Death Parade – 12 (Fin)

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Death Parade ends its long march with an emotional, twisty, judgement of Chiyuki. It is far from a wartless affair, as the Oculus vs Nona subplot remains weightless and basically unexplained, but it was a solid outing.

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To summarize: Oculus and Nona… don’t actually fight. Instead, Oculus info dumps us that Arbiters are built using the discarded dummies (and souls?) of the judged who are thrown into the void and that this means…

well its really not clear what this means but Nona is dead set on getting souls (or soul-like contents) into the Arbitors to shake things up.

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Meanwhile, Decim puts Chiyuki through a similar ruse to what Ginti did last week. Here, he pretends they have returned to the living world and shows Chiyuki her grieving mother, an empty house, and offers her a button to press that will return her to life…

at the cost of someone else’s life! While Chiyuki doesn’t realize this is a trap, she still ultimately makes the moral decision, based in no small part on her experiences with other souls and Decim is brought to tears. Then he reincarnates her, learns to smile, and leaves her dummy-body on a chair next to the bar.

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What worked: While I thought Decim’s trap was obvious, it was a nice mirror of Ginti’s all the same.

And trap aside, seeing Chiyuki’s mom and her anguish was emotionally resonant. This was a major feels episode and, for once, it didn’t feel contrived and cheap in the delivery.

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What didn’t work: any second spent without Chiyuki and Decim on screen. Oculus’ objection to Nona, the lack of coherent reasoning for Nona’s agenda, and the complete lack of a conflict between them just zap the subplot’s strength.

It never got meaningful development and, like the ‘people are dying too quickly’ the fuzziness of it all felt more annoying than apetite-wetting for more. Really, beyond Decim learning to smile and possibly becoming a better ‘person’ nothing feels consequential at all.

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So I have mixed feelings about this series. If not obvious from all of my reviews, I greatly respect Death Parade’s sense of style and that it is, to some degree, a show that took risks. When it tried, it was good at making me feel for its characters too.

That said, I found it highly predictable and muddled. The secondary conflict, which should explain what and why Decim is, never manifests and Chiyuki is not very interesting after you strip away her sex appeal.

Certainly not one for the heritage list by any event but a nice, mostly pleasant show. Probably worth a binge if you didn’t catch it and have time at some future point.

8_ogk

Death Parade – 11

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Death Parade scores its first perfect 10 with Chiyuki’s wondrous ice skating scene, which combines the series’ trademark beauty with enchanting music, top notch animation, and wordless story telling. What’s more, Nona and Oculus finally come to a clash and Ginti’s judgement of Mayu (and Harada?!) comes to a dramatic close.

I dare say, Mayu’s sub-plot nearly steals the spotlight. It’s brutal, emotional, and mind bending that DP’s creators did more with it as a side story, spread over so few episodes, than their master-plot in 11.

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Why was Mayu’s plot so effective? In a nutshell, Mayu is a simpler, yet more rounded character than Chiyuki and the smaller, but more clearly defined plot around her has more obvious stakes.

Mayu loves Harada, and owes much of her life’s inspiration to him. More importantly, after death (and their failed judgement) Harada increases Mayu’s devotion by revealing that her letters did reach him and that he was inspired by her.

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So we understand the characters’ connections and feel the burden when Ginti offers Mayu a choice: if Mayu chooses to send another soul to the void, Harada’s soul will return with her in reincarnation.

It’s obviously a trap, and even Mayu knows her decision will be wrong (morally) but what elevates the plot from trivial side-tragedy to masterpiece, is how the mean-spirited Ginti’s hell-vision of the void proves so wrong.

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Plummeting down the elevator, sensing that she’s been betrayed, Mayu embraces Harada. Then his eyes open, they embrace, and their skin/souls are wrapped apart in a final instant.

The implication is clear: they will never return to being, Mayu and Harada end eternally together. And the arbiters clearly know nothing at all about what is going on…

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Meanwhile, Chiyuki’s backstory is revealed in flashes while she skates Quindecim’s new ice rink. It’s simple but has to be so since it is delivered without dialog: her love of skating began when her mother read Chavvo, continued through school and eventually lead to a professional career… but abruptly ended with an injury and eventual suicide.

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The slightly silly reason Chiyuki eventually gives Decim for killing herself, which relates to the impossibility of people understanding one another, is thankfully besides the point.

