This week’s Death Parade poses a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, focusing on the people who are behind the scenes in this wacky world, gave us a glimpse of the season-long mysteries we will… be seeing all season long. We don’t learn much about the characters in this outing, which was good for the mystery.
On the other hand, the episode repeats the events of the first, now from the perspective of the behind-the-scenes-staff. Even though the reused footage was kept to a minimum, The “Black Haired Girl” being a new assistant seeing her first game was obvious last week.
Considering how predictable last week was, and how surprise-free storytelling saps all emotion and excitement out of mystery and drama, Death Parade has a steep climb to convince me to keep up with it.
To sum up: The Black Haired girl we met at the end of last week’s episode wakes up on top of a flowery-table-thing and Nona, the white haired hex-eye girl who was with her last week is sitting next to her.
The girls introduce and exchange pleasantries, though the Black Hair girl has no memory of a name and Nona says she doesn’t even have one. I’m going to call her Shadow for simplicity sake.
Nona and Shadow ride a train to an elevator, which is set in a rock-wall under a carved archway featuring a Vishnu or Buddha like multi-arm figure. The elevator is modern but old-fashioned in that it has an operator named Clavis, who is also pail skinned and wacky-hair-colored like Dequim and Nona.
Getting off at Dequim’s on the 15th floor, Nona introduces Shadow to Dequim and sets about telling Shadow things that Shadow repeats back in the form of a question. This, the stupidest trope of anime/jrpg dialog conventions, made my blood boil with hateful rage.
Then, as Nona walks Shadow into the back and we get snippets of last week’s saps being emotionally destroyed by the death game. It wasn’t not-well-done, but it wasn’t especially interesting. Certainly not enough to warrant 1/3 of the episode’s run time.
Then we cross past where last week left off and Shadow questions Dequim’s rational for what actually happened. It’s pretty clear that Dequim has limited emotional understanding and a flawed sense of logic because Shadow’s perception that the wife was lying to save her husband’s soul by the end (that the baby really was his) was intensely obvious from her expressions, tone, and the situation.
At least it was to me. Not to Dequim though, and Nona, who seems to have known this would happen chastises him for it before we transition to bar-tending pron and other ham fisted ‘Shadow is special’ foreshadowing, and no one actually telling Shadow straight up what she’s doing there and why.
Good: Death Parade is a pretty show and takes advantage of solid, unobtrusive CGI to make it more so. It probably reads as subtle to people who haven’t studied film, art, or storytelling, and in so far as that is a caveat, Death Parade’s use of facial expressions, quick looks, and hidden hand gestures is commendable.
Similarly, the ‘back stage’ access to last week’s episode was interesting. However, I don’t think it was necessary, as the fact that the ‘bodies’ were mannequins and all of the Nona/Shadow context was either easy enough to figure out last time.
No good: Death Parade sells itself and the audience way too short. Everything, and I mean everything, is mercilessly spelled out for the viewer every step of the way. Shadow is obviously an emotional/human check on the Arbiter’s system, and the white-stripe in her hair either means she will eventually become a full Arbiter (and gain all white hair) or is their due to the Arbiter’s meddling.
Whatever the end game, I just. don’t. care.
At the end of the day, Death Parade reminds me of all the gothy black clothes I liked to wear in high school. (and the gothy girls I preferred not to be wearing anything) Sure, it’s a so seductively pleasant to look at, fun for macabre’ sake, but it’s equally simplistic. Juvenile.
I can respect a lot of the work that went into this but honestly, I’m no longer the audience for it. Not anymore than I am for the Blade movies, vampire the mascaraed, or whatever contemporary equivalent exists to their dreary pretentious self indulgence.