Death Parade Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon
What happens when we die? Do we go to a fluffy cloud heaven, or burn in hell for all eternity? Are we permanently trapped in a featureless black void? Do we simply cease to exist, with our memories and consciousness vanishing forever? Or do we wake up in a mysterious bar, where a white-haired bartender asks us to play a game with our lives on the line? This is the question that Death Parade answers, although it’s made clear from the beginning that the answer is not clear-cut.
|The alcohol is just there to help you cope with the revelation that you're dead.|
Whenever someone dies, their soul is sent to the afterlife to be judged. If they pass the judgement, they get sent to be reincarnated. If not, they get sent to the Void for all eternity. One area of this afterlife, Quindecim, is a bar tended by the stoic, mysterious Decim – one of many Arbiters who judge the souls that visit them. He’s helped by an assistant, a black-haired woman who can’t remember anything about her past, not even her name. For convenience’s sake, I’ll call her Onna from here on out.
Death Parade is somewhat episodic in nature – after the first couple of episodes set things up, each episode progresses as follows: two people arrive at Quindecim with no memories of the events leading up to their death. After finding out that they cannot leave the bar, they are then asked by Decim to play a game, with the implication that if they lose, their lives are forfeit. The guests begin to play the game (which changes each episode and ranges from games like darts and bowling to pool and twister) and over the course of the episode, they begin to remember fragments of the events that occurred before they died. At the end, they are judged based on their memories and their actions within the bar, and they get sent to the appropriate ‘afterlife’.
If that sounds a bit depressing and bittersweet…well, it’s because it is. Given that the show deals with death and the impact of the lives that people lead, it’s pretty obvious that there are going to be a lot of emotional moments. But one of the best things about Death Parade is that it manages to capture the full spectrum of human emotion, and it does so effortlessly. Yes, there are many, many sad moments and one or two scary scenes, but there are also a large number of heartwarming scenes, as well as one or two that even made me laugh. The third episode in particular is a perfect example of this, as it managed to make me smile, laugh, cry and feel all warm and fuzzy inside (sometimes all at once).
The characters are another highlight, especially Decim and Onna. The main focus of the series is how the two interact, and how they help each other to develop and come to terms with their situations. Decim is a calm, emotionless person who very rarely shows any emotion, whereas Onna is a fiery, emotional woman who struggles with the consequences of having lost all her memories. Their relationship with each other is explored in great detail, and the last few episodes in particular really shows how their time together has affected them.
There are other characters too, of course. Aside from all of the guests, other Arbiters include Nona, Decim’s higher-up who is very interested in how he acts; Ginti, who has a rather low opinion of humans and likes to pressure his guests; and Oculus, an elderly-looking man who likes to play pool with Nona. Unlike with Decim and Onna, these characters feel somewhat underused at times. For example, Nona takes a personal interest in how Decim develops over the course of the show, and she comes into conflict with Oculus at one point, but this subplot is largely unresolved by the end of the last episode.
However, Ginti does get a significant amount of screentime, with one episode devoted entirely to him. Like Decim, he ends up with an assistant, although unlike Decim he isn’t too happy with his situation. Mayu, a soul who was sent to Ginti to be judged, ends up staying with him after her judgement and she acts as the main source of comic relief in the series. Whilst her humour can seem a tad forced at times, it was often welcome, as it prevented the show from getting too dark.
The main issue that I have with Death Parade is that, whilst the main plot regarding Decim and Onna gets wrapped up in a beautiful manner, the subplot concerning Nona and Oculus is left hanging. The series built up a battle of ideals between the two characters, but beyond a short debate in the last episode, nothing happens. There are also hints of a wider world beyond the Quindecim bar, but nothing really comes of it. On the other hand, there are enough hints in the last episode to justify there being a second season, and I really, really hope that there will be.
|We need another season! We haven't seen Decim smile enough!|
In terms of presentation, Death Parade hits all the right notes. The animation is lovely, and the music never fails to suit the mood perfectly. The opening is amazing, even if the animation consistently gives people the wrong impression of the show. The ending is almost as good, as the animation changes every other episode to show the lives of the guests that arrived in Quindecim during that episode. When put together with the ending song, it can create a number of powerful and memorable moments even without any dialogue. This is best exemplified by the endings of episodes 3 and 9 which, despite being complete opposites in tone, are both completely unforgettable.
Overall, Death Parade is amazing. It’s beautifully written, well-animated and thought-provoking, as well as being one of the most emotional series I’ve seen since I first started watching anime. It’s not quite flawless – the most glaring issue being that the subplot doesn’t really get resolved – but even that will become a non-issue if it gets a second series. With that in mind, the score I’m giving Death Parade is working off of the assumption that another series will be made. And if that happens, there will be zero complaints from my end.
Good Things: The constantly-evolving dynamic between Decim and Onna.
An interesting, thought-provoking premise.
The sheer emotional impact this show has.
The animation and music are both excellent.
The climax of Decim and Onna’s relationship.
Bad Things: The unresolved subplot.
Underused secondary characters.
Got a suggestion for an anime I should review? Post it in the comments, or submit it to ask.fm/ClayDragon!
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. Anime is killing his wallet.