I admit: March left me satisfied—though not without puzzlement—because it was the episode I’d been waiting for. Information dumps put me in a week-long mindspin, and yet I relish them all the same. It’s because Death Parade’s various parts all pose questions—from plot and character development to a greater scale of theme and symbolism. Rolling Ballade and Arcade, although worthwhile, offer little insight into the show’s larger concepts—and the newest episode seems to follow suit. Even so, Cross Heart Attack is everything I expected it to be. It’s not the info drop episodes two and five are—but that much I predicted, considering the show’s pattern thus far. It doesn’t look like much at a glance, and in contrast to an episode like Reverse, it really isn’t. But does that mean it’s empty? Surely not.
CHA wrenches away from Quindecim’s soothing atmosphere and replaces it with Viginti’s stiff setting. The switch feels jarring, which speaks for my comfort level and familiarity with Quindecim more than anything else. (Read: strong preference.) Juxtapose to Decim’s bar, Viginti is brighter, less ‘open’ or spacious, and emanates what I can only describe as feeling hollow. It’s too quiet for comfort, and radiates a lonesome quality. But Quindecim, too, can be described as such. Its expansive arrangement—bathed in those deep, dark hues—calls for a hushed but lively mood, yet it must be eerily quiet. (This goes to show the importance of music tracks, because I’ve sure been fooled into thinking otherwise.) Then again, it’s that ambiance of Quindecim that I find mollifying, but Viginti feels uncomfortably rigid—no doubt due to its wooden composition, which seems well-suited for Ginti’s kokeshi collection.
Impossible to miss, kokeshi dolls serve as the bar’s main adornment. Although we first see Ginti put his dolls to use in March, episode six aligns counters and shelves in them—even using a kokeshi design as a spinner. The insertion of these dolls comes across as highly deliberate, but why? Either Ginti has a strong obsession ready to brawl with Mayu’s, or the show means to convey something. Depending on how one reads it, “kokeshi” translates as “small poppy” or “child erasure.” It’s said that traditional kokeshi originate from Japan’s northeast region of Tohoku, known for its hot springs, or “onsen.” During the Edo period, kijiya—or woodwork artisans—put their skill into creating kokeshi as toys or souvenirs for onsen visitors. While it sounds like harmless fun, some hold the belief that kokeshi represent infants who passed away from infanticide—often through abandonment in the mountains. In his book, Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan, Alan Booth writes:
In the towns, abortion was the commonest form of family planning. […] But in rural areas, though officially prohibited by most clan governments, infanticide was the preferred choice. Moral questions aside, the killing of newborn babies rather than fetuses has the practical advantage of allowing a family—or a village—to exert a precise control of the ratio of sexes, and it appears that, unlike in China and some parts of Asia, the horror was not directed wholly, or even mainly, against female babies, but was used coolly and even-handedly to construct a gender balance that would ensure the continuance and stability of the group.
Early on, a theory about arbiters proposed that they were the souls of either unborn infants or dead children. Even then, I found it too weak to consider. Not only does it clash with Decim’s comments (i.e., “I’ve never been alive”), but this only works under the assumption that arbiters were once human. It would mean, in fact, that arbiters contain a human soul. If that were the case, why is there such disconnect between Decim and his guests? And why does Ginti look down on people, if he, too, is in some way human? (All right, I can spin an excuse for that last part, but it’s hardly the point.) The history of kokeshi doesn’t make this conjecture any more plausible, but it brings forth a small sum of credibility. Still, it’s not enough for me to buy it, and I believe a more straight-forward—and much simpler—connection exists (if any at all).
Some suggest that kokeshi were kept as reminders of dead children, yet they are also given to childless women as pregnancy charms. Additionally, they are used to wish for healthy children and are often bought as mementos. And although various wood types may be used in a kokeshi creation, the head often consists of mizuki. It bears the literal translation of “water wood,” and kokeshi dolls hence function as charms against fire and evil. Stepping back into Death Parade territory, I find mizuki’s meaning—and the use for kokeshi dolls that stem from this meaning—relative to Ginti’s element. Similar to Decim and his strings, Ginti possesses the ability to manipulate water (which he stores inside his kokeshi). Of course, kokeshi dolls are incredibly popular, so collecting them just to collect them wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. If Decim can have a mannequin hobby, Ginti can have a leisurely interest in kokeshi dolls.
(And in any case, there’s some interesting backstory on kokeshi for you.)
