Welcome to Queen Decim, mystical bar of fate.
What happens when two people, whether they're strangers or the closest of companions, are pitted against each other in a seemingly mundane contest, with the stakes being their own lives? Suspicions, outrage, deceit, bargaining, and all manner of psychological warfare commence, all in the name of survival. However, is everything as it appears?
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I feel this episode 0, if you will, should actually be seen after the first two episodes of the Death Parade TV series. That way, one has an idea what's going on, and who the characters are. Part of the mystery of the one-shot may be dispelled, but it made much more sense and was more interesting and compelling having seen some of the series.
Two persons enter, and play what's a seemingly unremarkable game, such as darts, bowling, or in this case: pool. The people have no memory of why or how they've come to be at the Queen Decim, and are given no explanation of why they're being forced to play the game; other than that their lives are on the line. The alternative to playing is explained as "not something they want to experience."
Eventually, after bargaining, attempts at escape, and outright threats, our contestants concede, and begin their life altering game.
Outwardly, we watch two people locked in a simple contest of pool, each demanding no less than victory for themselves, if only for the pride of winning. Inwardly, we see a classic struggle: a clash between souls, with the ultimate reward or price at stake.
The interplay of fear, suspicions, motives, emotions, and the individual thoughts, feelings, and memories that make up the person are a phenomenal conflict within themselves. They lead us to the question- "What will you do to survive?" which everyone can only answer to the best of their ability to do so. Life isn't fair, and rarely presents an opportunity for two souls to be on equal footing in their struggle, but again, our characters find themselves answering a question- "what is it that I have to live for?"
In this one-shot, we're introduced to Decim, the white haired, steely composed purveyor of the Queen Decim. The Queen Decim, an enigmatic bar (and character within itself), with a grand ballroom and game theatre whose only entrance is a pair of elevators ordained with a pair of ornate theatre masks- representing heaven and hell.
Decim's purpose is to ensure that the entrants to the establishment agree to, and carry out their contract to play a random game of chance, enforce the rules, and execute the results. He's a stony, dispassionate man, and seems to take no joy in the games that he has his contestants undertake.
Our two visitors in this episode are an old man, and a young businessman, each with their own Raison d'être. Neither has a clue as to why they're in the Queen Decim, playing pool for their life, but both have the same goal: win. As their fates unfold, so do their pasts- their memories begin to return to them- and alters the path that their life henceforth is set on.
Excellently colored. Dark, ominous shades permeate the show. A miasma of blacks, purple, reds, and blues set the foreboding tone. Beautifully hand drawn characters are very consistent, and the anguish, the swell of victory, and the crush of defeat are very evident in the body language and facial designs. Moving.
Soft BGM, appropriately dark and foreboding. Subtly raises the intensity of the visuals. I felt that the moments of absolute silence were the most oppressive: it allowed the character's speaking to have a much more profound effect, as there were no distractions.
A very intense and emotionally gripping episode. Twists and turns, and while not much makes sense in the beginning, everything is revealed in due time. While a bit dialogue heavy, and metaphorically challenging, it was absolutely enjoyable. It never felt like a chore to decipher the meanings behind, and has a very interesting outcome.
The gloomy atmosphere and sense that something isn't quite right that surround the show are entirely addictive. Left me wanting more.
I've been looking for a new psychological thriller since finishing Ergo Proxy, and I may have found it. Very excited to see where the TV show is headed.