Death Parade aired from January to March of this year. It was created, written and directed by Tachikawa Yuzuru and based off of his short 2013 film, Death Billiards. Both the film and series were brought to us by Madhouse, which makes it difficult to predict anything on the quality since they’ve made some of the worst and best anime I’ve seen plus everything in between. I can’t judge it based on him being the director either. He directed Arata Naru Sekai: World’s Start/ Load/ End, which I haven’t seen and some assorted episodes of various series, usually an episode or two here and there. We’ll just have to take a look.
The narrative of Death Parade largely takes place in a bar where freshly dead souls are observed and judged by an arbiter who coerces them into playing a game meant to bring out the darkness of their souls which gives the arbiter insight to determine whether they’re worth reincarnating or their soul should be hurled down into the void. We follow a young woman who can’t even recall her own name who’s brought to the fifteenth floor to work as an assistant for its arbiter, Decim, as he goes about his duties. The series is largely episodic, with most of the episodes focusing on the games and Decim’s judgments. There’s also an underlying story about who his mysterious assistant is and why she’s there.
The story is really well done. The episodes are nicely varied and have a lot of interesting content. This is also one of those series that varies its tone, with some episodes being light-hearted (some even comedically so), some more serious, with some even being downright depressing. This is also one of those rare series that handles all the disparate tones very well. The comedic scenes lean towards the macabre but they are really funny and the serious episodes are skillfully written. It handles its dark content, including sexual assault, really well. The whole series, both light-hearted and serious episodes, has a good deal of substance to it. I do really like the ending too. It’s a bittersweet ending that’s perfect for the series.
With a series like this that deals with different characters every episode, it would be easy to focus on the main cast and let the one-shot characters just remain as tropes but Death Parade does a really good job of fleshing out those side characters and their unique situations so that they come across as actual people. The arbiters are compelling as well. There’s a point where it looks like the series has an inconsistency with how they’re supposed to work and how they’re actually written, but they reveal some information right near the end that actually results in it making perfect sense. I will give credit to Tachikawa for really thinking things through.
The artwork and animation in this are stunning. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the designs for the various games that their guests play. Whether it’s the cosmic pool table, the dartboard images or even the bowling balls. The characters themselves are really well drawn and I love what they do with the arbiter’s eyes. It’s really awesome effect and gives them a slightly disconcerting appearance.
The actors in this do a really good job. Both the ones for the major characters and the ones for the side characters. Maeno Tomoaki, Seto Asami, Ookubo Rumi and Sakurai Takahiro are just some of the great actors featured in the series. The music is pretty atmospheric. It helps forge the otherworldly impact of Quindecim and the other bars.
There’s really not any ho-yay in the series.
Death Parade is a skillfully written series with compelling characters, a strong premise, intriguing stories (both the over-arcing one and the episodic ones), awesome artwork, and great acting. You should absolutely give it a try. My final rating is a 9/10. Next week, I’ll look at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s.