Like many theories and proposed connections, kokeshi could mean nothing, but I’m certain at least one thing doesn’t: Memine. To say it’s a rare name choice is an understatement, and the fact that it’s pronounced in accordance to the English language makes the pronoun combination evident. Is it too presumptuous to assume that Memine references the Beatles’ song, “I Me Mine”? It’s no secret that Hindiusm became a great influence on George Harrison, who—as the song’s writer—said, “[I Me Mine is] about the ego, the eternal problem.” On the surface, it’s a song that depicts self-centeredness; however, the meaning goes deeper than that. Harrison commented:
“I Me Mine” is the ego problem. I looked around and everything I could see was relative to my ego. You know, like “that’s my piece of paper,” and “that’s my flannel,” or “give it to me, or “I am.” It drove me crackers—I hated everything about my ego—it was a flash of everything false and impermanent which I disliked. But later I learned from it—to realize that there is somebody else in here apart from old blabbermouth. “Who am I” became the order of the day.
Diving into religion is out of my depth, but for a Buddhist and Hindu perspective on ego, I’ll direct you here. Based on all that I read, from what I understand, ego is expressed by the sense of self, or the idea of “I” or “me.” The concept that you and I exist apart from our environment is incorrect. Rather, we are “the same as everything else,” because no ‘separate self’ exists. As the linked page notes, “everything is interconnected and interdependent”—which is a sound point that I won’t argue against. It’s been commented that “I Me Mine” refers to Bhagavad Gita 2:71-72 (but do not hold me to it). English translations don’t appear to make specific mention of the pronouns, but they do comment on ego:
That person attains peace who giving up all material desires for sense of gratification lives free from attachment, free from false ego and sense of proprietorship. (71)
O Arjuna, having gained the realization of The Ultimate Truth, one is never again deluded and even at the moment of death, being situated in this state, liberation from the material existence and attainment of the Ultimate Consciousness is assured. (72)
Although various translations on Bhagavad Gita present different wording, one of verse 72 is more direct: “That is the way of the spiritual and godly life, after attaining which a man is not bewildered. If one is thus situated even at the hour of death, one can enter into the kingdom of God.”
It’s feasible, too, that Memine may not reference “I Me Mine” at all, as its ties may lie elsewhere. Or, it’s just a very odd name. (But, somehow, I doubt that.) What I do feel certain on, however, is Ginti. More specifically, it’s his lower-class treatment of humans. No one can miss his brash tempter, but March feels more suggestive of his bias than of a definite confirmation. Or, more likely, I wished to give him the benefit of the doubt. We could only judge Ginti based on interactions from one situation, which accounts for too few moments to give a balanced scope of character. But with CHA, not only does Ginti’s personality become discernible, but we see how that personality affects his performance as a game host.
In terms of how one baits guests into playing ‘death games,’ Ginti’s method considerably contrasts with Decim’s—something that remains strongly reflective of who Ginti is not as an arbiter, but as an individual. Should the situation call for it, Decim opts for an ominous and intimidating approach that follows a point-blank rule explanation. It’s a tactic that has yet to fail him (with the exception of Onna), and I can see why. Once guests realize there is no escape, it’s easy persuasion from thereon. His mannequin display, too, both creates and fuels fear. It doesn’t only ‘encourage’ people to play, but exploits fear and anxiety as means to drag out their worst aspects. Ginti’s way has clear-cut differences, but then: CHA may not depict a typical game. Ginti spares “the lame explanation,” courtesy of Mayu’s tardiness, and launches straight into the game. Whether this is Ginti’s normal approach or not, it works—and it works surprisingly well, not that Ginti cares in the way he should.
For Mayu and Harada, what starts as a fun, worry-free game of twister changes mid-play into something horrific. Even the kokeshi spinner transforms with a sinister look as Mayu and Harada become subjected to extreme conditions. With a click of his device (yes, the same kind Onna threw down in scorn), everything from lava to hypothermic levels put the duo under severe duress—both physical and emotional. By doing so, Ginti tries to draws out the corrupt side of Mayu and Harada. Although Death Parade plasters these scenes in comic relief, Ginti’s delight adds a worrisome touch nonetheless. What is supposed be the unlucky couple’s breaking point—in addition to their all-around exhaustion—is Ginti’s highlight. He enjoys their suffering. Who knew he was such a sadist? I can chalk up his refusal to explain the rules to impatience, but I believe it’s more than that. Simply put, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care for Mayu or Harada—or any human—and he might not even care for the nature of his work. The way he treats guests gives the impression that they’re a lesser breed unworthy of his time. He won’t bother to explain the rules—which, can anyone blame him for?—but then he won’t bother to pay them any attention at all.
