Show: Death Parade
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery
In order to judge the souls of the dead, arbiters host games designed to bring out the darkest parts of a human's soul.
Death Parade follows arbiter Decim and his mysterious assistant, the black-haired woman, as they pass judgment on the dead. Quindecim is the bar in which these judgments take place and Decim is the bartender. As the black-haired woman watches Decim do his job, she also learns more about her own unknown past.
The series also follows other characters that make up Decim's world. One is Nona, Decim's boss who is meddling with things behind the scenes. Ginti is the arbiter who runs the bar Viginti. He seems personally insulted by Decim's existence and does not share Decim's respect for the dead. Oculus is portrayed as an old man who enjoys playing billiards.
Death Parade is a follow-up to the short film Death Billiards, which follows the same premise as the full anime and can be viewed as one of the episodes. A young man and an old man both enter Quindecim, with no memory of how they got there. They are told that they cannot leave until they play a game of billiards. In these games, what contestants are not told is just as important as what they are.
The anime asks the simple question: what does it mean to have lived? This question is presented multiple times throughout the series as we learn the backgrounds of each character and their reactions to their deaths.
Anime openings and endings are beautiful pieces of artwork, putting American television's introductions to shame. Death Parade is no exception. The opening is fun and light, set to the song "Flyers" by BRADIO. It showcases all of the characters in a fun way, seemingly fitting of a show about games. The closing is far darker, set to "Last Theater" by Noicycell. While the visuals vary with the episodes, the most common one is filled with mannequins falling apart, something eerily beautiful and symbolic, especially the farther you get into the series.
The series is often ambiguous, not telling viewers exactly where each soul ends up. While at times it is more explicit, it is not always so. And sometimes, you are left to wonder is Decim's decisions are correct. It leads to another interesting question: what makes someone a bad person and what just makes them human?
Be prepared to cry. As the series goes on, it gets darker and draws you in emotionally, making it difficult to let go of the characters. The last episode, "Suicide Tour," left me a sobbing mess.
Of course, not all of the episodes are as stunning and heartfelt. Episode 6, "Cross Heart Attack" is probably the lightest of the series, and by far the most annoying. But it does connect to later events in the series. This episode shifts the attention away from Decim and the black-haired woman to focus on Ginti, giving viewers a different perspective on the judgments. While this episode is not nearly to the standards of the others, it happens early enough that it does not detract from the deeper plot later on.
The plot arc in episodes 9 and 10, "Death Rally" and "Death Counter", are particularly brutal, showing some of the darkest depths of the human soul that hadn't been reached yet in the series. It's captivating, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the shocking conclusion.
Overall, Death Parade is one of the deepest anime to get into. The animation and soundtrack are beautiful. The story is emotional and raw, leaving you devastated at the end. It is both incredibly simple and extremely complex. A must-watch for anyone who enjoys quality anime.