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Anime Tragedies: Legacies Unfinished

Anime Tragedies: Legacies Unfinished

Anime is so much more than simply cartoons produced in Japan; it is an entirely different universe of animation, world-building and character interactions which often surpasses its casual western counterparts by leaps and bounds. Each anime tells its own journey and develops its characters in ways which traditional cartoons never could- elements of maturity, character development and a sense of continuity across episodes make it easily distinguishable from the more loose storytelling style of western works. It should come as no surprise to realize that cartoons which maintain these themes often go on to be regarded as superior in quality; examples include Avatar, Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, and so on.

Unfortunately, differences in art and world-building aren't the only things that set anime apart from cartoons. For an anime to recieve follow-up seasons, it must appeal to both domestic (Japanese) and international audiences: something which isn't a hurdle for western cartoons, as their local and international audiences aren't vastly different in terms of cultural appeal. This discrepancy (among other factors) has often lead to several anime being terminated before they could tell their full story. Be it differences in appeal, limitations in budget, lack of a source material (manga/light novel) or some unforseen calamity, the titles we'll look at today came to a premature end, leaving behind a legacy of disappointment and several unanswered questions.

Our highlight this week is on two such Anime Tragedies with Legacies forever unfinished.

Highschool of the Dead: Till Death Do Us Part

Combining ecchi, zombies, horror and coarse teenage humor into a single production is no easy task, but HOTD did so with masteful ease and simplicity. Released in 2010, the anime took the world by storm and remained one of the most popular anime throughout that year, eventually gaining a cult-like status among fans of the ecchi genre. High school of the Dead was one of the first anime I watched and it did nothing to persuade me in favour of the negative stereotypes which surrounded anime culture in the early 2010s. The story started off raw as road-burn and wasted no time before thrusting the viewer head-first into boobs, flesh-eating zombies and a dramatic death- all in that particular order... in just the first episode.

As the series progressed, so did its elements of shock, perversion and dread, culminating in a climactic season finale that left us wanting so much more, even though it seemed to end on an optimistic note. Perhaps what distinguished HOTD from other anime was that even in its deepest moments of fan-service, it never forgot its story: this lead to a fast-paced narrative which built tension (all puns intended) through a crescendo of calamities and titties and made the anime the class that it's regarded as today. HOTD had it all: a good story, an active fanbase and mass appeal both in Japan and abroad, reaching #4 on the New York Times Best Selling Manga List for 2011. At San Diego Comic-Con "Best and Worst Manga of 2011" panel, it was listed among the "Worst Manga" in a series of rapid-fire questions, topping charts from the bottom as well.

Poised as it seemed to claim greatness, fate had a different ending in mind for the series. The first (and only) season of the anime adapted the content in the first 4 volumes of the manga. Based on the popularity of the anime, a second season was practically guaranteed but tragedy was quick to befall Daisuke Sato, the creator of the series. Diagnosed with Ischaemic Heart Disease, Sato took a long hiatus from the manga, returning only once in 2013 to release a single chapter following almost 3 years of radio silence. Just as quick as he returned, Sato was gone again, maintaining a second period of absence from his work until 2017 when he passed away at the age of 52, leaving behind 30 chapters across 7 volumes and a legacy fated to remain incomplete for the rest of its days.

Shouji Sato, co-creator of the HOTD manga, went on record in 2019 to state that he would not be working on the remainder of the series as he felt that only his brother was suited to continue the manga to its natural, intended conclusion- a conclusion that Daisuke took with him to his grave, leaving the High School of the Dead manga (and anime) just about as dead as they come.

Deadman Wonderland: Straight To La La-Land

2011 was a year to remember: several notable titles made their debut, including Blue Exorcist, Fate/Zero and Steins;Gate. Deadman Wonderland was- on release- a title which many expected to join this list. Unfortunately, the tragedy of Deadman Wonderland remains one of the most avoidable disasters in the history of anime- one which would cause the story to quite literally collapse on itself (that's technically a spoiler, but you don't know that, do you?) and sign the anime's death warrant long before it hit our TV screens.

The premise of Deadman Wonderland was simple: Japan has spent a decade in recovery following a massive earthquake that sunk ¾ of Tokyo and Ganta's an ordinary kid that has absolutely nothing to do with it. A mundane morning at school turns into a bloodbath when Ganta finds his class under seige by an unknown maniacal entity he dubs the "Red Man". Before he knows it, his classmates have been splattered all over the room and he's the sole survivor of the ordeal- a fact which raises the suspicion of the government, who is quick to label him responsible and condemns him to life in a privately owned prison known as Deadman Wonderland... and all of this happens in the first 15 minutes of the show.

Ganta quickly comes to realize that the Wonderland is nothing more than a glorified torture exhibition where inmates put their lives on the line to earn Cast Points: jail currency which buys them the antidote to a poison which is flowing through the bodies of all the inmates. From what little information the viewer is given about the audience's reaction to Deadman Wonderland, it seems that the true nature of the prison hasn't been made public and the spectators tend to believe that the shows are put on just for fun.

That essentially covers the essence of the entire anime, with the rest of the 12 episodes focused on Ganta's interactions with various other inmates as he is forced to engage in underground battles with them. The show's first season concluded to largely positive reviews and the premise was interesting enough to lay down the infrastructure for several follow-up seasons, should the franchise havw decided to follow that route. However, manga readers were quick to notice some flaws in the anime from the getgo; flaws which would snowball into an early demise for an otherwise promising series.

From the very beginning, the anime's style of telling its story had a relative sense of urgency to it. Even watchers oblivious of the manga were able to note a certain haste incorporated into the way the story was told, making it seem almost as if the anime was running on a deadline. This, coupled with the brevity with which the manga material was adapted, detracted from several key points in the show and made the story seem superficial and the characters appear hollow. What should have been tragic characters with heart-wrenching backstories were reduced to mere vessels of edge.

Poor adaption was taken to new heights in the latter half of the anime, as a few key characters were omitted in the adaptation from the manga. Not only did this create a divide in the story, it effectively terminated any hope of the story proceeding beyond the first season, as these characters were pivotal to the story in the latter half of the manga. What the Deadman Wonderland anime changed from the manga, it either hastily covered up or altogether ignored until it reached a point where further adaptation of the source material was simply no longer possible.

The reviews didn't kill Deadman Wonderland, and neither did the anime. What neutered the series was the shortsightedness of its own staff and the poor way in which it was adapted from the manga. Even so, there was significant uproar when the anime's second season was "cancelled", a testament to just how interesting the basic premise of the series was. Unlike High School of the Dead however, the manga for Deadman Wonderland has been completed and remains accessible to all those keen on finding out the answers to some of the biggest secrets of the show... secrets which shall never reach our screens outside of a complete reboot of the show- a fact which seems increasingly unlikely with every passing year that puts yet another nail into the coffin that harbors the Deadman Wonderland anime.

That's all the Anime Tragedies we've got for you this week, folks! If you'd like a part two with emphasis on two more titles, we welcome your feedback on Discord, Instagram and even Whatsapp! Give us a shout and tell us what you'd like us to cover next week! Until then, keep living your passion!
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