Yes, I get that it ties her life directly into the greater Chavvo plot, but the real point is that her life makes Decim think, and that the length of time they are together and the amount of questioning she does, makes him think harder about what is going on.

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And Decim thinks that judgement, like life, needs to include the living (or at least the lived) lest it be hollow. Then he offers Chiyuki a final drink…

and slips her a mickey.

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I don’t know where this is going next week but I love it as an unexpected twist.

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If I had any gripes at all this week, it’s the Nona/Quin/Oculus plot. Rather, I don’t think the plot has enough build up to make for an engaging conflict over-which Decim and Chiyuki’s love must triumph next week.

But that’s next week and I can’t hold that against this week. This week was emotional resonant for four characters, illustrative of the differences between soul-less and soul-enabled Arbitors, advanced the master plot, tied up a side plot, and was lovely lovey lovely to hear and look at.

Show not tell for the win!

Death Parade – 10

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DP10 was a pleasant up-swing in my ongoing like/shrug relationship with the show. Like Ginti’s ep a few weeks ago, this week had a pleasant mood, which contrasted the obvious overtones of death nicely.

More importantly, episode 10 “got on with it,” developed it’s main characters and put the final conflicts in place.

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To sum up: we start with Decim’s birth, which is essentially identical to Shadow’s empty awakening in episode 2, which is a great scene-to-character parallel because we almost immediately transition to Shadow who is dying in the present. She’s literally falling apart, skin flaking away from the mannequin her soul possesses.

As Decim’s eye life twitch indicated last week, it’s time to judge her and even if Shadow weren’t about to go on her own, Nona won’t let him delay any longer. Also, elevator-kun is tactfully hidden in the background where only we, the viewers, can see him, thus setting up his eventual use as a spy for Oculus but hey… for all my criticism of DP’s obviousness use of false subtlety, at least it makes the attempt.

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Judgement buddies: Shadow and died-of-old-age super-nice grandma that never had kids but instead became a children’s book illustrator Uemura Sachiko sit down for a friendly game of Old Maid. In a smile-endusing twist, Old Maid requires three players and so Decim gets to join them.

The very concept of the scene is nicely pleasant. Decim doesn’t just get to judge — and get to judge without torture — he gets to be with Shadow at the end of her time. Its a nice shared moment and, because Sachiko had a fulfilled life and loves the little details of Decim’s life-moment-based Old Maid cards, no drama distracts us from sharing that bitter sweet moment with them.

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Also we get little glimpses of Decim and Shadow’s life moments on his cards. Decim’s are the empty icons we see him use everyday — a shaker, martini glasses and mannequins — and Shadow’s cards have the the picture book pictures… which Sachiko recognizes.

So the children’s book itself becomes a parallel to Shadow’s plight, and of judgement in general. Sachiko notes that Chavvo, the mute girl in the story, has to rely on something other than words to communicate her intent — her emotions. This is the case for judgements, which can’t rely on a person’s words, and probably a point that will come up next episode and/or be the basis for judgement reform … but that’s hopping ahead and speculation.

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It could also be a statement about Decim, who isn’t mute but ‘can’t hear’ what people mean, because he has no emotions.

Regardless, Shadow remembers her mother reading the book and that her name is Chiyuki, but I won’t call her that because I like typing Shadow more. Then Oculus drains elevator-kun of memory and learns that Nona put human emotions into Decim. Then Oculus is upset.

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My only criticism in all of this is somewhat trivial. Oculus may be a dull, 11th hour villain of sorts to have shoe-horned into a story that didn’t need a villain in the first place. However, I’m slightly more annoyed that Elevator-kun has been spying in the first place.

I mean, it’s not like he has any motivation to be doing that. He doesn’t have human emotions, like all the rest, and he’s pretty obvious about it… so why everyone ignores him so he can spy is weird too.

I just don’t see either plot, or character, as adding anything to the story. Nona herself has barely added to the story but at least she’s _done_ something in the story within the first 11 episodes…

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At this point, you can probably guess that I enjoyed the episode. It wasn’t flawless but the core aesthetic was appealing but also the tone and plot provided contrast to lighten everything. The result was delightfully not boring.

9_ogk

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?

Death Parade – 08

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After 3 weeks, Death Parade finally returns to its “Decim & Shadow judge people via death game mini-mystery” formula. This week’s twist is that ‘someone’ is a killer, and that Shadow is also allowed to see the memory-stream that helps Arbiters make a judgement.

