Death Parade: An Anime Review and Summary
By: Prince Lammy
Decim once said: "People do not live just so that they can someday die. It is because they are alive that they someday die."
A menacing and quiet voice says, "Welcome to Quindecim," just before the hissing sound of hydraulics releases pressure and allows the icy steel doors to open. Two individuals leave the building. "Would you kindly take a seat over here?"
The inhabitants do not recall how or why they arrived at the Quindecim, nor do they know why they are there. "The first thing you need to know is that I have no idea where you are or how you got here. Two, we will have you participate in a game right now.
Third, we will have you choose a game using a roulette wheel. You are going to put your lives on the line in this game. You are not allowed to leave the pub until this game has been completed, number five."
The alternative activity, described as "not something they wish to experience," is offered as an explanation.
The tiles illuminate in order, and a crest can be seen in the background. It reveals what seems like an ordinary game played in bars. The contestants, utterly oblivious to their surroundings, are about to embark on the most significant game of their lives: their judgment.
Story | 10/10
When it comes to the way the tale and its lessons are presented, Death Parade takes a somewhat unconventional approach. It takes unique elements of episodic, arc-based, and chronological narrative and blends them into a single format, which might seem strange on paper but works quite well when viewed on-screen.
In each episode, two new customers usually enter the bar. They then participate in a game that is either intended to be highly stressful or aimed to pull out their baser emotions, such as mistrust, dishonesty, jealousy, rage, hatred, and greed.
The characters respond in different ways, such as acting out their sense of justice, playing off their regrets, acting out their need for atonement, or acting on their desire for retribution.
They are then prepared to be judged based on their deeds since the arbiters determine that their recollections alone (which are collated and analyzed by the arbiters before the person arrives in Quindecim) will not serve to determine their fate.
The plot of Death Parade is focused almost entirely on its characters. Even though we spent a lot of time with the same characters, even though there were only a few settings (not including flashbacks and memory recalls), the story did not feel repetitive or hurried. The pace is simply incredible for a show that only has one season.
It would have been simple to create an episodic program with the characters from each episode coming in to be evaluated and then eliminated after their story arc. It would have been just as simple to utilize arcs, with each one consisting of two or three episodes, as a basis for one judgment.
Again, these, along with two subplots that have significant repercussions, are assimilated by Death Parade into one incredibly coherent and nuanced tale that focuses on moral complexity and the fabric of what it means to be human. Again, this is a standout feature of Death Parade.
I can't forget the following words from Memento Mori: "Do not forget that you must surely die someday. As such, that is all the more reason to live now."
In this tale, the Latin phrase "Memento Mori," translated as "remember that you must die," takes the driver's seat on the thrill ride of sensation and emotion that Death Parade evokes. It has been revealed that the souls of the deceased come to this mysterious bar to be judged; yet, what happens to a soul if it is never judged?
This question is addressed throughout the episode in a couple of different ways, using a couple of different forms. During the story, it becomes clear that the job these arbiters play as a judge of souls on the threshold between the void and rebirth is not as straightforward as it initially appears to be. We come to this realization gradually.
The first aspect of the story to be discussed is Onna's journey to find out who she is and why she is at Quindecim. This is the primary motivation for Onna's presence at Quindecim. After all, the only people 'asked' to visit are those who pass away at the same time as another person, yet she passed alone all by herself.
In almost every other episode, we get a brief glimpse of Onna in her chamber at the Quindecim. Each time, she finds a new item that was not there before. This happens over and over again throughout the series. The first time I watched it, I missed this detail, but when I rewatched it, I saw that it was present.
Each new item that comes into view had some significance in her life before she passed away, and they reflect the more episodic storyline that is developing. She is required to participate in the observation and help the judgment of other people who are also recovering their memories through triggered moments in the games they play.
This is done as she gradually regains both her memories and her identity. She gets an episode entirely dedicated to her towards the end of the story, and it sheds a lot of light on her past and how she feels about her prospects for the future.
In this program, Madhouse has a flair for the dramatic, but that does not mean that everything is a complete disaster. Right at the moment when it seems as though Death Parade is falling into a predictable pattern, everything gets flipped on its head. The first and second episodes present you with the same content to see, but do it from a unique point of view.
This creates a fascinating dynamic for the viewer. In each episode of Death Parade, themes are brought to the forefront and placed in opposition to one another to reflect on and delve deeper into the meanings and complexities of the show. Episodes 4 and 8-9 are particularly noteworthy in this regard.
In episode 4, we see a reimagining of what it is to be in love. A mischaracterized young man who loathed himself and despised his new step-mom for personal motives and made a tragic mistake, a superstar mother with a traumatic past who cares for none but herself, yet she 'loves' her children. One is a father, and the other is a child; both have problems with their families, but the causes for those problems are entirely different. Their roles in the narrative are like two sides of a coin.
A murder, an act of malice, and an act of vengeance are topics addressed in two subsequent episodes of Death Parade. Does the fact that two individuals commit horrible crimes in the name of justice and retribution, although acting for good motives, make such crimes acceptable?
