Death Parade – 02

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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7 thoughts on “Death Parade – 02”

  1. I had Death Parade on a short leash after watching the OVA, which was basically a subtler and more engaging version of the first episode. Given that, this episode was basically the third time I was seeing something based on the OVA’s material. Even if they had followed a completely new case from an outsider’s perspective, I doubt we would have learned much.

    I’m going to keep watching Death Parade, but it’s one for three at this point. I worry that they may start doing some kind of concept episode / myth episode system, which will just mean that every other episode will be extremely formulaic..

    That said, I’m not sure the show deserves the disdain you’re throwing at it. You might be better off just dropping it now, since I can’t really recall a show ever winning you back. We all remember AnY.

    1. Rabujoi’s angst seems different for those 2 shows. They seemed to think AnY was boring because it was slow mostly at the beginning and a generic hero falls the rises story. They seem to think this one is an interesting setting that gives too much away. I think?

      I was always feeling like they were yelling at me with the AnY reviews? Yelling why you like this and not understanding why I did. Death Parade reviews are more like this show should be cool but they don’t get why its a mystery show if the story has not much mystery?

      I think that makes sense and they don’t worry me with this idea from their review of it. Not as long as they don’t go back to yelling at me why the show is something I like and why they don’t get that. I think it will be okay for more reviews for now.

      1. That’s probably a fair assessment. I don’t hate either show. I just find them a bit dull. Death Parade less so, though there’s a certain ‘freshmen effort’ or ‘film school student project’ to it that weirds me out. As I said in the review, because I’m married to a film maker (and spent 8 years at a top art school) I may be more aware of these conventions than most people. The result is a lot of ‘awwww’ from me where I see Death Parade is really trying to be smart, and is smart in it’s own way, but it’s also trying to include everyone in that smartness by exaggerating everything to larger than life, which just makes it feel less smart over all.

        little example: Dequim’s fist clench. The other *Characters* can’t see it, the gesture is subtle, and it captures his own feeling of frustration/shame/fear for failure… but _we_ see it super zoomed in, right in the middle of the frame. The fact that no narrator tells us this emotion is very good. the fact that he doesn’t tell us this emotion is also good. It’s so close just… ahhhh? :) I think next week (or episode 4) will truly define this show as a sadly almost great show, or just an above average formula.

      2. As someone who works in the film industry, I agree that Death Parade has a disappointing film school quality to it. But it’s important to check some of those personal triggers at the door sometimes. Getting upset at a show is as helpful to critical analysis as watching with a fan mentality. Once you go on a rant about Goth kids, you’re not really talking about the show anymore, but the idea of the show.

        And I’m not saying I’m really enjoying Death Parade right now. The funny thing is that I feel like Death Parade is this season’s Unlimited Blade Works. It’s really well animated, but there’s too much exposition, the characters feel like set pieces, and I kind of want it to get to the point.

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