Death Parade was hailed as the best title of winter 2015, partly because of the hype it had from the fanbase of its prequel, the single OVA Death Billiards, and partly because of DAT CATCHY OPENING SONG. It’s a nice sound alright, and the colors are pretty, because Madhouse, but come on, it’s not fitting at all. The cheery stuff it shows has nothing to do with the gloomy and depressing tone of the series. Just like the opening of Madoka Magica it is trolling the viewer into expecting a completely different show.
This expands to the whole anime, since it constantly wants to trick the viewer, by hiding pretty much everything that is going on, until it’s all revealed at once with a tsunami of emotions following it. You are supposed to be initially puzzled and eventually shocked with the revelation. So yeah, the trump cards the show uses are mystery boxes and shock effect, stuff that I consider tactless. The former means nothing once it’s revealed and the latter is just cheap jump scares. And even so, it’s not even that good at it, since the thrill dissolves if it is used in every episode. It worked in Death Billiards because it was a single ova with the viewer being unsuspected, but if you try to pull the same trick a dozen times in a row, it loses its meaning, since you feel nothing after the second time.
The problems continue with the very protagonists. Strip them down to essentials and what do you get? An emotionless dude with no background or objectives, which may look cool but is otherwise impossible to relate with in any way. And a woman with amnesia, thus again someone with no background or objective. She is even used as a lobotomized askman type of character, left blank and oblivious, so she needs everything being constantly explained. This turns her into a passive observer and alien to the setting, making it harder to be immersed in it.
This is done deliberately, since the show tries to puzzle the viewer by keeping everything a secret. It is supposed to reveal it one chunk at a time, through whatever she asks… and does a pitiful job even then, since the exposition is terrible. Despite having a lobotomized askman, many explanations are not replies to her questions, but rather people explaining stuff without anyone around. Meaning, most of everything is lazy infodumping monologues where people are talking to thin air. And even so, by the time the series ends, almost nothing is explored or explained concerning the setting of the afterlife, and the themes of guilt and regret. Everything remains a mystery, including all those people you see in the opening. They barely get ten minutes of total screen time each.
So, what the hell were the characters doing for a dozen episodes if not gradually expositioning themselves and the setting? Well, they basically wasted most episodes on standalone cases. Some people will appear, they will play a game, and then the episode ends and are never seen again. The series is not completely episodic, since it does reveal a few things from time to time; but nothing really is explained or resolved by the end of it, so you might as well call it meaningless filler. Every arbiter has his own side story but it is never looked into and he/she ends up being defined only by a single personality trait. The two protagonists sort of have their issues resolved, but it’s not something that needed a dozen episodes to be taken care of. They just didn’t deal with the silly amnesia gimmick, up until the ending was close by.
Speaking of taking care of things, the show uses a really pretentious form of psychology, where people are not judged based on their actions but rather on how they feel about them. And apparently the best way to reveal that, is by brainwashing and driving them insane, without their knowledge or means to defend themselves. This means, motives are meaningless while emotional reactions are everything. This is further perplexed by how the arbiters who decide everything do not comprehend emotions, and yet they are supposed to reach a verdict based on those alone. And as if that wasn’t weird enough, they are not emotionless, since they clearly have emotions and express them all the time.
In case you are paying attention, it won’t take long to figure out how the whole reincarnation system is fundamentally flawed and unfair, not to mention irrational. The show will try to distract you by not explaining anything, and by throwing at your face a completely irrelevant opening song, second only to Frozen’s Let It Go. And if you are still unable to grasp such an obvious flaw, ponder about this: why should good people be evaluated only when they are at their worst, along with bad people who are always at their worst? Imagine what will happen when a boy scout and an asymptomatic serial killer, like the ones you find in Psycho Pass are judged this way. The boy scout will lose its shit out of guilt for not saving a cat from a tree and will be sent to the void, while the asymptomatic killer won’t give a shit and be sent for reincarnation. And even then, the outcome is always meaningless. If you fail, your soul is lost. If you pass, you reincarnate, only until you die and be judged again, until you fail regardless of previous judgments. You won’t even remember anything that happened in the afterlife, thus you don’t learn anything. Plus, they make it seem like despite all this process of letting only “good people” to reincarnate, the world is still a shithole.
