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.
(Hey, I know this is way-late. If only my weekends weren’t busier than my weekdays this could have posted on time, but later beats never, right?)
After two weeks of falling into certain rhythm, I almost worried that Death Parade would snub opportunities for more information bombs. As much as I live to see the dead in psychological disarray, I’d hate to leave this show knowing little more than what I entered with. I’m not without criticism, and Rolling Ballade—a surprisingly sweet episode, though melancholic—doesn’t provide much to analyze in comparison to previously aired material (episodes and OVA alike). Arcade, too, gives less to celebrate than the episode it follows—at least in terms of Rolling Ballade’s preferable outcome—but it dishes up a larger serving. I’m content at a basic standard with what these last two weeks have fed me, but I’m a little deprived and a lot hungry. I appreciate that episode four establishes two players who, like in Death Billiards, bear no connection other than their time of death, but I’ve learned little else since episode two. Give me Onna’s backstory! Give me new side characters! Give me the Death Parade universe! Give me everything.
Death Parade took me on a surprise trip last week. Rather than plunge forward in its obscurity it took a step back. Perhaps I should apologize: I underestimated Death Parade’s willingness to share. I thoroughly thought this show would leave viewers to grapple with its ambiguity. Keeping to its pattern of straight-forward headings, last week’s episode embodied its title, Death: Reverse. The show revisits Takashi’s and Machiko’s dart match, but from the new perspective of Onna. Her job is not to judge—for she is merely an assistant—but to guide the inexperienced Decim with intuitive perception. Of course, none of this explains who Onna is or how she ended up in this mysterious place caught between life and—as Death Parade calls it—the void.
The episode opens to Onna asleep on a bed of plants supported by a tree trunk. Nona enters the scene, providing her name, and prompts Onna to respond in kind. But Onna can’t answer, to which Nona replies, “It’s all right. You don’t have a name.” My suspicions are now confirmed: Onna holds no memories of who she is, or that she was ever alive. Some have hypothesized that Nona created Onna specifically to assist Decim, but I don’t feel this is the case—although I’ll get into why later on. For now, I think it’s worth mentioning that humans, or as human as one can get in Death Parade—like Onna—exist. (But they all sport similar Decim get-up… Huh.) This is proven during the train ride. We only see one person’s eyes, but they bear human origin as opposed to an arbiter’s strange yet decorative iris. More than anything, this makes me wonder if they, too, possess blank memories.
And further yet: If a newly deceased refuses to play their “randomly” assigned game, is their memory swiped clean before they begin work on an appointed floor? Because now that Quindecim’s mannequin display is clarified not only to be an empty threat, but Decim’s ‘grotesque’ hobby (which I find darkly humorous), my ideas regarding what happens to a soul if they refuse have adjusted. Rather than anything sinister, I believe that refusal simply means that the soul cannot be judged. Hence, the person cannot move on, and—for the time being, at least—remains stuck in a stagnant in-between hereafter. Continue reading
This post contains spoilers for Death Billiards and the first episode of Death Parade. I suggest watching both before reading any further.
Hellooo, Hot Stuff. I would pocket this gem into my favorites if it weren’t too early to do so, but whether Death Parade concludes in disappointing fashion or not, one thing is for sure: it kicked off to a smashing start. The anime’s origin, Death Billiards—a 25 minute short produced by Madhouse for the 2013 Young Animator Training Project—makes for tough analysis. It poses more questions than it provides answers, encapsulated in an air of mind-boggling mystery. Having watched it twice, trying to decipher answers or its intent feels like chasing my own tail. Billiards leads my thoughts toward dead ends, and I’m left to go on personal interpretation and to consider the OVA’s social critique. But now that we have an anime (and with Yuzuru Tachikawa’s name still attached!), you can bet I expect to solve some queries. With one episode down, Parade follows Billiards’ suit in that it blitzes the audience and walks away, smug at our simultaneous confusion and intrigue. The key difference is that Parade sprinkles information and offers future promise whereas Billiards intentionally leaves us to think.
Parade starts similarly to Billiards in that we meet our two players—both equally confused as to where they are and how they got here—taking leave from their respective elevators. It doesn’t take long before they find Decim, the stoic bartender, who welcomes them to Quindecim (Latin for “fifteen”)—an interesting difference from Billiard’s spelling of “Queen Decim.” It could easily be a simple variation depending upon the translation or wordplay, or maybe someone more informed would like to clarify (please do), but I can’t help but want to connect this to mannequins. Of course, “quin” here is still pronounced like “queen,” and I may be reaching in desperation. However, Decim’s mannequin display is curious, which brings me to Quindecim’s purpose: to judge who will go to heaven and hell.
Decim informs his guests—newlywed couple Takashi and Machiko—that they are to play a game with their lives as wager. He reviews the usual rules:
- He cannot say where Quindecim is located
- The couple must play a game
- This game will be decided by roulette
- They will risk their lives by playing
- Neither one can leave until the game ends
Of course these rules ignite the same series of questions I had in Death Billiards. I roll with the obvious answer that Quindecim resides outside the earthly realm, but for the game itself, those who’ve seen the OVA know that the game of pool was pre-determined. Decim admitted that if the younger man had not changed the fate of the game, the old man would have won. Likewise, I assume Takashi’s and Machiko’s game of darts is set from the get-go. So who does the game favor? If the game is pre-determined with a predicted winner, does the outcome finalize who is reincarnated or not? Continue reading