Uh, well, almost. Let me amend: Ginti won’t spare time unless he has something to profit—and that “something” is a sadist’s enjoyment. I’m left to question if Ginti is more apathetic, looking for fun in all the wrong places, or if his pleasure arises from feeling superior. I can often pin-point reasons for a character’s superiority complex, yet I hate to label Ginti as such. A reason to indicate insecurities—let alone a reason to conceal those feelings—has yet to reveal itself. Instead, at least for the moment, Ginti comes across as truly uncaring. For whichever cause, he proves himself prejudiced by the way he looks down on people—even seeing them as tools for personal enjoyment.
I find it additionally irksome that Ginti’s attention falls on a magazine rather than the two whose tribunal he runs. (And yes, one can weakly argue that Ginti’s “reading up” on Harada, although why he’d need to is beyond me. It’s filled with Harada gossip, and yet even that bores him.) But I give Ginti a tiny bit of leeway: he slacks off during the game’s first half, which—as we see—is as docile as you can get. I’d feel bored, too, but choosing which soul deserves the void—if either at all, or even both—deserves acute observation. With his level of disregard, it’s a wonder why he troubles himself with the system’s judgment process at all. Nona, I’m sure, would hand out a lecture-beating he’d never forget—if not kick him into the void herself, although there must be regulations and punishments already in place that keep arbiters in-check. Oddly enough, what Decim has—and what Ginti chastises—is what Ginti needs most of all. Decim doesn’t understand human emotion, or why people behave the way they do, yet he takes his job seriously and to error causes him an upset. With all that said, he takes in what he observes and considers what he’s told—either by Onna or Nona—and that’s why Onna proves beneficial for Decim’s work. But Ginti? It’s like he couldn’t care less, and the only way to change that is to change his perspective on people.
…So, can we please keep Mayu? Even for a short while? Because the OP shows her in several scenes, it’s one hope that the show might not crush after all. This episode is largely comic relief, and Mayu—although I love her to bits—plays a huge role in this, especially in the manner she plays off Ginti (and off everyone, to be exact). If Death Parade chooses to keep Harada’s #1 fan, I predict a lot more of the same antics to rile up the hilarity factor, but I hope it’s not without development—and that applies to both Mayu and Ginti. In her current state, Mayu arouses honest laughter, but her character illustrates the potential to be just as touching. If only the show didn’t negate and steamroll these moments by adding a comedic punch! Because I can work with poignancy followed by absurd touches that draw out sentiment and tender laughs, but we don’t have this with Mayu. Mayu’s one solid instance of true sincerity remains as the moment she chooses to sacrifice herself for Harada’s sake.
And on that note, I derail: I left any commentary regarding Harada out, as he doesn’t bear much significance in the grander scheme of the show. (Although I do have at least half a page in notes!) I’ll quickly comment, however, that an internal debate I had—which I know others share—is in deciding if Harada deserves reincarnation. Certainly, being a womanizer or shallow jerk remain invalid reasons to send a person into eternal punishment. But what makes his predicament fuzzy is factoring in his decision to kill Mayu. He doesn’t, of course, and can’t—even if had chosen to go through with it. But it’s where his thought process leads him that makes me do a double-take. Ginti states that the game will only end when one of them falls, yet Harada interprets this—perhaps in desperation and exhaustion—as a kill-or-be-killed situation. Again, I find myself back at Death Billiards: the people and scenarios differ, but the reasoning behind Harada’s and the young man’s actions do not. At least not by much. So should we fault Harada for coming to this conclusion in the first place, and does he redeem himself?
It’s worth mentioning that Harada looks genuinely torn over Kana’s suicide. To further that, he seems just as broken—if not more so—over Mayu’s supposed death as well. For as shallow as Harada comes across, he surprised me by how emotional he becomes. He feels the pain of it all, acknowledging these women as people with valuable lives, and puts blame upon himself. With that to consider, I wonder what would become of Harada had a different scenario occurred. Say, one in which he pushes Mayu down the pit. Could he have lived with himself? I don’t think so.
Regardless, no matter how serious or emotional this entire scene is, it’s dosed in humor. For that reason, Mayu’s and Harada’s emotional depths nearly come off as jokes, and I don’t take them as seriously as I should. I’m digging into a light episode that should be taken as such, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy it. Because I do. I laughed through and loved it from beginning to end not once, but twice. But for me, it’s about standards, and I won’t pretend that something better could have come in place of what’s been handed, either. Thankfully, Alcohol Poison sounds like another info-bomb ready to progress plot, and Death Parade‘s teases haven’t disappointed me yet.