Death Parade Review- Really Though Just Go Watch It
The featured picture is a fanart of Decim that I drew. Hope everyone likes it.
It’s been several days now and I’ve watched Death Parade twice in the span of one week. Once by myself and a second time with my sister. Being only 12 episodes I thought that I might as well. It actually made me question a few things that I thought had confused me during my first watch and ultimately I think most of the few things I didn’t ‘get’ were there. I just had to think about them in a slightly different way. If you’ve been following me and reading my journals during the webcomic updates you should already know that I absolutely love Death Parade but that doesn’t mean this review is going to be all constant praise. I do have a couple small things to point out that I think could have been done better or differently, but for the most part I certainly think Death Parade is a show that everyone should watch.
LOTS of Spoilers Ahead
Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Yes, let’s quickly address what absolutely everyone has to say about Death Parade… Its opening is one of the best anime openings you’ll ever damn see. Personally though, as much as I love it I kept thinking that this was getting me psyched for an entirely different show. The tone of the opening clashes so horribly with the actual anime that I don’t quite understand what they were thinking. The opening “Flyers” gets me pumped to watch some weird swing party anime where everyone is dancing and being funny and being really damn cool, not for psychological examinations of people conducted by supernatural bartenders after death to determine whether one should go to Heaven or Hell (actually Reincarnation or The Void, but that’s just semantics). That still didn’t stop me from watching the OP every single time, it just doesn’t fit at all…
The most praise I can give this show is in the strong protagonists and the roll they play in the larger story. In Death Parade when a pair of humans die at around the same moment they get their souls taken to one of many bars in a large building. There, their recent memories are wiped and the owner of the bar the end up at tricks them into thinking that they were kidnapped and if they don’t play a game against another person they will be killed. Of course, the bartender is actually an Arbiter, essentially a judge who draws out the darkness of humans through their games in an attempt to make the most accurate judgment. In reality the humans are in no ‘real’ danger as they are already dead, but without them knowing that the humans end up committing vile acts upon each other thinking that this is the only way to survive. Over the coarse of a game both participants will start to have their memories come back to them only for one of them to end up figuring out they are dead by the time the game ends.
Decim, the Arbiter of the bar Quindecim, is the protagonist of Death Parade although one could make a strong case that his human assistant Chiyuki is if not more so the real main character. The thing I liked so much was that Decim at first glance seems to be an incredibly typical suave and always mild-mannered gentleman. Just enough personality to keep him from being boring yet just enough mystery to keep you from thinking you know everything about him. In truth I liked it so much as you learn that he was purposefully made this way -emotionless- as are all Arbiters. He displays several odd tendencies involving his guests that make you think until the halfway through reveal that Decim is in actuality an Arbiter implanted with human emotions so as to potentially create more fair and ‘human’ judgments. Being that Arbiters cannot either live or die the superior that handled his creation, Nona, wanted to see if the system could be changed for the better through one such as Decim.
Chiyuki serves a strong purpose to Decim’s growth as a character yet also is the focus of the story just as much as he. She’s a rare anomaly who actually remembered she died after entering the Quindecim and as such Decim was unable to convince her to play any games. She then has her memories wiped and Nona commands Decim to treat her as his assistant for several months before he ultimately has to render a judgment unto her too. Despite the various guests that Decim and Chiyuki encounter in their time together, Chiyuki is the crux of the entire series and the impact she leaves within Decim’s heart. Their relationship is the strongest aspect of the series. They have an incredible chemistry together and while nothing romantic is ever explicitly shown I think it’s safe to say they were made to have strong feelings for one another yet are ultimately aware that given the situation it would be impossible to act upon them. The heart-wrenching finale is a spectacle to behold and anyone who was hoping for any such romantic entanglement is going to be very much disappointed when the ending finally comes. Decim finally grows to show those human emotions at the climax when he thrusts Chiyuki into an almost unfair situation when it comes time to actually judge her, and the amount of pain he felt for the first time in his life still resonates within me even now when I recall it. Although she may have left him, Decim will never forget his time with her. Chiyuki left him with far more feelings than romantic love… she taught him both joy and sorrow- something that will be invaluable in making judgments from here onward.
