by turns fun and frightening. Deadman Wonderland has been playing with that definition since its first volume, and now in its seventh we begin to see the cards revolt against the queen – or king, in this case. The groundwork for these events has been being laid for a few books: the slow realization that Makina isn't the villain she at first appeared, Scar Chain's plans and the eventual fulfillment of them, and the carefully built truth about Shiro and what she really is. Now with Ganta's realization that his friend Azami is one of the ninben, the artificially made Deadmen, and his potential growing with every use of his Ganta Gun, the stage is set for things to get moving.
And most of this volume is still setting the stage, to be honest. The major difference here is that we know now who is trying to do what, so everyone's actions make more obvious sense as their plans are put into motion. Among the more important discoveries of the book is the truth about the masks the ninben all wear. That particular tidbit shows the more insidious side of the Warden's schemes, and the knowledge that he knows how to catch flies with honey as well as vinegar is frightening. Were he simply about harsh physical punishments and cruel surgeries he would be almost less of a monster, but the masks show us a more manipulative side that previously was only hinted at. Granted, those hints were pretty strong, but to guess at something and to actually know the truth are two very different things. It is really only Azami's inner strength, the one which kept her alive through her parents' indifference and neglect throughout her childhood, which always her to play any active role at all, rather than just being one of the Warden's mindless killing machines.
Ganta, although technically progressing as a character, feels with each volume like he fits more and more into the standard shounen hero mold. He's young, determined, insanely gifted, and devoted to his friends above all else. None of these are bad traits, and watching him evolve from the terrified boy of volume one is definitely rewarding, but as the series goes on, he feels less and less unique as a character. His habit of lying to Shiro in order to protect her, often by saying the cruelest thing possible, is not a particularly endearing habit, and while everything stems from his tough moral core, there's still something about him that feels slightly untrustworthy. It seems highly possible that this comes from the fact that we readers know who The Red Man is – or at least think we do at this point – and pairing that knowledge with Ganta's single-minded determination to get vengeance on the being who landed him in prison in the first place makes for some uncomfortable thoughts. The same can be said about Shiro – how much of her is really her? We haven't seen a lot of the Wretched Egg since about volume four, but there's still an unsettling aspect of her that we don't really understand and that could have some major repercussions further down the line.
For the most part Viz is continuing to provide a readable, well-worded translation. There is one error where Azami is written “Azumi,” but more of an issue is when Makina refers to the ninben as “pit bulls.” While this is still a comparison that we can understand, it is also rather outdated, as more and more pit bulls are being recognized as no more vicious than any other breed. Perhaps this statement is only likely to needle the animal rights community; regardless, it feels behind the times and it seems a better phrase could have been used.
While the art in Deadman Wonderland can be very busy, it still has the remarkable ability to be easily readable despite crowded panels and a lot of black space. The details of the blood magic are particularly nice and show a good variation from user to user, with Ganta's being especially artistic. While character designs do feel a bit limited, it is generally not too difficult to tell people apart even at this stage of the story, where there are new characters being introduced with regularity. Small details, such as scars or restraints, keep things from getting too confusing, and main characters like Shiro, Ganta, and Crow all have unique looks that help them to stand out.
Deadman Wonderland is a dark, unsettling look into a private prison abusing the system for the whims of the Warden and a few governmental higher ups. With each volume more people vow to help take it down, and now as Ganta's skills are growing, he is becoming a person of great interest to all of them. He may not feel like as unique a character as he once did, but like the story he is building upon his experiences and rising to new challenges. Volume seven is one of the more uplifting books in the series thus far with its hopeful tone and ending, but we know that that isn't likely to last. The Warden is resourceful and devious, and no matter who comes to challenge him, he's probably ready for them. We'll have to keep reading to see what he has planned.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Pace continues to be fast, Azami's past sheds a lot of light on her character. Everyone is easy to tell apart and crowded scenes still read easily. Hopeful ending.
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