Death Parade – 09

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Verdict: despite Death Parade’s pretty looks, this week’s conclusion to the “Killers” two-parter was so melodramatically over the top that it lost all emotional resonance. What’s more, the binary nature of judgement continues to make the show feel predictable, even when it legitimately throws in a surprise.

To summarize: Shimada and Detective Tatsumi are both wrathful people and both successfully avenge their loved ones — through murder — before dying and they remain twisted after the fact. Shimada maybe less so but they are both doomed to the void.

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Because it’s presented slightly out of chronological order, their sequence of events are actually somewhat complicated to follow. Tatsumi kills his target first and becomes a vigilante killer for some period of time before Shimada hunts down and kill’s his sisters attacker. As I suspected last week, Shimada then kills Tatsumi, who he believes to be working with the original victim.

The twist is, Tatsumi is somewhat responsible for Shimada’s sister’s attack. Rather, he witnessed it and did nothing to help her because a vigilante can’t kill if there are no victims. So, in a way, Shimada gets the true karmic revenge, even though he doesn’t realize it while he’s living.

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Speaking of Shimada, his death completely missed me on my first viewing. I do bare some blame for this, but it isn’t very clear that his victim has landed a mortal wound. Shimada does go to the bathroom and cry/choke a bit that just read as emotional murder-guilt to me and, unlike Tatsumi, he doesn’t get a twitch-twtich moment of framing.

Combined with the knife in his duffle bag, which remains unexplained and unique to this episode (no other guest has brought a possession with them and we know guests aren’t even in their physical bodies) I was initially very irritated with the show for breaking its world rules. I’m still irritated but, to be fair, I can live with the unexplained knife more than I could with Shimada’s unexplained death.

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Air Hockey aside, there was a lot of emotional yelling, cool dude turing his back on a weak bro, and the dread ‘I’m emotionally unstable smile face.’ Throw in Shadow’s emotional freak-out over Shimada probably cursing himself to the void and it all felt too over the top.

What’s my criticism exactly? Death Parade is a gothy show but, when it works well, it goes beyond that particular cliche to bring us real people with real, nuanced emotions who just happen to be in a gothy setting. This week was just gothy characters in a gothy setting. No juxtaposition and maximum adolescent melodrama.

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If I had to speculate on the episode’s true intent, I would assume that it sets Shadow up for judgement next week. It’s obvious that Decim can’t keep her around (not if she’s going to get physically entangled over his methods) and it’s obvious that her rant about humans being simpler than he thinks connected to him.

His eyelid crinkled at least.

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The trouble is, I’m not sure I care? Shadow is equal parts mystery and bland ‘nice girl.’ When you strip away her hot-gothy-looks, and the mood of the show, she isn’t anything more than that.

Maybe, as a 34 year old who was a goth 16 years ago, I look back at this genre as silly and juvenile? Maybe I want this episode to be more than it is, more like the last 5 episodes that I thought were quality story telling regardless of mood or genre?

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10 thoughts on “Death Parade – 09”

  1. Shimada was injured by his first victim, who can be seen grabbing a knife as he backs up.

    Did last week’s episode not happen? You’re one of my favorite – if not my outright favorite – anime reviewers on the internet, but even if you don’t drop this show, I’m going to pass on further reviews for this series. It’s really hard to hear someone go “Meh,” over and over again while not really seeming interested in investing energy into evaluating the material.

    I’m not even the biggest fan of Death Parade, but with some of these reviews I can’t even tell what your actual objections are beyond, “It’s not what I want and it’s not conforming to my story expectations, but is still somehow predictable in my view.”

    But I look forward to your other posts on other series. This one just feels like a serious mismatch.

    1. I stand by Shimada’s death being very poorly delivered but you are correct. After rewatching the episode, he got stabbed and I neither processed that while watching nor did his bathroom scene (where I thought he was having a panic attack over murdering someone) reinforce it.

