Death Parade is an original anime based off of an OVA (Original Video Animation) by the name of Death Billiards. This single episode OVA was part of the annual “Young Animator Training Project” of 2013 and produced by the powerhouse Madhouse Studios.
There was much hype surrounding the release of this series after the OVA was highly acclaimed – and we certainly weren’t disappointed. I’d like to welcome you to my first anime showcase: Death Parade.
Death Parade introduces to us to a world in which people who die are either reincarnated or sent to the “void”. To decide who will receive what fate, the souls of people who have recently died are sent to be judged by arbiters. Two souls will be sent at a time and (having no memory of their death or majority of their life) are forced to play a game in which they are told their lives will be at stake. Little do they know this is simply a judgement of character and the final decision of who will be sent where is determined by the Arbiter (note: both may be reincarnated or both sent to the void). Given this, our story follows Decim, an arbiter and bartender at Quindecim as he judges many souls.
The plot of Death Parade is divided into three key components. Firstly, the episodic plots: These follow the games played by the recently departed in order for judgement to occur. As the games progress, memories are regained and the true colours of the people are shown as they slowly get a grip of the situation. The amount of different stories are just astounding, in both their quality and diversity – packing in more emotion and thought that some shows do in entire season, into one or two episodes.
Secondly is the overarching plot of the series: This is related specifically to Decim and the mysterious black-haired women that assists him in judgements. Developments are slow for this as things are hinted at and developed during the progression of the games, with only the last few episodes solely exploring this. The quality of the overarching plot is just as high as the episodic ones, with foreshadowing of simple things leading up to a very satisfying ending that wrapped it up perfectly.
Thirdly is the overarching plot of the world: This differs to the series plot in that it is related to the world of Death Parade as a whole, as opposed to a particular episode or season. This plot is randomly shown throughout the series in order to build the world itself, yet raises as many questions as it answers. This plot is developed to a certain point but not completed (as of this season) leaving room for a sequel in the future.
The structure of story in Death Parade is perfect in my opinion – every episode is satisfying to finish yet leaves you wanting more. The same goes for the ending, ultimately leaving everything we know in a place that let me appreciate this series as a whole yet has enough intriguing elements left unexplored to have me praying for a second season.
Our two main characters are Decim – a seemingly emotionless arbiter who runs the bar while judging souls, and “Kurokami no Onna” (Black Haired Women) whose existence is shrouded in mystery as she does not know even her own name. These two characters are substantially developed as they observe the true nature of humans put in situation where they believe they are fighting for their lives. The contrast between the reactions of the two characters is a great study of human nature; observing objectively in Decim’s case and subjectively in the Black Haired Women’s case. Along with seeing the reactions, we also see things from eyes of these people, with their different natures and experiences, as we get a relatively detailed glimpse into their personalities and what made them who they are. The variety of these characters was, once again – astounding. The lives and deaths of all the characters range from completely ordinary to extreme and gives a broad insight to how our upbringing and experiences shapes us as people.
Aside from the main characters, there are several reoccurring ones involved in the hierarchy of the afterlife who are often very mysterious. This ranges from other arbiters, to administrative staff that allocate which souls go to which arbiters and “bosses” whose specific role is unclear.
I’m a major fan of Madhouse Studios, having animated some of my all time favourite animes – and there couldn’t have been a better studio to pick this series up. The characters all move fluidly and the facial expressions are animated brilliantly to reflect their emotional state. Character animation during the game scenes (such as throwing a dart) is realistic and makes very good use of CG as needed.
Every backdrop is detailed and is beautifully coloured, giving locations the appropriate feel in the context they are being used in. Another noteworthy aspect of the animation is the transformation scenes of the bar as the stage for the game is set.
Basically, every aspect of the animation is perfectly done, snippets of this can be seen in the trailer below.
As with every other element of this show the OST is great. Although the background music is spot on, what I really want to talk about here is the opening and ending themes.
The opening got me tapping my foot from episode one, with such a catchy and awesome theme, it was impossible to not immediately fall inlove with the show. I never skipped it and was always left with a smile after watching the animation that goes along with it. Please do check it out:
As for the ending theme and the accompanying animation, it really did suit the darker themes of the show, which is often what we are left contemplating at the end. The rock influenced music and the brilliant voice of the NoisyCell lead singer even gave me chills during the end of one episode as it played over the scene itself, leading to one of the most emotional, epic and overall memorable moments of the series. Once again, check it out:
Madhouse Studios really have outdone themselves once again, creating such a memorably and original series that instantly became one of my favourites. It’s just so full with the complete spectrum of qualities that make an anime good. There’s smiles, laughter, sadness, heartbreak, thrills and epicness packed into every episode. I definitely recommend this anime and hopefully you enjoy it. 10/10