Again, the moral ambiguity: one did it to protect loved ones, and the other did it out of a perverted sense of justice; nonetheless, they were both murderers.
Art | 9/10
The atmosphere of the play is oppressive and foreboding. The ominous mood was established with a whirl of dark colors, including black, purple, red, and blue, and the dynamic of dazzling lights and shadows interplayed effectively.
Death Parade is a labor of love for Madhouse, as seen by the extraordinary precision and consideration with which they approached the production of this event. The consistency of the character design is relatively high, and the mainframes are smooth.
Excellent results are achieved by using 3D CGI in a very understated manner here, with the technique being masked as cel-shading. It never appeared to be false, and it never stood out; it was always smooth. The sorrow, remorse, rage, and optimism that the characters are experiencing are all seen on their faces.
Although they were animated, I had the distinct impression that the characters were going through genuine feelings. They weep uncontrollably, they bleed, they twist themselves in wrath, and in general, they have a human-like experience. Everything is clean, clear, and flowing, which is the greatest way to describe the art displayed here.
The traditionally dark color palettes of the show are colored with a kaleidoscope of lights, shadows, and spectacular bursts of energy. A significant portion of the movie takes place in a dimly lit ballroom, which works to the advantage of the dramatic contrast between the lights and brilliance of the struggle and the darkness and shadows.
Sound | 10/10
Despite my inability to relate with the characters in Japanese, I empathized with them because of the voice acting. Although there was a language barrier, the excellent voice acting could still transmit ambiance, tone, and emotion successfully.
The voices' admissions of loss and suffering and their words of encouragement and optimism regularly brought tears to my eyes and made me feel incredibly affected.
The opening sequence gives a somewhat inaccurate impression of the show's subject matter and general atmosphere. "Flyers" by BRADIO is a highly infectious song that is also quite peppy and may be danced to.
In NoisyCell's "Last Theater," which has quickly become one of my favorites, the ED is a more reflective and emotional rendition. Both are of very high quality. In terms of the music that plays in the background, Death Parade has a significant amount of quiet, which, as a result, enables the vocal performances to be far more effective and emotionally intense.
The background music, when it existed, was often composed of mellow piano music, which fit beautifully with the more quiet and reflective periods of the game.
Character | 8/10
When we enter the Quindecim, we are greeted with the sight of a stern and emotionless man with white hair who goes by the name Decim. He is the purveyor of souls and the arbitrator of their fate. He is said to be "all alcohol and seriousness" by his employer, Nona, who seems to be a youthful lady. Still, He has chilly eyes and behavior consistent with her age.
The goal of Decim is to verify that those who enter the institution are willing to abide by the terms of their contract to participate in a game of random chance, that they do so, that the rules are followed, and that the outcomes are carried out.
Decim is revealed to have a more... humane side, despite the impression that he has a cold heart and lacks empathy. His comment, "I have regard for those who have lived fulfilling lives," is highly indicative of his inner heart, and it is the concept that guides his assessments. He respects those who have accomplished what they set out to do in their lives.
Onna, who has no recollection whatsoever, not even of her own identity, is coerced into serving as Decim's assistant and helping facilitate the judging process. However, she does not even know her name.
Throughout the events of the Death Parade, Onna maintains a consistent and powerful presence of morality and reason in contrast to the icy and calculating judgment that was usually carried out before her arrival. She is an idealist and an optimist who wants to think that everyone, no matter how broken their souls may be, has the potential for salvation.
As a result of her participation and the occasional interventions she makes, the outcomes of the judgment are not always what they should have been based on their first appearance. Aside from her part in helping Decim, she also has an independent story arc that focuses on her journey of discovery.
She discovers what it means to have lived via the process of understanding how judgments are rendered. She is aware that, just like every other patron who visits the bar, there will come a day when it will be necessary to pass judgment on her.
Supporting characters like Nona and Ginti, as well as Clavis, Oculus, Quin, and Castra, are not exploited to their full potential. This slight criticism may be leveled against this show. Each of these characters is given their episode.
Enjoyment | 10/10
The entirety of Death Parade was a treat for me to see. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me upset, and it made others revile me. In Death Parade, a wide variety of sensations, thoughts, states of mind, and attitudes are investigated. It would be irresponsible to minimize the emotional impact that this show has.
Although the word "feels" is used rather frequently when describing this event, the show is far more complex than that. The film Death Parade is both dissection and an investigation of the human condition.
Suppose you were put on trial for your life and forced to face some of the most traumatic and excruciating experiences and memories you've ever been through. What would you say defines you the most: the actions you've taken, the motivations behind those actions, or something else that's uniquely human? Who has the right to judge if the things you've done make you unfit for life or whether you may start over?
Overall | 10/10
It's not often that I'll award a perfect score, but Death Parade is such a well-rounded production that I feel compelled to make an exception in this case. They nail so many details. Depth of feeling, empathy, charm, a sense of mystery and intrigue... Everything is right here.
Death Parade is an absolute treasure because it has believable people, a feeling of attachment to the events that are taking place, and an investigation of the human condition, all while spinning a wildly original tale about morality. This program should be called a modern classic since it is refreshing in many ways.