Death Parade is a Japanese anime series which originated from the short film, Death Billiards. Despite being well received, the series consists of only one season with a mere 12 episodes.
The anime follows a rather unusual yet intriguing plot, wherein the recently deceased are sent to a mysterious bar, known as the Quindecim, to be judged by the bartender in his capacity as arbiter. Upon arrival, the guests are each pitted against each other in a Death Game, the result of which will determine the fate of their souls.
The protagonists of the anime are Decim, the bartender of the Quindecim, and the mysterious woman who Decim was unable to judge. Each episode builds on our understanding of the plot as two ‘guests’ arrive at the bar each episode. We are given an insight into the way in which Decim judges each pair as they play the Death Game, their lives hanging in the balance. With each game, the stakes are high and each person’s true character is revealed, allowing Decim to accurately judge whether they are to be reincarnated or to be sent off into the void.
Initially, I found the different Death Games to be rather horrific, especially in terms of how it managed to bring out the worst in people. Despite being fictional, the idea led me to consider the true nature of mankind, being selfish creatures who are only ever out for themselves. The idea of having the worst brought out of you, only to be judged, felt incredibly creepy and essentially made me wonder if our own afterlife is similar to events which take place at the Quindecim and if we too will be judged in a similar way.
As each episode progressed, the story turned from focussing on the guests to focusing on the mystery woman, Decim and the other arbiters. We are given more information about the world of the arbiters and their important role in the world. Their ability to judge means that they are not able to feel or have any sense of human personalities. However, things start to become interesting when the mystery woman begins to assist Decim in his judgements and questions his decisions, forcing him to reconsider each judgement he makes. As a result, the once emotionless arbiter begins to develop semblances of feeling, thereby changing his perceptions on his human guests.
As we learn more about the anime’s plot, we become engrossed with Decim and the mystery woman, whom we grow desperate to learn her true identity. Be prepared to wait a while for her story to be told, as the most interesting part of the anime takes place in the final few episodes of the series. I was certainly disappointed that the creators left such an intriguing part of the anime right to the very end, leaving a feeling of dissatisfaction at the rushed narrative. That being said, it felt good to finally know her story and the reason as to why she couldn’t be judged. Not only that, but her story resonated with me to a point that it reminded me of how much I have in this life and how grateful I am for it all.
Being rushed, I personally felt that there just wasn’t enough time given to the other arbiters. From the initial build up, it appeared as if there was some sort of conspiracy taking place with regard to the head arbiter, Nona, and her hold over Decim, however, this was simply cut short and never explored further, which was especially disappointing. Unfortunately, like many other anime that have been cut short and cancelled, the story is left incomplete, which caused my dissatisfaction with Death Parade.
Death Parade certainly had so much to offer and would have been a brilliant series had there been more episodes and more time given to really flesh out the story. It is still worth the watch for the plot still brings about interesting thoughts and ideas; just don’t expect there to be a satisfying ending to the anime. Here’s hoping that over time, the creators will add a second season.