It was also a two parter… (warning: Spoilers ahead)

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This week’s judgement duo are: Detective Tatsumi and Shimada. Tatsumi is the obvious killer red herring, as he’s a grizzled cop and poor Shimada is such an empathetic looking guy.

And Death Parade honestly scores points by playing off our expectations of a red herring, because Shimada immediately shows us that he has a bloody knife in his duffle bag but it turns out they are both killers. It doesn’t score many points because we learn this via shadow seeing them as killers in the memory stream at the cliff hanger point, but it scores points all the same.

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So they play air hockey and it is very good looking setting, as usual. However, despite having organs drawn on each puck, Decim doesn’t force them to feel pain and anguish until late in the episode. Actually, despite the speed of air hocky, it’s a very slow episode in general.

Torture aside, we learn that Tatsumi’s wife was murdered, possibly by a con he put away, and that he dedicated the rest of his sad life to revenge. Similarly, Shimada, an orphan and hard working brother, has a sister who was brutalized by a stalker that the police didn’t stop and swore revenge against who ever that was.

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So, if I had to guess, they actually killed each other but that may not be the case. At least, it doesn’t entirely look that way in Shadow’s flash of the memory feed. I kinda don’t care though, since I know they are both dead and the only consequence is void or reincarnation, which has never really mattered much to me.

Which leaves Shadow’s growth from the experience, and the continued unraveling of her personal mystery.

dp806Now… why and how does Shimada have a knife in a bag if he isn’t even physically real? We know the souls are injected into dummies and dressed in the elevator…

Verdict: if not for it’s looks, I would probably give this episode a 7. The slow pace, intentional or not, didn’t feel earned by the late-episode reveals and is straight up eye rolling as a two parter. Yes, I get it. Shimada v Tatsms judgement isn’t really the story here. But if Shadow’s response to killers, and her first dive into death memory exposure, is the point, there were better, more active ways to go about it.

Death Parade, you are damn lucky you were born pretty!

8_ogk

Death Parade – 07

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Death Paradethrew me this week. Not because anything was wrong with it. We learned plenty of world-building details, met 1.5 new characters, and came to understand Decim just a sliver more.

More over, all of it was interesting in a way that ‘stuff just happened’ never is. However, I don’t know what to make of it, beyond the surface level of the show’s mystery.

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The bullet points: Oculus and Nona confirm that Arbiters are just dolls (albeit complicated ones) but that Decim is different. Decim has human emotions. Maybe.

Meanwhile, Shadow finds a physical copy of her creepy children and suffers snippets of memory. None of it makes sense to us yet, but that’s not really important because the episode is mostly about Decim!

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And Decim is all about Flash Back Time! Specifically, about his final test as an Arbiter, where he watched Dequim’s previous Arbiter (Quin) judge a couple over pool with Ginti but, unlike the vindictive Ginti, never pressed the ‘screw you’ button on his magic wand.

He was too interested in what the humans were thinking to bother, although he doesn’t actually know what they were thinking due to his lack of experience. In the end, he resolves to keep the ‘Dolls’ left behind by the people he finds interesting. Yes! the guests all inhabit dolls, which are typically disposed of after they are judged!

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Arita Mayu is still around and Ginti can’t judge her. He doesn’t really explain why, but we can assume all my notes about how inept his strategy was last week had something to do with it!

I wouldn’t say his scenes distract from anything. If anything, they show that Decim isn’t alone in his inability to judge everyone. Still… Ginti’s scenes don’t go anywhere and only the viewer gains anything from them. Little at that.

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There’s some rock’n bass-ey electronica going on during Decim’s flash back and, oddly, the lyrics are in english. This is not ballsy per say, anime does english all the time, but I note it for the fact that it isn’t awful and wins Death Parade plenty of points for its effort.

And, as always, it was pretty to look at. Some of the reflection angles were especially well composed. I’m a sucker for pool-with-planets too.

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Again, I didn’t see any deeper meaning here. No icons or symbolism. Mystery and well delivered world building but… no deeper message?

I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. Death Parade isn’t the most complex mystery to begin with and, while I’ve come to like the characters more than I did in the beginning, the shallower it dives, the less it has going for it. The whole ‘why are humans dying so quickly’ plot, Decim being special, and wtf is Shadow, can’t float the show on their own.

So here’s hoping it has a little more going on under those mysteries next week. Otherwise it’ll slip back to being a beautiful but 6/7 worthy show all too quickly.

8_ogk