Even the ending is a complete copout. The lead heroine has to be judged as well, after she conveniently regains her memories (something that was overlooked all this time by the arbiters for no real reason). Her test though is totally unfair compared to the other cases because, unlike the rest, she was given more than enough time and experience to make the right decision, a chance nobody else was given. So much for fair judgment! And it won’t matter anyways, since she won’t remember whatever happened there and can fail the next time she dies.
So basically you waste your time watching a dozen episodes of people getting manipulated, driven insane, and then judged unfairly by a bogus system. You can claim that one of the themes of the series is about pointing out that the system is unfair. So what was the point of spending most of the series in those stand alone cases, full of overblown dramatization, if in the end they all get the middle finger? All these characters get no catharsis regardless of what you think or feel about them.
And as if all that weren’t enough, the show is not even consistent with its own mood. Aside from the opening, there are whole episodes full of comedy and rule of cool, that feel completely out of place with the rest, and lessen its atmosphere.
Down to it, this show is a total mess and yet another example of how easily anime fans are manipulated to like total nonsense because of pretty colors and nice sounds. If I was an arbiter, I would send to the void anyone who considers it anything more than average. And yes, I would still be fairer than the bogus system of this series.
Have you ever wondered what happens after you die? Where do you go? Do you go to heaven? Hell? Are you reincarnated? Or, do you simply cease to exist? In Death Parade we get to see their version of an answer ... and it's a fascinating one!
After death, humans are either sent to the void or reincarnated. But for some, at the instant of their death, they arrive at Quindecim, a bar attended by the mysterious white-haired Decim. He challenges them to the Death Game, wherein they wager their lives and reveal their true natures. Decim himself is the ultimate arbitrator of who wins and who loses, who will go to the void, and who will be reincarnated.
Any normal person, when put under pressure like these people are, will break apart. I think that's honestly one of the biggest reasons that this anime succeeded. It didn't shy away from how flawed we are as humans and, instead, exploited those flaws. It was captivating!
As a fan of Death Billiards I was very eager to see a full anime, but at the same time I worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype ... but my worry was unfounded as the full anime was actually better than the original OVA.
I highly recommend Death Parade for anyone looking for a good psychological anime!
Death Parade is one of those odd ball anime. You can’t really put it in a specific genre. It doesn’t on the surface seem like a good anime, as I will explain, and yet, it just works. I believe the reason for this, is the abstractness of the goal of this anime. It seems to me to be an exploration of human emotion, how it is formed, and how it shapes us as people. It looks at how beings with no emotions would perceive us, and how bringing these together would influence each.
I look for a well thought out, unique and compelling story. A story that strikes a balance between the different elements, and simply demands recognition. I also look at how the ideas in the script are depicted and executed in the anime.
Unique to each genre
My heading here is ambiguous, I know. Usually here I would look into how the genre in which the anime falls, and the conventions and ideas one has surrounding that genre are incorporated into the story, and how it is depicted in the anime. I couldn’t do this for Death Parade. It simply just is too unique. If you were to place it an any one or even a dozen genres, you would still be leaving out so much about the story.
Balance is something that is elusive in this anime. It doesn’t on the surface seem to focus on anything at all, and therefore has nothing it needs to balance. Normally this would be a horrible thing, but when you look into this anime, it simply just works. It’s all-over-the-place-yet-nowhere-at-the-same-time feel is something that is both compelling and intriguing when you watch the anime. At first there seems to be no plot at all, yet as you delve deeper into the story, you find very emotional and touching themes.
Surprise - Confusion
In this anime, it’s not so much about surprise, but about confusion. It takes your mind and tosses it around in ways that would normally make me turn the PC off and through my mouse against the wall in fury, yet for some reason, it just works (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I).
Animation is what makes an anime an anime, and not a novel. It takes the written script to a whole new level, but there are many different facets to animation, and I will be looking at the three that I believe are the most important.
Colour is a central theme in Death Parade. It not only helps set the mood, which is very hard to describe and elusive in its own right, but draws you in in amazing ways. The colour scheme is dark and fascinating. It breathes life into the sets and is amazingly balanced. I can’t remember seeing a single prime colour, other than in the book depicted in later episodes. Every colour seems to be four shades too dark, and yet - again - it just works.