There is a lot I can praise Death Parade for beyond the lead characters as well. The rest of the cast is very interesting if a little under-developed, with Nona probably having the most chances to shine. The old man Oculus is set up as something of a big-bad yet he only ever ends up raising more questions than anything else. I’ll get to this later. The animation is beyond superb. I have to give a rousing applause to Madhouse for making such an attractive anime. The whole series has an extremely odd, dark art direction that fuses gothic nightclubs with Buddhist motifs and jellyfish if that makes any sense. Yet the visual presentation and cool color pallets set the mood wonderfully well. I’ll also praise the great use of 3D backgrounds. Death Parade makes a very strong case as to why CGI can be an absurdly beautiful thing when done the right way. Anyone who disagrees with me I simply ask them to watch Chiyuki’s figure skating scene from episode 11. By rendering the backgrounds in CGI it gives the animators one less thing to worry about and when not done sluggishly it suits the tone of the world. The music of Death Parade was also really strong. I’m going to admit that I don’t always pay a lot of attention to the OST when watching an anime but I might becoming more sensitive to it. Death Parade had a beautiful soundtrack of pulsing thrill music and smooth lounge pianos tinged with darkness. It fit the mood perfectly. I’ll end the praise section by bringing up how much I loved the ending song too. I like how most episodes changed the visuals to match what happened in the episode and give you more context about what just happened giving you an actual reason to enjoy listening to the ending song. The engrish was also pretty competent for once and it had a very good melodramatic scream to it.
Ok, really I only have one thing that sort of bugged me. I did have two but then I re-watched the series and came to my own conclusion about the second thing that bugged me so just read on for now. When patrons of Quindecim play a game the thing is set up so that they recover bits of their lost memories piece by piece as the game progresses. This kind of bothered me slightly… I don’t know. All of the lost souls were very interesting and everything but I felt that this set up was slightly contrived. It let them conveniently deal out tidbits of their lives at a time and it did heighten the drama and suspense some part of me kept feeling that maybe there was a better way to do this. It didn’t negatively effect the series much as a whole, just having it happen over and over again through the episodes started to feel a bit convenient for me.
By far my biggest criticism with Death Parade was with the actions of the character Ginti, at least during my first watch. It wasn’t until I watched it a second time and really tried to think about what he was doing that it started to make a lot more sense. What bothered me was he kept the girl he was supposed to be judging in episode 6 around until episode 11 and they never really address why. He ultimately tricks her into going into the void willingly because he ‘doubted his judgment’ and was giving her a choice to go and rescue the guy she liked. You see, at first this kind of pissed me off because all it did was establish Ginti as an asshole who tricks people for no reason and force a really dramatic twist. But now I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. Some of Nona’s dialogue implies that keeping a human around and Arbiter starts to give them more feelings and emotions… something that Decim accepts wholeheartedly due to his desire to better understand the various guests of Quindecim. But for Ginti, keeping Mayu around made him uncomfortable. He really did doubt his judgment of her and kept her around so he could think about it more but Mayu’s presence started to get into him. How Ginti differs from Decim is his belief that Arbiters must be soulless, emotionless monsters who exist only to judge without questioning. So, sensing that he was growing weaker he gives Mayu an impossible choice and practically forces her to cast herself into the void. Then, Ginti goes back to ‘normal’ and is validated in his idealogy… but we see that in the end this may have effected him more than it let on. He made a kokeshi doll in Mayu’s memory and his dialogue implies that his pet cat abandoned him ever since he judged Mayu. All in all I really appreciate an anime that makes me think about its story a little bit.
Death Parade is a phenomenal anime. Its shortcomings are extremely few and the positives I could have written multiple more blog posts about. I want to address my belief that the show firmly needs a second season. Chiyuki has reincarnated and Decim has become more than an Arbiter, but a person capable of love and loss. I want to see how this effects his judgments, I want to see if he still cheats during the games ever, I want to see how he handles the more morally ambiguous of his guests now that his world view is less black and white… Oculus has a lot of explaining to do, too, as his story barely gets touched on. I also deeply want to see Ginti’s continued battle against the sensation of humanity and have him develop as a character. Whether he accepts emotions and eventually reaches redemption or denies it and furthers himself as a monster I feel there’s strong story hook in this premise. I’m really hoping Death Parade continues although I’m certainly aware that the story works just fine how it is. I would really just like some of these lingering questions answered and feel there’s more than enough material they didn’t touch on to warrant a second season.
Death Parade is pretty dope and you should go watch it.