Images courtesy of Madhouse and Funimation
Written by Bananaowns
It can be an awful feeling to miss out on a show that everyone has been raving about. Personally, I find myself not watching a show just because I have an adverse reaction to everyone telling me to check it out. I put off watching the Monogatari series for the longest time because of this attitude. It happens almost like clockwork though, the second I give these shows a chance, I end up loving them. After the first three episodes of Bakemonogatari, I quickly binged through the entirety of the series to catch up to the airing of Owarimonogatari. The show I am reviewing today was a show that has been on my watch list since last year. It was quite the interesting series that dealt with the very essence of human emotion. Of course, I am talking about Death Parade. Maybe the heavy subject matter kind of discouraged me from starting this series, but the series is well worth a watch. I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.
The story takes place in the afterlife. When two people on Earth die at the same time, they are sent without memories to a bar run by bartenders that serve as Arbiters, beings that will judge the fate of their souls. In order to be judged, the participants must play a Death Game which will slowly reveal the circumstances of their death and inner feelings. After the game, the Arbiter decides which souls will be reincarnated or banished into the void. The series focuses on one Arbiter named Decim as he encounters a mysterious black-haired woman. That is the basic setup for the plot of Death Parade.
There is an interesting overarching plot to the series, but it is not fully addressed until the last couple episodes of the run. In my opinion, the more interesting part of the series is the focus on characters that are being judged. These vignettes range from some truly heartbreaking moments that possess a large range of intensity. One episode might be more bittersweet focusing on a pair of potential lovers while another might involve the inner machinations of a marriage that fell apart. Every episode is highly emotional, carrying an undercurrent of emotion as it deals with the dreary topic of death. I don’t want to get into specifics regarding each episode, but know that the story is the highlight of the series.
It is very difficult to discuss the cast of Death Parade without delving into spoiler territory. Any discussion considering the characterization of the black-haired woman would be a significant spoiler. The series places a large focus on Decim’s ability to learn the intricacies of human emotion from the black-haired woman. Arbiters are rather emotionless beings due to the role they serve in judgment. There are a large variety of other characters ranging from Arbiters to those that are being judged. Given the vignette status of most of the episodes, the characters being judged are the primary focus of a majority of each episode. Every episode acts like a character study. These characters are infinitely more interesting than the main characters, at least until the last couple of episodes of the series. Each one has a rather tragic backstory and circumstance that caused their death. My favorite of these pairs involves an otaku paired with a reality TV star. Anymore talk of the characters would spoil the reason to actually watch this series. The story and characters define this series.
The animation for this series can only be described as a macabre sense of beauty. The dark theming combined with the very serious subject matter create the necessary atmosphere for this show. The color palette is also stylistically chosen for this series as well. Everything is so dark and moody and conveys the seriousness of death. The scenes featuring the Death Games showcase this dark theming to perfection. Each one of these Death Game scenes is a visual treat. The emotions of the characters are represented so well. The world itself is drawn in a way that makes it both beautiful and frightening at the same time. Despite the majority of the anime taking place in a bar, the scenes manage to vary immensely with the introduction of a new Death Game. There is only one instance of a difference regarding the overall animation, the intro animation is bright and peppy compared to the rest of the series. It’s a great sequence, but it quite jarring given the serious subject matter.
The highlight of the sound design lies with the vocal performances. The participants of the Death Games are especially convincing with their performances. Given the changing nature of these games, the actors manage to convey a whirlwind of emotion in each episode. The first episode alone has one character going from a loving tone, to an insane one rather quickly. It really is an example of superb voice acting in an animate series. As for the rest of the sound design, it is mostly serviceable. The music of the series is nothing special, except for one standout scene toward the end of the series. There is also the exception of the rather fun intro. The opening song is one of my favorites of all time despite the tone not matching that of the series at all. I guess that shows you the power of a great song. I recommend that everyone check out some of the other songs by Bradio as well.
Death Parade was a great watch, but I would not categorize it as one of my favorite shows of all time. This is merely a personal preference. The series is largely a character study and it accomplishes this perfectly well. The stories and characters involved in each of these vignettes are covered to perfection. The animation and vocal performances are two more standouts for this series. I feel like there was more that this series could have covered. It told a solid story arc, but set up for a second season. I would welcome a second season with open arms. It was objectively great in every way. For that, I give Death Parade my Watch Rating. I certainly found it to be good and I can certainly see others raving about Death Parade like I do about my favorite anime. I’ll be back next week for another blog post and video. Thank you for checking this out.