Animation style ties in very much with colour, as the interplay between the two is crucial. The style is what I would call a near-realistic style. It is far less cartoony, but instead seeks to be realistic in proportions and facial caricatures - within the bounds of anime, of course. It’s play with facial expressions, and its almost simplistic style makes everything sink in far better than if any other style was used.
I found motion to be within the expected ranges of quality, nothing extraordinary, but not lacking in any sense. It appeared as though it was done just well enough, and that is all it needs to be. Death Parade is not about action, it’s about telling a story, and about exploring deeper philosophical themes. But I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the ice-skating scene in the final episode. The motion was fluid, realistic, and simply breathtaking. It got the impression that this scene was a labour of love, and that no effort was spared or detail foregone in order to make this amazing. This is also the only scene, besides the opening theme’s visuals, where excessive motion was depicted, and it was marvellously done.
Sound plays an integral role in making an anime an anime. It creates mood, breeds feeling, and makes the anime more immersive. The voice quality was top notch, the acting well done, and the background sounds so subtle they got lost in the mood which they helped to form.
The opening and closing themes were very odd for anime, and yet they fit in perfectly with the series. When I listened to the lyrics, I couldn’t think of any way in which to improve the songs, or any songs that would fit better. The music themes catch the central idea behind the anime beautifully. A perfect harmony with the script. Truly a work of art.
It’s all about the people. Quite literally. Death Parade is the perfect example of a character driven anime. Almost nothing happens in the anime, there are no fight scenes, no antagonists, almost no motivations, and yet I couldn’t stop watching. The entire story is about the development of the two main characters Decim and Chiyuki (whose name is only revealed in the second last episode).
There are only two characters that I can honestly consider to be the main characters, Decim and Chiyuki. Both seem flat and plain, Decim is even limited to only two expressions, one of which he displays for the first time in the third last episode. The conversations between him and his frequent guests consist of almost purely seven sentences, and Chiyuki rarely speaks. Yet again, it just works.
Here I’m not even going to say anything. The characters seem more like furniture than characters, and yet it is completely intentional within the anime. Their non-existent personalities help to set the tone and push the two main characters towards their developmental explosion in the last four episodes.
Importance to Story
Here again, it seems on the surface as though the characters could all just be thrown out the window and nothing would change, and yet it is this very fact that makes them so important to the anime. Their non-existent personalities, the absence of any development in their character, are what is being commented on. It helps show you the world that they live in, and the philosophical ideas that the anime explores through the two main characters.
It feels as though nothing in this anime is right. The characters are flat, the story is non-existent, the conversations bland (on the surface), the settings repetitive - in fact I only counted five settings (not including flashbacks) in the entire anime, there is almost no character development for most of the series, I could go on and on. And yet this is what drives you to watch, and is what the makes the story so impacting if you watch it through to the end.
This is an example of an everything-is-wrong anime that
The stalemate that exists for most of the anime, made its climax all the more powerful for me. When Decim finally reached the climax of his sudden explosion of development, I literally found myself tearing up with him.
If you are a shounen fan, you will ball your eyes out after the first two episodes. But if you are looking for a thought provoking, and tear jerking anime, then this is the one for you.
Rarely do I delve into darker anime because many titles who try to go dark, do so in a contrived and shallow manner. that being stated, I do respect this genre and what it can offer if done well. And oh boy, does Death parade do it well.
As of writing this, only 9 episodes have aired, but quickly after starting the series I found myself binge watching all of them. That for me is a rare occurrence with this type of anime.
So, down to business. This anime is based off a short named death billiards released some years back. It features an interesting and well thought out cast whos cerebral personalities play very well with eachother while not falling prey to overrused anime tropes.
To summarize the plot (without spoilers), this is predominately a mystery anime with each show playing into the main arc of the story while also having a smaller mystery subplot. When people die they go to limbo. In limbo, there is a bar. In that bar, the bartender makes you play a game against another recently deceased person in order to decide both of your fates. Heaven, or hell?
During these games which you stake your life on, memories are unleashed that were previouisly hidden from you. More often than not people lose their minds at these realizations which makes the show very interesting and sometimes heartbreaking.
