Genres: Psychological, Thriller, Mystery;
Personal Rating: 6/10;
Death Parade is a show that was very hyped before it began airing. This is because, even though it is anime original, a movie called “Death Billiards” was released in 2013 and was very well received. Death Parade is an alternative version of Death Billiards, and a full TV series at that.
The concept of the anime (and the movie) is very simple: Quindecim is a bar where people go to after they die. Here, they are greeted by Decim, a bartender, and his assistant. The two people are forced to play a game, which is different every time, otherwise they can’t leave the bar. They also don’t have any recollections that they passed away, so they think they’re still alive. These games have the goal to draw out the darkness in people’s souls, and then Decim, who is actually an arbitrator, will judge whether that person deserves to be reincarnated or sent to the void. He will make his decision based on what they did when they were alive and how they behave during the game.
This is the main plot of the anime, and most episodes focus on this. This gives the show a semi-episodic style, as almost all episodes have two people competing in a game, and then being sent either to the void or to reincarnation. The way Death Parade showcases the darkness in human minds is very interesting, and for the most part it’s well directed enough so the audience can care for all the episodic characters to a certain extent. However, there are also other episodes that focus on world building. Unfortunately, they come off as mere info dumps rather than good world building, because of how badly they are handled. It’s definitely interesting to learn more about the world, but it’s done in a fashion where it doesn’t really add anything to the story or the characters, especially in the earlier ones. Some episodes gave me the idea that the writers ran out of ideas, and started adding all sorts of random stuff to fill in 12 episodes. Part of me thinks that Death Parade should have remained as a single movie, because after losing its novelty, it doesn’t really offer anything new.
This isn’t to say Death Parade failed completely here, in fact it had some very neat episodes with great execution, and it stayed true to its themes for most of its duration, managing to deliver on a small scale. What really hurts the show though is how inconsistent it can be. For instance, there’s one episode that’s all about people being as evil as possible, and then there’s another where the comedy is so over-the-top that it becomes impossible to take the show seriously. This inconsistency is actually the worst aspect of the show, as it ruins immersion and makes it really hard to care for what’s going on at times.
The production values are very good, as expected from Madhouse. The animationis really smooth, the design of the bar is really interesting and appealing (and that’s really good because most of the show takes place inside that place), and the characters designs are varied and not generic at all. It has a good OP theme (though people really overrate it) and a decent ED theme. The soundtracks are used to build up the mood, and aren’t really that memorable, nor will you want to listen to them outside of the anime, but they do a good job during those intense moments, which is their purpose after all.
The characters are the most interesting part of the show; however they could have done SO much more with them. Decim is the main arbitrator of Death Parade, he is incapable of feeling emotions, and acts only according to the rules that are established to judge people. He is willing to go as far as to bring back the deepest traumas of people to be able to judge them the best way possible. His assistant has no name, and she serves more as a “counterweight” to Decim. Not only does she feel sorry for the people who are forced to confront their darkness, she tries to stop Decim many times when he resorts to harsher methods. She is also used to show the audience how the judgment works in the first episodes, as we learn the process at the same time she does, and the questions she asks are the questions that we’d be asking ourselves. Decim and his assistant have a really good synergy, and they have development throughout the anime, especially by the later episodes. The support characters are mostly undeveloped and hard to care for, no matter how much exposition the anime tries to give to them, they serve as mere plot devices and accomplish no purpose. This is made up by the fact that some episodic characters are really good, and this is where Death Parade really excels at: showcasing these new characters in 20 minutes, showing how and why they died, their regrets and beliefs… it makes the audience care about them, most of the time at least.
It’s really hard to talk about Death Parade without mentioning what it could’ve been though. I felt that the anime did a good job during its standalone episodes, but it kind of messed up when it tried to have a plot going on, and it became less interesting as the novelty wore off. The writers could have done a lot more with the other characters, instead of just shoving them to the side, and it should have spent more time focusing on the world building, which unfortunately was impossible right from the start, considering it is only 1 cour. Overall, it was a very enjoyable ride for me, and while it lacked the consistency of other semi-episodic shows, it made up for that with its enjoyable setting and atmosphere, even if they weren’t as developed as they could have been. It’s all about showing the darkness that exists in the human mind, and I feel like the anime did a good job with that.
Thanks for reading!