Anime: Death Parade (The Complete Series - Limited Edition)
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Retail Price: $84.98
Death Parade Review
From the anime production company Madhouse (Death Note, Claymore) comes an anime based on a short film regarding the concept of life, death, reincarnation and right vs wrong entitled Death Parade. The premise involves two people who pass away at the same time, leaving their souls in limbo of achieving reincarnation or disappearing into the abyss. That’s when these lost souls to wander into a bar (Quindecim) and are led to play a seemingly carefree game rigged with high stakes -- one can pass on and get reincarnated with the other merely ceasing to exist. With an interesting lead to an excellent series that only gets better as it progresses, you’ll surely want to immerse yourself in Death Parade.
Now knowing the generalized structure of Death Parade, we can begin to discuss the elements that make the series tick, including bartender and arbiter, Decim. The white-haired man is the new bartender/arbiter, whose role is actually to determine if someone is worthy of salvation as opposed to being erased from existence. The arbiter (Decim, in this instance) is the sole person in the establishment to make these calls -- until, one day, a girl wanders in and has the awareness of losing her life, making Decim’s job of judgment the most complex it had been thus far. The girl (Chiyuki) becomes a piece of the afterlife decision-making process to aid Decim as an assistant, and it brings the heavy choices one makes into question.
Decim serves as a character who is (by design) meant to feel emotionless to all of the death, loss and grief as we begin to learn more about the creation of arbiters. It becomes a major ongoing theme throughout the series on if it is a necessity to be deprived of those raw feelings, or if it is vital to understanding the human psyche, soul and or heart. Decim and Chiyuki (early on called ‘black-haired woman’) play opposite sides of the coin in terms of decision-making skills, pivotal to what draws you in as far as Death Parade’s complexity. You begin to see it evolve during the 12 episode anime, only becoming a bigger question to more than just those two but also the individuals who call the shots from higher up in this afterlife building (like a business driven by death). Though Decim is the poster-child for Death Parade, Chiyuki is so steadfast in her beliefs that, within moments of her introduction, I was completely invested in her role and becoming more anxiety-riddled as she gains a more centered role.
In a sense of discussing judgments, most of the episodes provide enough backstory in a stretched-out timeframe to give viewers an opportunity to sleuth their way through the evidence and make their own call -- or, in some cases, none at all. The anime places such seriousness into the various motives behind people’s actions and life choices that it requires an analytical observation with each chapter to properly feel what the creator intended to make viewers aware of. One prime example is when we meet another remarkable character, Mayu Arita, who, similar to Chiyuki, is a soul who another arbiter (Ginti) has trouble deciding what to do with. Mayu is entertaining, goofy, lovable and driven by quirks that may not be understood by everyone. Her huge heart shines in unconventional ways, and, with multiple moments in the series, you truly begin to feel for the girl with no fate. When you do get to the decisions being made, it makes it very apparent that Death Parade has no problems in creating characters you utterly root for or adore entirely. Because of that road Death Parade takes, the series is also one that draws out an emotional viewing with consistent storytelling and connectivity amongst humanity. Even though I will say I enjoy both main characters, I tend to feel more relatable to Chiyuki for seeing eye-to-eye on most all of the choices made in each varying scenario -- but part of the fun is determining where your stance would be, so there is no wrong choice, regardless.
The animated direction in Death Parade is purely magical from beginning to end. The enhanced dark colors to create this post-life ambiance is done with perfection and feels like a perfect fit for the tone of the anime. There are similarities to the characters, so, if you enjoy the art of one, you will most likely become a fan of the others, too. The English dub cast was a nicely balanced group that ranged from heartfelt to emotionless and even creepy on a few occasions. The limited edition box-set includes a casing that resembles the elevator to the afterlife (a must for collectors) with a few extra perks and bonus features to enhance the Death Parade experience. I instantly knew Death Parade was going to be an emotional rollercoaster, and it delivered more than I could have predicted -- but, more importantly, it was in all the best ways. Death Parade is a series that I would recommend to any anime fiend because the quality is evident, and a gem like this deserves to be enjoyed.
Overall Score: 9/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- The nuance of life, death and afterlife was explored efficiently, as opposed to many animes that can’t quite reach such success.
- Characters (both brief and consistent) were given enough depth to truly generate an emotional interest.
- If the series were to continue, it would be a nice addition to see how things play out from a higher-power perspective.