Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Death Parade Review

There are plenty of unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions out there. Perhaps the most common among all of these is, "What will happen to us when we die?" Most people turn to faith to answer this question, coming up with places like Heaven or things like reincarnation. But if we tossed faith away for a moment and let our imaginations run rampant, we could create bizarre ideas and outlandish theories for what happens when we die and they would be just as credible and plausible as the idea of Heaven or Hell. After all, no one truly knows what happens in the end. And the sad truth is that we probably never will.

In Death Parade, the first anime series to be fully-directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa (Who served as an episode director for Bleach and Steins;Gate), we are greeted with just one of many possible scenarios for what comes after life. Instead of going directly to Heaven or Hell, humans instead wind up at Quindecim, a full-service bar with a plethora of dark secrets. However, when these people show up, all of their memories are completely erased before being greeted by an "Arbiter" disguised as a bartender. This arbiter then coerces the two parties into partaking in a randomly-selected game which he will then use to judge them and assign one to the void while granting the other reincarnation and a second chance to live their life.

These arbiters -- these judges aren't human though. And though they look and act like they are, they're incapable of feeling human emotion and must make decisions based purely on what they deem right and what is wrong. But can someone without the capability of feeling truly make the decision of who gets a second shot at life? As Death Parade goes on, this question becomes harder and harder to answer. With each passing pair, the idea of mortality becomes more and more distorted. What happens if neither party "Deserves" a second chance? What happens if they both do? These are all questions that Death Parade tries to answer. So before I get into spoiler-territory, I'm going to break this show up and illustrate how I feel about each aspect of it.

Music: 9/10
The soundtrack of Death Parade features nearly a half-hour of original music composed by Yuuki Hayashi (Gundam Build Fighters/Haikyuu!!). The OST to Death Parade is enchantingly dark and overflowing with sorrow and panic. This is an absolute MUST for a show so centered on mortality. With each passing moment, the music pushes both viewers and characters to the edge, making everything that happens appear so much more important. Suspense is a key factor in how the events of Death Parade play out, and without Hayashi's soundtrack, that wouldn't have been possible. If you get the chance, head over to Youtube and search around for the track "Moonlit Night". It is a great example of what you can expect to hear throughout the course of this show.

Characters: 7/10
Most characters you will come across in Death Parade have very little time to spread their wings and show you their true colors. Most of the time, they only have around 20 minutes to do so. So within those 20 minutes, you will experience their entire lives leading up to their deaths and be forced to make your own decision on which character should get to live again. And yes, that is too short of a time period to be able to make a decision that heavy. But that is what makes the judgement so hard for us and raises the question, "Is this really the best method to sort people out?" The Quindecim staff is memorable for the most part, but Decim (The bartender/main arbiter of the show) really gets the most love from Tachikawa. He's the only one that truly develops throughout the entire series. And his development was fantastic, but there just wasn't enough for anyone else in the ensemble for me to really say that the characters were great. If anything, the sheer amount of lives that viewers get to gaze into really shape an interesting experience that raises many questions. That will always be entertaining.

Art: 8/10
As far as art goes, Death Parade contains a handful of mesmerizing landscapes and background art that heavily outweighs the appearance of the characters. The colors are dark and brooding all-around and match the tone of the show almost perfectly. And though there aren't many, the lighting effects were definitely something that really resonated for me, particularly how they were used for the stained glass and design of Quindecim. This show has a sort of Hell Girl feeling to it. Not purely for the art, but the story as well (But I'll get into that in a second). Character design isn't something to get wrapped up in, but these people are supposed to be real. Real people don't always look extremely interesting. It is for these reasons that I'd go as far as saying the art in Death Parade is actually very good. But it isn't something that MAKES the show what it is in the long run.

Story: 8/10
Once again, the story of Death Parade functions the same way as the story of Hell Girl if you ever had a chance to watch that. Following the pilot episode in which we are introduced to Decim and how Quindecim works, we get a few more episodes we can use to feel out the show. Each one goes on to function as exposition for the last arc of the show, in which everything comes together. But until that point, it's just pair-after-pair of people playing games that will be used to decide their fate. The entire concept of the show is great. And the execution of said concept is great as well. But I would have liked a longer-ending arc. I don't know if I would go as far as saying it felt rushed, but I just felt like there could have been more. The ending is very satisfactory though, leaving room for a second season but not necessarily NEEDING one -- seeing as the point that Death Parade set out to make definitely got across in the end.

Death Parade should be an enjoyable experience for nearly anyone that decides to pick it up. It isn't hard to understand and could even be one of those shows that you lend to a friend that doesn't really understand how anime works. It doesn't require serious investment, but at the same time, it could be a series that you easily get wrapped up in and want to finish all in one go. And for it being only 12 episodes, that is completely possible.


  1. Finally a Kazuki fan :') where have you been all my life? Also,do you ship her with Yuuji?

    1. Hell yeah I ship her with Yuuji. One of the best couples of the year. Who cares about that whole "Taboo" thing?