As the devious nature of the inmates at Deadman Wonderland is kicked up to comical proportions there is one element of the show that remains striking and sobering. During the ending of each episode the viewer is treated to a series of tableaus depicting current inmates and officers as they once were, free from the dread and dark of the prison they have come to inhabit.
It’s a technique that’s been used before, most recently in Highschool of the Dead as the end of each episode a billboard depicts the past, present and perhaps future lives of the protagonist survivors of the zombie plague. The juxtaposition between the terror of the present and the happiness of the past serves as shorthand for showing just how far the times have gone off course. It isn’t just happiness though. True the halcyon days shown in each vignette depict happiness but there is also a sense of naivety. It’s not only joy we see, but a kind of innocence that has long been stamped out. In going to Deadman Wonderland, not just the inmates have been led down a path they did not expect.
First most obviously we have Igarashi Ganta. The protagonist of the series and probably the character most shocked about the seeming dead-end life has taken him to. Now thrust into a world of supernatural gladiatorial combat he can never get back those moments he had, smiling, and enjoying life with his friends.
Next is Kiyomasa Senji a.k.a. Crow and with him the first time we might wonder just how it is those incarcerated at Deadman Wonderland have come to be so. Crow is depicted as brash and sadistic, constantly itching for a fight. It’s a far cry from the seeming upstanding young police officer surrounded by cheery comrades. If Ganta’s friends are any indication, Crow can probably also not ever see his brothers in arms again.
It is when Takami Yoh and his sister Minatsuki a.k.a Hummingbird the depiction of innocence is hammered home. The look in Yoh’s eyes is both timid and hopeful. That he now is in the lap of the ringmaster of the prison is testament to how far he’s gone for his sister. With Minatsuki we wonder about her nature. It seems she was psychotic from a young age (perhaps from Trauma related to her mother) but in this picture (before the Red Hole) she is bright and without care. Is it in the fate of those with The Branches of Sin to end up in Deadman Wonderland? Is it in their nature, or as the director had said, something in their blood?
Next, in what is to me the most interesting juxtaposition, Makina the head of the prison guard staff is shown unsurprisingly as a military woman, perhaps a mercenary in a South American jungle not unlike Roberta in Black Lagoon. The fact that she ruthlessly upholds security in Deadman Wonderland is not necessarily surprising but I wonder if she herself expected to end up in a place full of shadowy purposes and whispers of the unnatural. She seems to be a straightforward woman with straightforward goals. Perhaps more accustomed to following than outright leading, nevertheless she does not enjoy being left out of the chain of command. She seems willing to forgive the injustices of the prison, even perhaps partaking of them herself. That there are events separate to her knowledge occurring in Deadman Wonderland is an insult to her position and authority.
A character we have yet been introduced to follows and then we are treated to a very interesting view of the current de facto head of Deadman Wonderland, Tsunenaga Tamaki. A person thus far depicted utterly unscrupulously we see instead a person not far from the stereotypical otaku. He sits in the dark with three computer screens flashing while playing a console video game. That he now plays with peoples’ lives in his sadistic game might come as a shock to his hikkikomori past self. Yet the trappings are there; the stuffed animals looming in the background and foreground could foretell that all it takes is a push in the right direction for him to become the childish, bloodthirsty fiend we now know.
A few more characters we haven’t been introduced to yet and then we see a character that from behind looks suspiciously like Kazumasa Kozuji, the ruffian boxer whom was killed while trying to defeat Ganta in the Dog Race of the second episode. He is depicted hosting a happily squealing toddler aloft as others grab on to his clothes, perhaps wanting to be the next in the game. If my suspicion is correct though, he has eyes only for the baby girl, his daughter. However there is a second character in the picture that I believe is of consequence. The clown handing the balloons out to the children bears a passing resemblance to the gluttonous Masu whom we were just introduced to in episode six. It seems to be a fitting position for person now so obviously disturbed as Masu. That he is also facing away from the viewer does not bode well.
Lastly we have hints of what’s to come in the show. Ganta is again depicted but this time younger, and with Shiro. A woman in a lab coat drapes her arms about them and Ganta clutches a small action figure in his left hand. Clearly as the viewer already knows there was a time, when Shiro and Ganta were great friends, that Ganta has forgotten. That Shiro clearly remembers these times makes one wonder just what Shiro’s past has been like and how much she has changed.
As the sun sets in the background and the floating tones of Shiny Shiny by Nirgilis play down, I can’t help but wonder what it is the prisoners’ dream of. Could these scenes not be depictions of the past but of dreams? Perhaps it is of dreams long past gone. Perhaps they are flashbulb memories burned into the back of their closed eyelids. The effectiveness of the snapshots brings perspective on the lives of the people in Deadman Wonderland. Maybe not outright redeeming the farcical assault to the senses that has occurred to Ganta one after another, it does have a mitigating effect that makes us care just a little bit more for the characters, even if the situations that they are in are a little unbelievable.