Shinigami no Ballad was created by light novelist, Hasegawa Keisuke. The series gained an anime adaptation in 2006 from Group TAC, who you may remember as the studio behind the Arashi no Yoru ni film as well as several other works such as Those Who Hunt Elves and the Street Fighter anime. I might get to one or both of these eventually. Really, this could go either way based on their works I’ve seen. So let’s look at Shinigami no Ballad and see.
Shinigami no Ballad doesn’t have an over-arcing story. Instead, each episode is its own story. They’re connected by the theme of moving on after a brush with death, usually due to the loss of a loved one. Each story involves a different person learning to cope with some assistance from a shinigami named Momo and her winged cat named Daniel. This concept could have been really interesting. The big problem is that too many of the episodes cover the same basic thing with the same resolution. Seriously, half of the episodes involve the person moving on because… love and that’s the major contributing factor for them, aside from Momo’s meddling. It was kind of stupid the first time they did it and the second two barely improve on the idea. Not only that, but it just gets repetitive and that should never be an issue with a series that only has six episodes.
Here’s the thing, there are a lot of ways to cope with death and move on. Narrowing the scope that much betrays either a lack of imagination or laziness. I’m a bit curious as to whether or not the light novels get that repetitive or they just chose those situations for the anime because Group TAC just thought they were that good and totally not trite. A big part of the problem is just that the length doesn’t lend itself to romance. They have roughly twenty minutes to establish the situation, the focus character for the episode, Momo’s role and put in their romantic sub-plot. As a result, the romance always ends up being pretty rushed and cliche. I will say, to the series’ credit that the episodes about other things are pretty well done.
Then we have the characters. The focus characters are actually really well done, except for that one guy from the second episode. I can’t be bothered to remember his name as he was very dull. They seem like real people. The love interests, in contrast, are very bland and rely on tired archetypes. Momo and Daniel have a good dynamic, but they really could use more development since they tend to have side roles.
The art in this is decent. The biggest issue is that the focus meanders. A lot of scenes will have people talking, but the art will show random objects in the background. Which may let them show off their ability to draw aquariums and other such things, but it’s not exactly the important thing in the scene. It makes the art feel unfocused.
The voice acting is pretty well handled. Kobayashi Akiko and Shimizu Ai do well in the roles of Momo and Daniel and they get some pretty good performances from the other characters, when there’s something to them. The music is decent enough and manages to do its job.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. This doesn’t have any yuri.
And that’s Shinigami no Ballad. It’s… decent. The concept is good and the episodes that don’t lose their focus with gratuitous romance are pretty good. For the record, those are the first, fifth and final episodes. But it’s held back by some questionable art decisions and too many cliche romantic sub-plots. The final rating is a 6/10. It’s not a good series, but it’s okay.