Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Death Parade (2015)


Death Parade is a 12 episode anime based upon an anime short called Death Billiards.  There is a place after death that is nether heaven nor hell, but is a place in-between.  While the tower has various floors, we are treated to the floor where it takes on the form of a bar.  You cannot leave until you play a game, selected via roulette.  The stake is your life, but you don't know what you'll win.  Participants always appear in a pair, usually one male and one female, usually lovers, but this is not always the case.  However, the pair would have died at the same time to be able to be transferred to this floor.


Participants will always have forgotten that they are dead, nor will they remember any of their human memories, due to the shock experienced at their moment of death.  However, as the game progresses, they start regaining selected pieces of their memory and it influences their decisions.  The Arbiter, who is an impartial observer, reviews the happenings while the game is being played.  From what they observe, they determine each of the participant's judgement, which is whether they will be reincarnated into a new life, or their soul cast into the void.  The actual decision on whether a participant is reincarnated or cast into the void can seem kind of random and lacking a sense of logic.


As participants usually have some sort of evil or dark emotion within them such as jealousy, it is the Arbiter's job to drag it out.  In a way, it seems like entrapment since the whole point of the game is to force the participants to prove they deserve to be cast into the void.  It's a very flawed way of judgement.  The main Arbiter we follow is Decim, an emotionless man and not much is explained in terms of why this place is here and how it all functions.  Joining Decim is Chiyuki, who is a human with no memory whatsoever and thus stays on to become the assistant, learning how to be an Arbiter.


The first episode sets the scene, with a newly wedded couple playing the game against each other.  It shows the ugly side of the couple and their underlying problems of trust and doubt.  It really portrays the ugliness of the emotions, especially since you expect that they are deeply in love, they should not even think of cheating the other in order to win.  Games are also a bit twisted in that they have additional gimmicks such causing pain when the other participant scores.


It can get a bit ridiculous during some of the games, such as the one involving the game Twister, where an Idol shows off his toned body in a sparkle of light.  Up until that point, Death Parade was quite serious but then suddenly gives up to the cliched goofy humor.  Each episode of Death Parade ends up being a self-contained story (although there are some story arcs spanning two episodes, as well as the bigger arc involving Chiyuki's past as a whole).  This episodic style repeats the same motions of a pair turning up, plays a game that's different than previous episodes, the participants start to regain their memories, triggering some sort of dark past before they are judged by Decim.


While you only get to know the characters for one episode, surprisingly, you empathize at their situations and what they have been through.  The plot lacks direction in the end and that holds Death Parade back.  At the ending, you still don't feel like the plot has achieved much at all.  Still, there were some emotional moments at the end, where it was a teary goodbye.  Overall, Death Parade has an intriguing concept but fails to capitalize on it.  The episodic nature, coupled with a lack of not only a clearly defined objective, but also a meaningful and interesting destination, makes Death Parade an average anime at best.

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