After a pretty stellar and exciting opening volume, Deadman Wonderland continues on with the second volume. This is also the place I like the say where the comic really starts taking off as we are introduced to even more characters, concepts, and revelations starting to happen. With that in mind, let us jump into the newest volume. Is it good?
Deadman Wonderland Vol. 2 (Viz Media)
Japanese cover pictured.
Written By: Jinsei Kataoka
Drawn By: Kazuma Kondou
Translated By: Joe Yamazaki
American Publication: Tokyopop (originally) and Viz Media (currently)
After the reappearance of the Red Man in Deadman Wonderland, Ganta Igarashi is now determined to find this monster and kill him for all the pain and misery he has caused him. Going off a story about a inmate who used blood as a weapon, Ganta heads to G Ward. Following closely behind him is his new albino and childish friend, Shiro, and Yō Takami, an inmate who has been asked by the warden of the place to keep in an eye on the kid. What these three discover may be more than they bargained for as the real truth behind the prison’s existence and the mysterious individuals with blood for powers is revealed. Of course, this may not be that big of discovery for Shiro, who seems to be hiding some big secrets of her own.
Also, gigantic security robots, because why not.
After some of the intensity and insanity of the first volume, the second volume not only matches all of that, it manages to kick it up a notch. Indeed, this volume of the series is where things start changing and the main focus of the series is fully revealed (sort of, since things don’t always stay the same); the Deadmen, people with the power to use their own blood as weapons, and the mysteries and conspiracies surrounding them come into focus. The story about a kid just trying to survive in one of the most messed up prisons in the world has changed quite drastically and yet still has the familiar premise and feel to it so that new shakeup isn’t so radical and is easy to adjust to. Regardless of that though, it’s still a fantastic story.
The setting and location of the story are still very strong; especially now that the story is starting to build up some more mythos and history. The things we learn about the place are quite interesting, even if the comic tends to rush over some of these areas. It’s hard to explain without revealing too much, but the new change in scenery definitely adds some new layers to the world.
My statement from the last volume regarding the characters still rings true here. Our main character, Ganta, is not nearly as interesting or memorable in comparison to the supporting cast. Now, we still get some more progression with the character as he’s put through some rather difficult and dangerous challenges. He again toughens up a bit, but also starts using his brain to get him out of tight spots and tries to maintain his identity despite the system around him beating down on him. We also get some more backstory and how he may have more of a connection to the Red Man than we originally knew. Again, he’s not nearly as interesting as the rest of the characters, but he’s definitely developing quickly enough.
Now the honor of most interesting character in this whole series goes to the girl who just roundhouse kicked a robot in the face.
With everyone else, there isn’t much character progression for the rest of our cast. They are all mostly still the same since the last volume, though Makina, the chief of the guards, is starting to question her role in the system considering how much she is actually being left out of all the true secrets in the place. The one with the biggest and most obvious difference is Tsunenaga Tamaki, who is the warden. It was clear that he was a bad guy obviously in the last volume, but this particular volume solidifies it and sets him up as the second big antagonist of the series next to the mysterious Red Man. The volume introduced a couple of new characters as well, but mostly towards the end of it, so we didn’t get to know them all that well outside of maybe getting a small idea of who they are. Not much development here overall.
This lack of development sort of stretches to our second lead, Shiro, as well in a way. I say “in a way” because while she maintains her incredibly goofy and childish nature and behavior through the comic, the ending reveals something about her. With the last volume, Shiro had an air of mystery around her. No one seemed to know who she was, even with the guards and higher ups, and she was super strong and durable for some unknown reason. While this surprise at the end does not really answer any of the mysteries around this, it certainly adds something more sinister to her character and will guarantee that this is a character to watch and see what happens with her. Again, like last time, her normal personality doesn’t really fit too much with the dark tone of the series, but it also does add levity in the series.
Like with the first volume, most of Vol. 2 is merely setting things up and getting the pieces together. It introduced more characters, more concepts, more ideas and themes, and got more mysteries and subplots going. The story itself is still very good and engaging, especially with the reveals it pulls and what it adds with all of its new elements. The volume also starts picking up in the action-oriented department; where the last volume only had one minor brief scene of it, this one has a couple of action set pieces to it.
Things are about to get rather icky soon.
The writing perfectly fine overall here, outside of the moments where the tone feels conflicted or a bit of cheesiness in some scenes. The volume plays up more of its genres this time around, including the psychological angle (which is very prevalent towards the end when you see the characters react to some certain situations and breakdown). Again, the comic does up the action, adding more excitement and tense situations to the story. With the big reveals in the middle portion, we get more of the science-fiction angle that’s rather fascinating (but it’s still one of those things that’s sadly glossed over here) and will hopefully get more explanation as time goes on. The horror angle is much stronger here than in the last volume, which was already rather strong. With the shocking reveals in this volume and some of the insanity of the violence and gore (hope you don’t get queasy easily), it gives the comic an extra push.
I also did take a look at the translation differences again between the Viz Media and Tokyopop versions. There are not too many differences here outside of the rewordings of dialogue and sound effects. For instance, one character says in the Tokyopop version: “You’ll love it, it’s to die for” and then in the Viz version: “You’ll love it to death.” No real big changes here (we get to still have a gloriously bad pun either way). There are some parts, though where the translation job here is much better than the other one.
For example, one of the characters introduced is called Crow and he has a catchphrase that he likes to repeatedly say. In the Tokyopop one, he keeps saying “On target” while the Viz is “Slice.” The “on target” doesn’t have the same sinister or creepy sound to it as “slice” does, especially considering who the character is (it’s a bit cheesy in some parts, but better than “on target”). There are also some name changes in areas. For instance, Tokyopop calls one thing Carnival of Corpses, which sounds better than what Viz calls the same thing: Carnival Corpse. Of course, there is also some more extra swearing as well that works a bit better in the Tokyopop version. Either way, both have their strengths and cons to them, but both get the job done and are enjoyable to read.
The artwork is good as the last volume. The characters look nice and distinct with the visuals, despite some of the faces, and the designs on the new characters look visually interesting and creative. The settings look nice, though there are some boring and empty areas. Layouts are easy to follow, which definitely help during the more action-oriented scenes. Speaking of which, the action looks incredible overall, with a lot of energy and impressive looking images (a bit static looking, but still impressive).
Then there is violence and overall graphic nature of it. It’s very well-drawn and visually striking and memorable, but it’s far more horrific and gory than anything the last volume had to offer, even including that massacre classroom. I joked that I hope the audience didn’t get queasy easily, but honestly, I mean it. This is not for the faint of heart and could easily put a lot of the more violent American comics to shame in some ways.
Remember folks, this weapon was made for prison use instead of military use. Great use of funds.
Is It Good?
Deadman Wonderland Vol. 2 is a fantastic second volume to the series, progressing the story more and having tons of great surprises and reveals in it. It still has a colorful cast of characters, an intriguing plotline, a great setting, and some fantastic looking artwork. There are still plenty of amazing, brutal, shocking, and heartbreaking things to come in this series, but it’s the kind of ride that you should jump aboard and see where it goes. Definitely recommended to any manga fan or person who wants to try something outside of the American comic scene.
Deadman Wonderland Vol. 2 is currently being released by Viz Media, with the third volume hitting stores tomorrow (June 10). The Tokyopop edition, along with four other volumes, are out of print and go for some high prices (though if you got them for their original price, they’d be about dollar more than these new editions). There is also an anime/TV adaption of the series out as well from Funimation, though it has a different ending than the series does. That’s what happens when you don’t have the official ending to a series you are adapting.