Mar 28, 2015
Satire (All reviews)
Morality is, and always will be, a perpetual grey area; it is akin to something like a no man's land. It's a subject that brings about wonder, bewilderment, and also hostility. Are human beings innately morally good or are human beings naturally inclined to be morally evil? What is considered morally good and what is considered morally evil? What draws the line between the two, and how does this get decided? There is no real, correct answer. As a follow up to the very controversial Death Billiards, Death Parade arrives and elevates these inquiries. As a viewer, you will venture into Quindecim with many questions. Unfortunately, you will likely leave with an unequal amount of answers.

Morality acts as the big hook which Death Billiards, and subsequently Death Parade, employs in order to draw in the initial interest of the viewer. However, this is somewhat of a bait-and-switch given that the series doesn't retain the concept of open-ended judgments, like done in Death Billiards. When I watched Death Billiards, and also the first episode of Death Parade, this was one of the biggest attractions that the series had. It felt engrossing and pushed me to ponder substantially more than your average show. Sadly, Death Parade does not choose to continue down this path. Instead, the show opts to offer explanations for things that could have been better if left to the imagination. To me, it felt a bit intellectually insulting to be given a breakdown and explanation of who received reincarnation, who received the void, and why.

Story-wise, Death Parade is a very character-driven series that heavily utilizes games and their participants as major plot-devices, almost to a fault. Because of the reliance on these two as plot-devices, Death Parade seems to suffer from the perspective of a solid, linear narrative. The heavy emphasis on the games, and the minor characters who partake in them, leave many aspects about the show, which potentially may have yielded something interesting, only lightly touched upon. Due to the necessity of Decim and Onna needing to grow as characters, more emphasis was put on the games and Decim's resulting gradual enlightenment. Because of this, conflicts and characters on the side are left unexplored. As a result, Death Parade, to some, will seem inconclusive upon completion. Whether or not one finds this to be a good thing, or a complete deal-breaker, is up to the viewer's discretion.

While the games themselves aren’t all too imaginative, ranging from throwing darts, bowling, air hockey, an arcade fighter, and even twister, they certainly act as a fascinating, exceptional medium to force conflict. People tend to act differently under competitive, pressured circumstances, and that is an essence portrayed well in this series. In fact, I would say that Death Parade captures the essence and nature of people pretty damn well. People tend to be stupid, egotistical, and selfish far more often than genuinely good. The ratio of the two in this series reflects this. Despite the game shenanigans providing a new, refreshing form of entertainment, I couldn't imagine Death Parade being longer than a single-cour series while still being very successful; the games, people's reactions, and judgments would become a stagnant, tedious routine, losing its compelling nature.

Although Death Parade is exceedingly character-driven, many of the recurring characters, who should be important, aren't very important. In my opinion, this is one if the biggest problems that Death Parade has. Why introduce an intriguing set of characters who essentially add nothing to the series except for a vague sense of mystery? One could easily remove characters such as Clavis, Oculus, Quin and not much would change. The same could be said about Nona and Ginti, who desperately could have used more fleshing out. Many of the game participants were far more interesting than the arbiter crew and company, and I'd say that leans more on the negative side than the positive. The only two exceptions to this are Decim and Onna, who are focal points of the series.

Although I’ve outlined some of the biggest flaws I found in Death Parade, all things considered, it was still a very enjoyable show. A large part of this is due to the wonderful production values and execution this series has. Madhouse did a fantastic job with this series visually, which certainly did the series justice. Sound-wise, Death Parade knew when to be both proper and ludicrous, adding that little extra 'oomph!' to the show's overall enjoyment. If Flyers, by BRADIO, doesn't put a smile on your face, then I don't know what will.

In conclusion, I still can't say that there is a clear, absolute answer to the ambiguous nature of morality. I don't believe the arbiters quite know themselves either. Maybe arbiters and humans are closer than perceived; we're both left without a definitive answer in regards to what is truly good and what is truly evil, and yet still make attempts at self-serving rationalizations. Regardless of this, I am still left contemplating the idea. Perhaps man is naturally good, created in the image of God, the creator of all things, who is wise, just, and benevolent. Perhaps man is naturally evil, influenced by their inner devil, and are inclined to be selfish, jealous, and greedy beings who are full of malice and misconstrued perceptions. Perhaps man is only inclined to deem acts good or evil based upon learned social acceptability. Perhaps I, amongst many others, am not meant to know the answer.