Death Parade, which aired in early 2015, is no ordinary anime. It’s extraordinary with its unique approach to how the story unfolds and the emphasis on the concept of death, while incorporating games into the mix. It’s also different from the usual survival game, as the characters are already dead. I was so intrigued in this anime that I finished watching it today. Despite being only 12 episodes, I really do enjoy this anime. TLDR: IT’S SO F**NG GOOD, GO WATCH IT!
Just a bit of background, the series actually expanded from a half hour short “Death Billiards”. While I didn’t get the chance to watch this, apparently it was so successful that it was enough to become a full fledge anime series. Now moving on to the review.
The structure of Death Parade is different from any anime I’ve seen. It blends in the aspects of episodic and linear storytelling into one, which may be strange on paper, but turns out it was executed perfectly on screen. Each episode typically includes two entrants to a bar, who then plays a game which is designed to be incredibly stressful, or draw out their true nature. These characters react in many ways and they will be judged based on their actions, as the memories alone (which are compiled and studied by arbiters prior to the arrival to Quindecim) are not enough.
I’m not kidding when I say that Death Parade is a very character driven story. Initially, the characters doesn’t recall what happen to them until they play the game. As the game progresses, we’re given flashbacks and memory recalls of the person and the scenario becomes clear, thus their true nature. It reminds me of the Phoenix Wright series, where the case becomes clearer as the story moves forward. A lot of screen time was given to the characters such that we as the audience can clearly see the changes, but it never felt rehashed or rushed. Considering the story Death Parade is going for, the pacing is surprisingly good.
Death Parade builds on various themes and expands upon them with the characters involved. These themes include revenge, suicide, hatred, depression, jealously, isolation and other mature content. What’s even more surprising is that murder was a main theme in a very intense two-episode continuation. The fact that such an anime can incorporate these themes just show how deadly it can be, and when it does, it naturally brings out the best out of the main characters and the players alike.
Most of the characters here are all likeable, but the highlight for most people would probably be Decim, the arbiter and bartender. The show makes a statement that he is emotionless, though his actions may contradict this. His interaction with the characters around him is fascinating to watch as his cold, intimidating facial expression, coupled with the formality of a bartender, makes him such an intriguing character to see. Then there’s his assistant, Onna, whose real name is revealed later in the show. Her personality seems normal since she was a normal girl prior to meeting her own fate.
But what about the players, you may ask? Well, the chemistry of the players during each game is phenomenal. What makes it nerve wrecking is that each game builds itself until the big climax, with organs and lives at stake. The games reveal dark secrets of the players as they regain memories prior to their death and open their eyes to the truth. Sometimes, this goes into mind-boggling zones, which is where Death Parade took advantage of the insane behaviours to determine the player’s fate. It’s a very enthralling experience for the audience, being able to hook them into believing the story, which is very impressive.
For visuals and animation, it’s really impressive considering that it delves into mature themes. Adding the twist of organs and pain is already set for a ridiculously terrifying experience. I really do feel like the characters were experiencing real emotions as they bleed, cry, rage, and overall feel like a normal human being. The environment is spectacular, so good that I wanted to be in that bar, with the mix of purple, black, red and blue, plus the effective use of lighting and shadows. This just goes to show the impeccable attention to detail, care and dedication with Death Parade.
Sound design and voice-acting is definitely worth mentioning because if it’s not done right, the character’s emotion wouldn’t be effectively conveyed as it was intended. Turns out, the voice-acting is top notch, so effective that I could definitely feel the emotions just from hearing the dialogues. The OP is such a surprise as far as the overall tone the show is going for. “Flyers” by BRADIO, has a very catchy, upbeat and lively tune, which is a bit deceiving, but nonetheless still a good song. Meanwhile, the ED, “Last Theater” by NoisyCell, is quickly a favourite of mine, with its strong melancholic, and emotional tone that definitely fits in with Death Parade’s theme. Below are MVs for both songs for your listening pleasure. For the background music, most of the time its silent, which brings out the powerful emotions from the voice-acting. Otherwise, it consist of soft piano pieces that are played well during subdued moments.
I enjoyed Death Parade a lot. The emotional impact of this show is not to be underestimated. The feels are real, just like in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (which is also a fantastic anime), but in Death Parade, it goes deeper. It is a cross examination of human nature, where you are presented with some of the most stressful and painful memories you ever had, and you’ll be judged based on your actions. Is your soul worth being reincarnated or be sent down to sorrow forever?
Overall, Death Parade gets so many things right that it is a complete package. And didn’t I tell you that this is a 12 episode show already? To cover such themes, create this level of emotional depth and mystery with just 12 episodes is astonishing. Believable characters, and a unique narrative on the examination of human behaviours, make Death Parade a modern classic and must watch.
RATING: 10/10 *the 5th anime I’ve given full 10/10. YAY*