YES... WE GET IT... THE OPENING IS NICE... Now let's talk about the show.
If there was ever an undeniable truth it will be that death is inevitable. And it shouldn't be a surprise that a great deal of shows, in one way or another, touch upon that subject. But very few anime titles take the route of having the entirety of their content centered around it. As few as those numbers may be it's still been done before, but what Death Parade does differently is not the subject of the afterlife itself, but rather the judgement of the people that enter it. It's a show where the victims' morality is tested and pushed to extremes in order to achieve a verdict. With this final verdict being either reincarnation or being cast into the void (something like a permanent purgatory) . The setup itself is contradictory to the traditional sense of judging, since normally the one that gives the final verdict, in this case the arbitrator, remains impartial to the conflict. But with a setup that directly involves manipulating the emotional response of the afterlife victims, this is where the heart of the conflict takes rise.
Now as good as that sounds on paper, a good premise doesn't equate to a good show. It all comes down to how it's executed, explored and presented. Death Parade, a story about the human condition, morality... and sadly nothing at all. For everything Death Parade could have been, at the end of the day it was simply wasted potential.
Now let's make this clear, this show is entertaining. Because we're constantly seeing new people judged due to the semi episodic format, every episode becomes something of a spectacle. In any other show someone going off the rockers might be the climax but with DP it's a constant occurrence. We are constantly left guessing as to who will receive eternal damnation and who would be gifted with rebirth. With the form of judgment being a different game scenario, each episode feels fresh and fun to watch. These often play out in very unique situations as we are slowly given glimpses into the victims' past. This is an area in which it excels since each new person introduced is fleshed out and given believable enough characteristics before each 20 minute run time is up. But because heavy emphasis is placed on the games and judgement the recurring characters are placed on the back burner and this is where our 1st glaring problem arise.
I can go on for a lengthy period of time talking about the art, pristine animation , "DAT opening" and unique character designs but it's Madhouse we're dealing with here. It's a no brainer that they brought their A game. It's consistent, sonically well put together and all in all meets every standard on a production level. Instead I'll address the issues.
The cast, which consist of the arbitrators and an assistant, remained greatly underdeveloped. Drawing back to the episodic setup, all time is placed on fleshing out the new stand alone individuals and playing out the games than actually used to explore the permanent characters. Of course they try to mend that within the last few episodes but by then it was too late. Any given stand alone character had more characteristics than the people we see from beginning to end, which creates a huge disconnect towards them and the viewer. They feel like puppets and turn out to be just that as we learn more about them. This isn't a bad thing if they were delegated to a minor role but when you have a show that deals with the human condition, having characters that lack dimensions just takes away from the experience and impact. Again they try to explain this away when we discover what the arbiters are but even that is contradicted by the way it is presented. There is very little separating them from your typical 1 note archetypes. Chiyuki, the assistant, is the only character that was handled properly by being fleshed out and given a reason for being. And even then she was just fleshed out to basic standards and leaves no room for a character study since this all happened towards the final episodes.
Another inescapable issue was the subpar world building. The only setting that's ever explored is the bar in which the judgement occurs, everything else that we occasionally see remains shrouded in ambiguity. The world mechanics are only talked about on a surface level and it feels very underwhelming because of it. Even after getting a general idea as to how everything works it still feels hollow. It's still entertaining to look at but with nothing that feels plausible outside of the show's own made up techno-babble it becomes frustrating if you take a minute to try to comprehend or even explain it. It was flimsily handled and with so many aspects left unexplained it became pitiful when analyzed.
Death Parade isn't a bad show, just one that wasn't properly utilized to its full potential. It had the setup to be something thought provoking and entertaining at the same time but due to the humdrum cast and unexplored setting it only passes as a nice popcorn timepasser. also the opening since no one seem to shut up about it. Despite my qualms I fully recommend it to anyone since its entertaining to the very least.