Here’s a written version of my spoiler-free review if you prefer to read!
Do you all remember when Old Man Miyazaki went off on the anime industry? Actually, I’m pretty sure he does that all the time.
But I remember one interview where he said something like, “The anime industry is filled with a bunch of sad creepy virgins who don’t spend any time watching people. Because they’re people who hate people and love anime way too much. Your body pillow is never going to come to life you nerd! Commit seppuku!”
That’s probably a rough translation, but I’ve always agreed with that sentiment.
And while watching the anime Death Parade, I was reminded greatly of Old Man Miyazaki and this quote.
Death Parade is an original concept by the anime studio Madhouse.
And it’s without a doubt one of the best shows that I’ve seen in a real long time. Death Parade doesn’t have flashy battles or a grand and epic quest for the protagonists to conquer, but it is teeming with humanity and emotionality. Despite having the word death in the title, it’s pretty much a show about life and the point of it.
Now the plot to Death Parade is simple. The protagonist, Decim, is an arbiter who judges the souls of the dead. Every episode a pair of souls wonders into the bar known as the Quindecim, where Decim acts as a bartender. And upon arrival, Decim threatens and tricks the pair of souls into playing a game against one another with little to no explanation as to why. He doesn’t even bother to tell them that they’re dead already.
And I guess it also doesn’t help that his visitors don’t remember certain aspects of their life, nor do they remember the moment of their deaths.
While playing games against one another, truths about the visitors begin to unravel and the dark nature of man surfaces. Often the visitors would remember things on their own as they play—which would then cause them to reveal their true natures, but sometimes Decim would secretly intervene and cause more friction than necessary, making the visitors act in an unsavory manner.
The point of the games is simple. When people die, they’re either sent to the void where their souls would disappear into nothingness or they’re sent to a place for reincarnation.
There are other things happening in the show as well. There are other arbiters, and other characters that make the show more colorful. Decim’s assistant Chiyuki for instance would continuously question Decim—and in turn make him question himself and his methods. And that’s pretty much where the main arc of the series is at.
While the Death Parade provides viewers plenty of emotional scenes and stories between the pair of souls Decim is judging. There are also mysteries and questions that the show would throw onto the viewers over the course of the series—like who’s Chiyuki really, what’s Nona planning and why does that old man have a flower on his chin? But the ultimate question is left to Decim: What is humanity? And does it mean to be human and what does it mean to live?
The show’s answer to that question may not be the most original, but the execution on how Decim reaches his conclusion, his interactions with Chiyuki, the interactions and stories of the visiting souls as well as the side stories with Nona and the other arbiters all make this show worth the watch.
Death Parade is tagged on myanimelist.com under the Mystery, Game and Psychological genres.
It definitely has mysteries in it.
And it definitely has plenty of games in it.
But most importantly, the psychological aspects of this show are what make it amazing. Death Parade really delves deep into the whole spectrum of human emotion and existence in terms of its story, but the show as a whole does so as well.
I know that I might be talking about heavy stuff like the meaning of life and what not, but this show knows when and how to be light.
Death Parade is not devoid of comedy and not every judgment and soul that Decim judges has a malicious air to them. Because just as life’s not always bleak and dreary, the show also knows when to take a break and celebrate all that is good and light about life—while still acknowledging the bitter sad poetry of it.
The art and overall presentation of Death Parade is great as well. I really liked Decim and all the other characters’ designs on the show, even the dead people who are just everyday average humans are given a lot of personality in their designs. The music of the Death Parade stood out impressively as well; it has a nice blend of mysterious, eerie, tense and charming to it.
And speaking of music, Death Parade’s opening really contends for my all time favorite anime opening. There’s so much fun and excitement going on in it that I would often find myself replaying the opening multiple times before actually watching an episode. It’s a great opening for the show, even if it may come of as a little deceptive.
Also before I forget, besides the 12 episodes of the series there’s also a side story—a 30-minute movie short that the whole idea of Death Parade was based off from called Death Billiards. It’s not necessary to the plot, but it’s great—and might help you determine whether or not you should watch Death Parade!
And I do recommend people watch this show. If you love anime that touches upon all the life and psychological stuff I mentioned, watch this show. If you prefer anime that has excessive amounts of boobs and flashy action in it, watch this show anyway. It doesn’t have what you’re looking for in terms of boob and action content, but I don’t think it would hurt to watch something human once in a while. Also if you’re a fucking normal, watch this show. I understand that anime is not for everyone, but I think that Death Parade warrants a watch anyway—if you don’t like to read subtitles, there’s an English Dub coming out this year (or is probably already released) that you can check out.
Maybe not everyone’s going to get what I took from this show, but as someone who puts importance to narrative it more than satisfied me. And as someone who’s always asking things about life it more than satisfied me.
I really love this show.
And as the credits rolled at the last episode of the show I couldn’t help but smile and grin in satisfaction. I always feel like anime rarely have conclusions, as whole series would often end too early because of how close they are to using up all the original material that they’re basing the show on.
So props to Madhouse for coming up with something new and something on their own—and double props for making something that ought to show Old Man Miyazaki that there are people in the anime industry with a shred of humanity.
People whom like people—well maybe not people who like people, but at least this show was written by people who knew how to be human.
That certainly provides a breath of fresh air.