To be quite honest, it’s been a while since I watched an anime. But, glowing recommendations from friends led me to this gem of a series called Death Parade. This twelve episode series features the stoic Decim who serves as an arbiter that judges humans after their passing. Souls are judged at his bar, Quindecim, by participating in random games designed to push them to the edge and “reveal the darkness inside them.” Things change for Decim when a new assistant joins Quindecim. How will this new face affect Decim’s methods and Decim himself?
The initial pull of Death Parade is its games. Participants use a roulette to determine the game they will play. These games are normal parlor games such as darts or air hockey. However by playing these games, participants slowly reclaim the memories they lose after death. Furthermore, the games may have caveats such as scoring points causing pain for the other player.
Death Parade is an anime built on character development. Each game’s participants undergo full character development with the each episode dedicated to an entire character. The shock of death causes humans to lose their memories. Therefore, they forget that they are dead in the first place. Decim uses that fear to force them to play these games where they slowly regain their memories and reveal their inner selves. By manipulating the games, Decim brings forth humans’ most inner darkness to judge them with certainty. And darkness there is. Death Parade is not for the feint of heart as the series showcases humans at their most desparate. Blood is shed. Tears are wept. The uglier the soul in life, the more despicable the soul after death. If you have any interest in human psychology, this shows is absolutely intriguing and interesting to watch.
With souls coming and going, the core cast of characters remains relatively stable. First we have Decim, the stoic bartender of Quindecim. To be frank, Decim is originally boring and uninteresting. His whole premise is to be an unwavering judge of souls, dedicated to his job and exempt of emotions. However, his character development is the more drastic than any game participant as his new assistant introduces to him a more human, emotional element to his judgments. This assistant actually has no name. A key plot point, the lack of a name has prompted fans to nickname her Onna, after the Japanese word for “woman.” Unlike Decim, she questions the nature of the judgments and believes in the good in people; she is much more emotional and caring for those she sees. To avoid spoilers, the only thing I shall say about these two is that both grow substantially as characters.
The other characters such as Ginti and Nona are not quite as interesting. With an emphasis on developing the game participants, who are in and out within a single episode, side characters don’t really get that much direct development. They instead get very subtle hints at character changes, such as Ginti’s little human dolls. Ginti was the perfect chance to be Decim’s foil as a fellow arbiter. Unlike Decim, Ginti has no respect for humans. While Decim says he “respects those who lived fulfilled lives,” Ginti mocks humans as only good for entertaining him, relishing in watching the darkness in humans’ hearts. Decim’s judgments are meant to find those worthy of reincarnation while Ginti’s judgments try to find evil souls to banish. Both accomplish the same goal but for very different reasons.
The biggest weakness of Death Parade is its greatest strength. By showing the development of a myriad of unimportant characters, the show is unable to fully convey the growth of any of its core characters. The series is exciting and interesting in the moment, but afterwards, I can’t help but wonder if the events I witnessed have any impact on the arbiters’ existences at all. To seemingly immortal beings, does the brief time they spend with humans mean anything? Decim says it himself that they lose their memories of their guests in time. Onna can have the biggest impact on Decim in his life, but it does not mean anything if he forgets all of it.
Death Parade is quite the interesting anime for those who enjoy sating their curiosity with philosophy and principles, rather than sitting back and watching explosions. If you want a dumb anime to turn your brain off, this is not for you. However, if pondering the extent of human mentality tickles your fancy, give this a shot.
Death Parade is not your average anime for your average viewer. Make time for it. Get ready for some deep thoughts. Get ready for some manly tears. Then dive deep right in.
Sorry about the lackluster review. To be honest, WordPress has been really buggy as of late and this review has been a long time coming.