Unlike death, Death Parade is no ordinary show. It’s rather extraordinary with an emphasis on the concept of death and expanding it into a game style format. But it’s more than also just simply playing a game because we see the ins and outs of what the players/characters are like. To put it figuratively, it’s more like playing life and death itself. The way the show operates is different than the usual survival game. This is because the characters are already dead. So what does Death Parade offer in its own little world?
The show is produced by Madhouse that runs for 1-cour. But more interestingly, the series is actually an expanded version of “Death Billiards”, a half hour short that was apparently successful enough to spawn this full television show. And to be honest, I am quite glad it did.
As the series is built on the very essence of death, there’s also an understanding the show brings in about it. Every episode revolves around something that our characters experienced in their past life that somehow led them there. For what’s worth, Death Parade unfolds as a series about lessons – to really let the characters know why they are there. The games (determined differently every episode) reveals the secrets of the participants and also decide their ultimate fate. It’s quite thought provoking since the series capitalizes on these ideas and really deliver its potentials. The games’ winner or loser isn’t really what’s important as it focuses down on the morality of the participants’ values. Decim, the bartender of Quindecim Bar, serves as an overseer of these games. With his trademark silver hair and a suit to match his style, each game literally becomes a thriller.
Because of the style of the show, the story is neither divided into arcs or a linear story. Rather, it builds on themes and expands them with the characters involved. Themes included in the show has a wide variety that includes revenge, jealousy, suicide, hatred, isolation, justice, and other mature content. Even murder becomes a topic that is focused in a very intense two-episode continuation. The fact that Death Parade operates with these themes shows how deadly the show can be. And when it does with those themes really brings out the best out of our main characters. As such, don’t expect many of the supporting characters (or rather players) to return in the show. Their fate are determined at the end of each game. Some will leave no doubtfully very strong impressions and perhaps even gives you a moment of “wow, that’s what I used to be like or want to be”. However, others may bring disgust by the actions they’ve committed during their time when they were breathing on Earth. The endgame here is that every player is different whether they are an ordinary businessman, a member of a popular band, a pair of stereotypical couples, or even an elderly woman.
Luckily enough, the show does have its own cast of prominent characters. I already mentioned Decim and he can be as humorous as he can be intimidating. The show makes a sort of statement that he is emotionless although his action sometimes contrasts this. Nonetheless, this individual will no doubt be a fascinating character for viewers to get to know better especially with the interactions he has with the players. Then, there’s Onna (she actually has a real name that is revealed later in the show), who serves as the assistant of Decim. Unlike some of the others, her personality seems normal. This is because she once used to be a normal girl before meeting her own fate. One specific episode actually concentrates on her including a revelation of Onna’s true name and backgrounds.
As a show that heavily focuses on characters, it’s unsurprising that she gets her own spotlight after being on the sidelines. The remainder of the cast also play roles although not as prominent as Decim. These include Nona (Decim’s superior), Ginti (another bartender), Clavis, Quin, Castra, and Oculus. All of these characters have certain roles with some getting less emphasis than others. I do express concern regarding some of their presence including Mayu who serves more as a comical relief if more than anything else. But that might also not be a bad thing. It creates a balance of the show. With such a dark and moody atmosphere almost every episode, she can bring in a lot of fun. Indeed, the show actually has its comedy to balance out the series. What’s good to know is that it never fully derides from the series’ premise. What I mean is that the show never really loses its weightless suspense even when comedy is added into some episodes. After all, a mixture of entertainment and engaging story is important. Thankfully, Death Parade accomplished just that. Furthermore, the show uses these characters to build on the mechanics of the series from behind the scenes. Ever wanted what those creepy dolls are for? Or how the judgement system really works? The lifestyles of the arbiters when they aren’t monitoring the games? The show takes breathers to accomplish that aspect too.
One other aspect of the show I find interesting is the relationships. I don’t just mean the main characters because there’s definitely chemistry between some of them. But rather, I’m referring to the players. The players’ chemistry during each game is phenomenal. Almost every one of them starts out as sort of normal. There’s a nerve wrecking mood as each game goes on that builds itself until its big climax. (with the whole organs and lives at stake) Sometimes, even Decim has to step in to stop situations that gets out of hand. This is because the games reveal the darkest secrets of the players as they open their eyes to the truth. And sometimes, that’s really heading into the mind-breaking territory. This is where Death Parade takes advantage of revelations to determine the fate of the players. It doesn’t always end perfect but it provides an enthralling experience for the audience. In essence, the show knows how to hook the audience into believing the story; regardless how ambiguous it may be at times. It’s something of a story that you have to watch and believe what you see to really get a tasteful experience out of it. Death Parade shares that experience with emotions, humor, and a thriller like a human drama.
Thank you Madhouse. I express gratitude for Death Parade’s artwork and visuals as it has a great way to convey the moody drama. Although bars are often used as a place of leisure, the series’ games are far from fun. Each game has a different style and although they mirror real life games (Twister, Darts, Pool, etc), the added twist of the organs and pain carves a terrifying experience. Now, not every game has the sort of intensity as you would expect but what’s important is how the art makes it feel so compelling as if it’s almost real. The players themselves knows this as they realize what they experience. The expressions they show is also well directed to show human emotions. It’s interesting really. Almost none of the other main characters are human (although they have some humanoid features when disregarding their supernatural eyes) at all but even they show these type of emotions. Decim, the emotionless guy, even has a fascinating sense of human-like behavior on some episodes. Nonetheless, the majority of the series takes place at Quindecim bar. It’s like another pocket dimension of sorts that looks ordinary but far from normal. It’s like one of those mythic purgatory things you see out of the book where you have to believe it to be there. The artwork clearly gives an impression of that thriller-like feeling.
Soundtrack is solid for the majority of the parts. The OST is thrilling to express the intensity of the games while solemn tones delivers the intention of its melancholic mood. But what’s most surprising is the OP song. When I first heard it, I thought to myself “is this really the opening song?” To my delight it is. It’s more like a false advertisement (compared to the previews anyways). Rather, the OP song brings a much lighthearted comedy aspect with the dancing, stylistic music, and cherry mood. Otherwise, we get the darkening and mood ED song to go along with each episode; although some has different footage depending on the players/games played. Finally, character voice mannerism matters a lot in this show. I give praise especially to Decim as someone who can make others believe he seems like an ordinary bartender but far from the Average Joe.
So why should you watch Death Parade? Well, it’s like a gift that delivers game scenarios in a different perspective. It gives back a feeling of emotional appeal, terror, and beauty all the same time with the style of the show. Whether you feel like the episodes are more like imaginations or real, they always sends a meaningful message with its revelations. Even the comedy that goes behind the scenes and on-screen is entertaining with the clever timings. One thing I do regret is that the show is a 1-cour with less emphasis on certain characters as compared to others. But still, Death Parade is a really a rare breed. It’s a humanly compelling blockbuster that lives up to hype.