      Still, the scene is there and it dramatically changes my view of the episode. Give the heavily edited review above a read and let me know what you think. It’s still a down note, following 5 weeks of enjoying the show, but not quite as down-notey a down-note as it could have been.

      1. It’s just that even when you gave the show a high rating, the actual context of the review seemed as if you were just waiting for it to trip up or prove shallow. And most of the praise was just on production values, which almost feels like a backhanded compliment at this point.

        This just hasn’t felt like a good match. Sometimes that happens.

        By the way, I don’t think you’re the only one to miss the knife thing. I saw another blogger ask his readers how Shimada died, and that was from someone who had a polar opposite reaction to the episode.

      2. I suppose I don’t really know what to make of Death Parade?

        The core judgement framework isn’t that interesting because it only has 2 outcomes and natually makes us look for red herrings — but when it doesn’t have them (or they are confusing) it feels annoyingly shallow.

        The core mystery of the world… doesn’t feel like a mystery? The tower is less a secret and more a collection of details we haven’t been told about yet or maybe don’t even need to know in the first place. It’s pretty window dressing and interesting enough simply as that… except when the skull-wearing lady in the blood wine glass room talks about people dying too much or the eye-patch girl talks about crystalized memory making, it does feel like we are supposed to be learning something about it.

        So the most interesting hook is Decim v Shadow. (and Shadow’s personal mystery) This is a tricky one because Decim naturally has no personality. He’s so empty he almost crosses into humor some time but the show takes itself too seriously for that… mostly. That leaves Shadow and if you break her down as a character, what’s interesting about her personality?

        Shadow is nice. Shadow is curious’ish. Shadow has a mysterious backstory. Shadow calls out the system’s flaws. Shadow is pretty.

        Not much going on there either. Worse, Shadow’s criticisms are base-level criticisms. She can identify what people are doing wrong but provides no outlet or insight on how they should be done better. The result is a character who stands around pretty, puzzled, or angrily complaining all the time.

      3. I’ll give the new review a read in a bit. I just wanted to get to something before I forget:

        I liked Shadow’s rant for a couple of reasons. The first was that a number of people, myself included, have been wondering if we were meant to feel uncomfortable about some of Decim’s judgments. Her outburst seemed to pay off all that hinting.

        The other reason was that I’m invested in Shadow and Decim’s relationship. I wasn’t so much interested in Shimada’s corruption, because I knew Shimada would be gone by the week’s end. What I did care about, and where I found most of the tension throughout the episode, was how Shimada’s judgment would impact the relationship between Shadow and Decim.

        The show has all but made clear that Decim has had emotions inserted into himself. As a viewer, I’m interested in seeing how he will grow. Given the sandwich scene from a while back, this is all starting to feel a bit like a romance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real reason he couldn’t judge Shadow was because he felt something when he saw her.

  2. On the new review (sorry for the JRM SPAM):

    I really don’t want to sound like I’m saying “You don’t get it,” because something I’d never want to level at a critic. I do wonder if you’re looking a bit too much at the premise and “high level” elements and missing the more intimate story going on here.

    The show is predictable (mostly) in that people (usually) get sent to heaven or the void. But the real mystery is the relationship. I don’t know if Shadow can forgive Decim. I don’t know if Decim is going to survive having these emotions and being subject to Nona’s game.

    I think the speculation about Shadow’s impending judgment might be an example of how we’re seeing the show in different ways. I hadn’t considered anything on that scale happening next episode. I’m more interested in if she’ll make another sandwich.

    1. If only I could judge a show on how much I want a character to make another character a sandwich :) I think I will make that a personal challenge next season

      1. Yuk Yuk.

        Clearly you should have reviewed Koufuku Graffiti instead.

        More seriously, I do think that relationship is the core of the show, not the actual games. The games are important, but the beats of the series’ act structure seem based on Shadow and Decim’s relationship.

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