Death Parade: specifics

- Title: Death Parade — classy title, stylish story, polished anime.
- Nature: Anime — not just a cartoon because made by those who got nuked twice.
- Genre: Drama, mystery, psychological — "will Freud find his mother's ghost?"
- Length: 5h — about how long it would take for your soul to be judged.

What it is all about

Ding. You have reached the 15th floor, the elevator doors open. You walk out, not knowing why you are here. You are actually dead, you just don’t know it yet. In fact, you have no memories of anything that happened right before your death, and only recover some little by little — just like after a hangover, yet this time you didn’t drink too much, you dieded. You’re here to be judged, and that’s what Decim is for. He is one of the several arbiters (not all as classy and professional as him) whose sole purpose is to decide whether you should go to heaven, or to hell… by making you play a game. So, feeling like playing? If you are, then search on Netflix or Hulu for Death Parade, hit that play button, and “welcome to the tribunal of the soul”.

What makes it so damn good

Atmosphere and rhythm: I can’t even

No, I will not talk about how the first arbiter we meet speaks like a duke and how he owns a bar and how he turns out to be fucking Spiderman out of nowhere, because I can’t possibly pretend to be able to make sense of any of that. (It’s still an anime, for crying out loud!) Still, he is the one to whom we owe the saloon-like atmosphere which we are immersed in from the very start, with gentle music in the background and jellyfishes swimming around elegantly in huge fish tanks — I sooo want to have that at home, do you reckon it’s legal?

An arbiter’s room in Death Parade
© FUNimation

The whole work is like a strange mixture of celestial serenity and exciting apprehension, if not severe tension. On the one hand, you have the presence of the mythological everywhere, and the mixing of all beliefs through diverse stories and symbols, not giving the impression of clashing with one another — my God exists more than yours! Not true, it’s mine! Urr durr — but being complementary. And on the other, you have energetic music, stunning animation, and unbearable suspense. All of this is part of an effort to maintain a certain rhythm, because when you think about it, the whole show consists of people (more or less related) interacting while being pushed to their limits; basically if the director can’t achieve that, the whole thing turns into a brief version of The Young and the Restless… and we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

Judging, being judged

“Do you happen to know what the most primitive emotion human beings experience is? Fear, my dear.”

The process is simple: an arbiter observes you for a few rounds, and trust me, you would have never guessed board games could get so intense. You end up playing as if your life was at stake… oh wait, maybe because it is. Yet why through games, you may ask? Extreme conditions are needed to know who is worthy of being saved or not, and that’s the reason why you have to play. ‘Cause this isn’t your typical shit. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, right? Well drat, for that’s precisely what happens. People react in a variety of ways when they realize that their fate is being decided right there, right then. From begging and bargaining, to giving up and trying to understand… I guess it’s true, “in their last moments people show you who they really are.” (RIP Heath Ledger, forever in our hearts, xoxo)

By now you must be thinking that all you are gonna see is humans being judged, but in fact, the plot turns out to revolve more around the process of judging, and therefore those passing judgments. How do you do it, and how wrong can you be? I already struggle every day with trivial decisions — am I going to eat rice or pasta tonight? — so I can barely imagine how hard it must be for them to play God and make the right one, the fair one. And when you too start to try and judge their ability to pass judgment upon the dead, you too will realize that that shit ain’t easy for sure.

Grave topics, right questions, life lessons

Here I go again, over-thinking shit and boring you in the process… but here I come anyway. The reason why I loved this anime is because it made me think. Do we really live only to die? What does it mean to have lived a fulfilling life? What happens to our souls when death takes our bodies? I’ve always been obsessed with the different conceptions of the afterlife, of what awaits us at the end of our journey: heaven, hell, reincarnation, the void, or simply nothing?

Logo of Death Parade – © FUNimation

After all, nobody knows, we only choose to believe what we wish will happen. Just like we choose how we live our life. So you might want to consider watching this piece of work if you’re interested in the topic as well. Don’t forget to always stay open to different ideas, just like for sexual fantasies as long as it’s legal! Put that dog back down, will you?

Watching Death Parade makes you realize that taking such a decision would be impossible for us humans, for our emotions would interfere. But what may look stupid or futile in ourselves to arbiters is precisely what makes us human, and there is beauty in it all: in all the awkwardness, in all the feeling happy, in all the falling in love… This is a true celebration of humankind, of its infinite diversity, of all its life. But it hurts, doesn’t it? Feeling emotions hurts. Oh, the irony in needing to witness beings who can experience neither emotions nor death figure that out in order for us to fully do.

What was your favorite part? … I liked that too!

The concept of arbiters:
Those entities really are fascinating to me. Not simply for what they are, but for what they mean, and for the questions they raise. As things that can’t even understand humans, how can they fully grasp the whole complexity of their soul if they can’t experience what they’ve been through? It’s so much easier to judge what you don’t understand, what you’re not alike.

The tools used for judging:
If arbiters make the anime solemn, the games make it fun. But what would games be without rules? And just as much as there are rules for those being judged, there are rules for those judging. And in both cases, never have you ever paid that close attention to the rules: specific and unbreakable… or are they? Plus a special shout out to the device arbiters use to create extreme conditions because “sometimes the truth needs a nudge.” It’s beautiful, really, how sadistic those fuckers can be.

Quin (chilling) in Death Parade – © FUNimation

The choice of words:
Decim seems to have great care for what he says and how he says it, and it might make him sound cool but it is actually the reflection of a deep thinking over the weight of words, and damn I like that. But the ones that must have hit me the most and will forever be carved in my memory haven’t even been uttered by him, but by Quin, one hell of a darling: “it doesn’t matter what it is, but make something that you can treasure.” And for real, guys, never forget what you cherish most. Like that little kid tied up in your basement.

Final word

For once that an anime is an original work, and not based on a manga, it deserved to be mentioned and applauded. Plus you guys can’t say that the manga was better. But let me guess, if I tell you that the English dubbing is very well executed, you’re gonna call bullshit under the pretense that “dubs are bad”? Well you know what else is bad? Making assumptions, you little piece of shit. If God works in mysterious ways, we get to see the secrets of the universe revealed, making the enterprise of death a methodical work to be done. But goddammit, there is so much life in there!

Because of its singular approach to human psychology, and because of its poetic conclusion according to which we have so much to learn from humans, yes, I do think Death Parade is an amazing anime. And you must have taken a hint by now, it’s mainly because watching it gave me a massive… reflection. (You perv.) And believe me, you’re not ready; you are SO not ready for this. Wanna prove me wrong? Be my guest. Not Decim’s, though, dying sucks.