Death, hell and reincarnation are no doubt topics that have crossed our minds in our lives. What happens to us after we die? Am I going to see bright flashing lights? Or will I be reincarnated as a pigeon? The outcomes and possibilities are endless. If you like watching deep, thought-provoking anime, that consists of gloomy topics like hell and reincarnation, then Death Parade should definitely be added to your watch list.
You would think that Death Parade is light-hearted and comical when you first hear the upbeat, funky opening song “Flyers” by BRADIO, that has you singing “everybody put your hands up” by the end of it. However, two minutes into the first episode, you soon realise that the opening song is not a real reflection of the dark themes that are explored in this anime.
When two people die at the same time, they come out of a lift and arrive at a mysterious bar named Quindecim, where they are greeted by Decim, a bartender who serves them a cheeky cocktail, then invites them to play a game. The winner of each game is reincarnated into the living world, while the loser’s soul is discarded and sent to the “void” (hell). The characters are unaware that they are dead as their memories are erased when they arrive at the bar. The only way that they can “leave” Quindecim is if they play a game.
Quindecim is located on the 15th floor of a building which has several other floors occupied by arbiters. Fan theories suggest that the Death Parade and Death Note anime universes are connected, as the series is set during a time where Quindecim is experiencing a high frequency of visitors as a result of people being killed by Yagami Light (hmmm interesting).
Decim is an arbiter who oversees and judges the games between each pair. The games are designed to assess the true natures of each character and the degree of humanity displayed as they fight to save their souls. Death Parade’s core themes are centered around death and the afterlife, and the anime looks at how people’s actions, behaviours and personal traits when they were alive, are taken into account when they are judged in Quindecim. As the games develop, the characters gradually regain their memories about their past lives which, in certain cases, help them to strategically win the game.
During each episode, viewers are introduced to two new characters that were connected when they were alive. Every pair has a unique back story, which is always revealed throughout each episode. Death Parade episodes are filled with lots of suspense, as you wait for the outcomes of each judgement. As a viewer, you feel like an arbiter as you try to decide which person deserves to go to the void. However, this can be hard to tell at times, as the personalities of the characters can be tricky to perceive.
In episode 2, we are introduced to the “dark-haired woman” (whose name is later revealed as Chiyuki). She is a human that can’t be judged as she already knew that she was dead when she arrived at Quindecim. She is given the task to observe and assist Decim with his judgements, while it is decided how she will be judged. The ongoing question throughout the series is whether the arbiter’s methods of judgement are just. We see changes in Decim’s perception of the way people are judged, due to Chiyuki‘s influence on his thoughts. She judges each situation from a subjective standpoint, whereas Decim, who lacks human emotions, sees things objectively. The anime shows how Decim is morally conflicted with himself, as he doubts his abilities as an arbiter and struggles to decide the winners and losers of each game. The ideal soul judging system would combine objective and subjective methods of judgement to truly determine those who should go to the void. Although it is clear that there are flaws in the system, it becomes evident that there are higher powers in favour of keeping the current system.
Death Parade has steady pacing across its 12 episodes. I found the anime enjoyable to watch because of its dark, psychological themes, and I think it’s a great alternative to watching shonen, seinen and shoujo anime. Angel Beats, Death Note, Psycho Pass and Ergo Proxy share similar themes to Death Parade, so they are also worth watching.
While Death Parade was fun to watch, I felt that some questions were left unanswered. I would have liked the anime to go into more depth about some of the characters and the strange purgatory world that Death Parade is set in. Viewers are introduced to a character named Oculus, the creator of the soul-judging system, but we are not given much information about him. He appears to be in charge of the world, but he mentions that along with everyone else, he is also a puppet. So, who ultimately controls this world and what are their true intentions with the judgement of the dead? There has been no official confirmation of a second season for Death Parade; so anime fans have been left to come up with the answers using their own imaginations.
Overall, the top animation quality (bravo Studio Madhouse) and the jazz-influenced classical soundtrack, contribute to the awesomeness of Death Parade. There are plenty of key messages to take away from this anime, from the connection between humanity and the afterlife to the importance of morality in the judgement of those that have passed on.