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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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!

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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.

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Death Parade – 06

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Sometimes, when a show breaks from it’s normal tone and format, it can feel like the creators are wasting your time or unfocused or being lazy — and this week’s DP is bizarrely different from previous episodes.

But man was it a pleasant break from DP’s bleak, high drama routine. Dare I say it, this was a break it desperately needed!

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The details: Arita Mayu an over the top fan girl and Harada, a male idol from idol trio CHA, face off against Ginti this week. Also Ginti’s cat.

They play an ever increasingly difficult (read: absurd) game or Twist, that eventually puts them in a literal push-the-other-to-their-death-or-die scenario but it totally backfires on Ginti.

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Even though Harada is probably a bad dude, he doesn’t get to show it because Arata sacrifices herself. However, even though Arata is probably a good person, she’s doing it because Ginti hasn’t let her pee for hours and she can’t cope with urinating all over her idol anymore than she can imagine shoving him in.

This all results in Harada admitting that he only survives through the love and support of his fans, especially fans as strong as Arata and, because the death games are always fake-outs, Harada doesn’t ‘die again’ and they get to have drinks and sing together for the various workers of the tower.

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I’m not even sure if they get judged by the end of it.

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This deserves a 9: because it made fun of how melodramatic Death Parade can be, without breaking the way Death Parade works. If anything, Ginti is more brutal and his game more torturous than Decim’s but his players, who are both physically over the top and manically expressive, have fun all the way. Even their death-realizations are pretty mild.

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Arata herself wins the ‘best ver the top anime character’ award and is, by far, the most hilariously expressive creature I’ve seen in a long time. From her wind-flapping gums, to her back flip soap slip death, I ate up every gesture and facial expression the animators crammed into her.

Seriously, if you miss everything else Death Parade does, scrobble through and enjoy her animation!

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In a nutshell, it was warm and charming. Viginti (Ginti’s bar) itself is warmly colored and brightly light and has none of the heavy-handed gothyness of Decim’s. Heck, even when he tries to be evil, it just comes off as goofy. He has a cat familiar for goodness sakes!

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