The artwork is gorgeous. Even though the majority of the anime takes place inside a bar somewhere in limbo, ithe scope feels gigantic and not at all minimal. Every time the intro comes on, the dance equence with the unnamed (as of yet) dark haired girl and the bar tender is so well done it astonishes me.
the color palette they chose for the show, even thoiugh washed out, convbeys exactly what they want to convey. The art is very well done.
The storyline is also great. I didn't expect to like this as much as I did but although it does show what animals humans can be sometimes it also as of this point in the show is starting to examine our humanity as well. What makes a person bad? Is there a truly bad person? Is there ever a truily good person? What makes good people do bad things?
If you don't like trying to grasp moral philosophy I'd pass this one up as it does get pretty deep, but for someone like myself who adores strong dialogue, character studies, and moral philosophy, I ate it up.
the soundtrack is meh. I mean it's good, but aside from the intro sequence not much really stood out to me. The end credits and intro are phenomenal in my opinion, but it just doesnt stand out as anything truly special.
This actually doesn't bother me though because you're not watching this for sound design, you're watching it for the mystery.
The voice acting is SUPERB. I don't know where they find the majority of these actors but they deliver such solid performances that I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing some of the first time actors grabbed for this in many other anime.
If you like deathnote, I could see you liking this. It has the same bleak atmosphere with shreds of hope thrown in. Both animes are supremely different but they kind of feel the same to me.
One thing I didn't like was how heavy handed some of the judgements of people are. One in particular stuck with me as having been very unfair to one of the parties... BUT were maybe starting to see in the latest episodes that the judgement system may be flawed? and the senior staff in limbo knows this?
Anyways, it's a great show and I definitely reccomend watching the first 3-4 episodes before making a decision to watch it or drop it.
***May Consist of Spoilers...
There is a place after death that is neither heaven nor hell...
Death Parade is about life, death and the darkness of the human heart. There is this bar that exists somewhere and if one enters, that person is forced to play a game. These games consist of billiards, bowling, cards, but are not limited to and are played with another person, typically a stranger. If you win the game, you get to leave. If you lose the game, you die. We find out in the first episode that the guests are already deceased. The games they play don't decide whether they live or die but determine if their souls are reincarnated or discarded into the void forever. Each game is geared toward tugging out the person's darkest part of their soul, if applicable, by reflecting on his/her life and death experiences. Bartenders at this bar, arbiters of the dead, pass judgment on the contestant’s performance and decide their fate.
The colors used was dark, contrasting well with the hues of purple, mahogany and other darker tones. Though it was dark, it definitely created such a bright and fascinating world and concept.
The animation style used seemed realistic enough and there were few symbols and hidden Easter eggs in the series as it progressed. It seemed to incorporate basic religious paths of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism along with other religions in the show. The religious reincarnation symbols and other religious imagery is expressed so do keep an eye out for them – the lotus, mandalas and jellyfish are to name a few.
Death Parade’s opening theme song, “Flyers” by Bradio is hip and catchy. It draws nicely a fun, harmony balance – a bit different than the dark, intense storyline of the show. We see in the video, the cast also in a different light – upbeat and more gratifying as they let loose with drinks in their hands and enjoy lots of dancing.
It’s ending theme song, “Last Theater” by Noisycell, tugs at the heartstrings and the lyrics are quite fitting. It displays emotion in the vocals, making one feely. Just close your eyes for a while and bang your head to the music...
Overall the music within the show creates mood, ambience and feelings based on what is being expressed at the time. The voice quality of both the singers and voice actors are superb.
The two main characters, Decim and Chiyuki, truly make the show. They correspond and compliment each other well due to their perceived expressions and views on life. They are like the yin and yang, balancing what they hold dear or see - Decim, the arbiter, expressionless and emotionless while Chiyuki is human with all human facets.
The supporting characters help to push the two main characters more into the spotlight along with aiding to the storyline.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Its compelling and interesting concepts made me think and dwell about life, death and the afterlife. Its intense episodes captivated the heart and emotions. Some episodes made me question the arbiter’s judgment and sparked conversation. Also, the imagery and symbolism used was breathtaking and corresponded well with what was trying to be portrayed.