Death Billiards is a rather unassuming title. It is a short that only has a ½ hour episode going for it with an interesting name but a lacking synopsis. What story could possibly be told in a half an hour that could engage you? Well this hidden gem not only told it well but left me wanting more.
Unlike my other reviews, this one won’t be as lengthy. This is because it is only one episode and thus does not need a lengthy review.
Imagine, you suddenly find yourself in an elevator that leads you to a strange bar. When you try to recollect just how you got there you suddenly can’t remember. Another person also comes into the bar, you shake hands for the first time and introduce yourselves. Then the bartender tells you that you two will play a game against each other, the prize is your life.
This is the story of death billiards. It appears simple enough; an old man is paired against a young man in a game of billiards to fight for their life (sounds a lot like the MAL summary, hm?). But as you progress further into the episode more of the story is revealed. it’s an enriching story about life and death that weaved very nicely with how human beings come to terms with both.
As expected of Madhouse the art and animation were absolutely stunning. The characters were simple in their design, made to look normal in their peculiar environment. This combined with the matte, purple color scheme of the show you, as the audience, know that you are in for a dark and unnatural ride.
How would you act knowing that you had to play a game for your life? Even though we only get one episode with these two players; their life, their character, and their desperation paints a perfect and rather grim picture on the human psychology. Their true nature is revealed during the game, which is just so raw and true to us that I couldn't help but relate and sympathize with them. We don’t get too much on their backgrounds, but it’s just enough to understand their lives and how they ended up playing pool together, which is more than enough for the show.
Overall I was very impressed. Like I have stated, the art and animation was beautiful, the characters felt so real, and the story is entirely enthralling and rather refreshing. If you have a spare half an hour just watch it. And if you DO end up loving the show, or if you’re reluctant to watch a short never fear! Madhouse will be producing the anime ‘Death Parade’, which will be the adaptation to Death Billiards. It’ll be coming out along with the other winter 2015 season anime, and if staying true to 'Death Billiards' should prove to be a very good show.
I never thought I would write a review on a 25 min movie... but oh well. Death Billiards exceeded all my expectations. It had me on the edge of my seat (bed) from beginning to end. As we speak I am watching Death Parade which was spawned from this masterpiece. It's fast paced, well written and leaves you with a wow-feeling. I don't know how I can tell you how well done this is without spoiling anything, so I'm just going to tell you one thing: watch it. (the reason I didn't give it 10/10 is because it had kind of an abrupt ending and I wanted more of a closure)
so amazing to see more of this anime, love the story arc so much in the main anime and it's nice for a little dip back into it. PLus that little hug Decim gave that dude at the end was so cute T^T
What I Liked: Great character designs. Good use of colour to evoke ambiance, with a nice contrast between the cool bar scenes and the warm flashbacks. Love the exuberant design of the bar. Story is cohesive and well-constructed, and screentime is used effectively. Avoids the glaring pitfalls of the Survival Game genre. Solid animation.
What I Didn't: Yuuichi Nakamura's performance as The Man was a bit too aggressive at times. YMMV on the rather ambiguous ending.
Final Verdict: As engrossing as it is stylish, Death Billiards is a rather well-crafted short exploring themes of morality and mortality through the thoughts and actions of two very different men locked in a game to the death. While it does have a bit of a head-scratcher of an ending, it is still an interesting and worthwhile supernatural thriller.
How to thoroughly review a title whose total length is only half an hour, that is the question.
Imagine you arrive at a bar. There are only 3 other people there: the greeter, the barman, and one man just sat at the bar drinking. You share a drink and bum a cigarette. Then you are convinced to play a game of pool. However, you cannot remember how you arrived at this bar in the first place.
This is the spoiler free synopsis of the story. But it is a story with so much depth it's hard to believe it took such a small amount of time to watch.
The animation is smooth and well executed throughout. Smoking is something that always bothers me in anime, as cigarettes in the real world never seem to behave the way they do in the media, however even these were well done enough to not bother me (petty I know, but hey ho). The bar itself looks incredible, as does the table and balls the men are using for their game. Smooth action sequences throughout.
The sound is well executed with competent voice actors playing roles well, really letting their emotions show well. Couple with ambient music playing through important setpieces and the sound really helps immerse the watcher in the show.
Characters. Wow. I never thought I'd be able to enjoy a small cast of 4 characters where we never even learn any of their names. But I really, really did. I may not know their names, but I feel I know an awful lot about at least the two playing the game. Anything about the barstaff is pure speculation, but fun to do anyway.
Overall, it's half an hour. And half an hour you seriously wont regret! By the end it will feel like nowhere near enough time as the anime leaves you with far more questions than it ever begins to answer! Between watching this anime and writing this review I must have spent at least two hours reading as much extra information as I could find about this short that would not give me spoilers for the full series that follows it. The mere fact I found 10 different interpretations of the ending in that time, all of which had their own merits and weaknesses shows how impactful this short is!