Slight spoilers ahead.
The story starts with a devastating earthquake hitting Japan, leaving most of Tokyo underwater. Ten years later, 14-year-old Igarashi Ganta is joking around with his friends in class when a mysterious “Red Man” appears and kills everyone in Ganta’s class--except him. Ganta passes out in the classroom, but later regains consciousness to find out that he is the sole suspect in his classmates’ murders, which he is convicted of and sentenced to death.
Ganta is sent to Deadman Wonderland, a privately owned prison that uses its inmates to entertain the public. It’s purpose is to gain money to rebuild Tokyo. Supposedly
. Ganta is placed in a collar (that he later learns emits poison that can only be counteracted by “candy”) and finds himself thrust in this bizarre prison life where inmates are mutilated and killed for the enjoyment of others. The public, however, believes that these “games” are staged.
This volume basically chronicles Ganta’s “introduction” into the system. There isn’t a lot of time spent on his life, his trial, or his classmates’ death. The readers are pretty much thrust into the beginning of his new life at Deadman Wonderland. You learn a little about the rules in his new home. Even though there is a “rule book,” you only learn pieces of the “rules” as Ganta learns the rules (of course he hasn’t read the rule book, silly) instead of having everything spelled out for the readers.
At first, I thought I would only give this three stars. I was enjoying the story, for sure, but I wasn’t bowled over. Around the middle of the story, though, I was trying to hurry through so I could find out what happened next. The pace picked up considerably as more characters and variables were introduced and as Ganta struggled with finding some way to make his prison stay bearable, which he at first decides will be done by following the rules of the prison--until he finds out there are too many conflicting rules in that place.
Two of the characters introduced in the story fascinated me--Shiro and Yō.
I really enjoyed Shiro. Shiro is very childlike and loyal. She’s quick and dexterous, seeming to view the prison as a playground more than a punishment. I love how protective she is of Ganta, even going as far as trying to ensure that he won the game they were in together. They seem to have a history together that Ganta can’t quite remember which dates back to the Tokyo earthquake. Ganta has blocked out the event, but Shiro remembers.
Then, there’s Yō. When we first meet Yō, he seems mostly innocent. He appears very friendly and somewhat shy, but as the story progresses, we’re given hints that something sinister is going on behind Yō’s mask. Even later in the story, we find out that the man overseeing the facility is using Yō to spy on Ganta and giving him large sums of the prison currency in exchange for information. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Yō and his motivations.
There’s a supernatural/sci-fi element that is hinted at throughout the story, also, but never fully explored, but I’m guessing, given the way this ended, that we’re about to find out so much about that part of the story and this “branches of sin” thing. Will definitely be reading the next volume soon. And I hope they start answering some of the questions I have like where are Ganta’s parents? Did they die in the earthquake? Great read overall, though