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