In 2013 a short film had started the project, its name was Death Billiards produced by MadHouse. Later, after developing that initial idea, an anime series was made that had a strong impact on the audience; if this was possible, much of the credit goes to the strong and delicate issues addressed: Death Parade.
From this moment on, death will never have the same meaning. It is not possible to talk about the series without anticipating relevant information, which the viewer discovers already in the first episode, so it is advisable to watch at least episode number one.
Quindecim is a mysterious as well as particular bar run by the lonely and calm bartender named Decim. A young couple of newlyweds find themselves inside the Quindecim: they remember nothing of what happened to them before they found themselves in the bar, nor how they ended up in that place. Their first concern is to find an escape route, but the bar looks like a fortress from which it is impossible to get out, the only way to leave are the two elevators from which the couple also got off.
Decim himself, the bartender, confirms that there is no escape. The only alternative they have is to participate in a game, refusal is not allowed, and only one of them can win. What the fate of the loser is is not explained by the bartender, but the dozens of human-like bodies hanging and displayed by the bartender do not suggest anything good.
As soon as the game begins, one after the other, more and more memories of the life of the couple resurface: happy moments, episodes they would have liked to forget and extremely delicate situations. Shortly before the game ends, the two discover a shocking truth: they are dead, what they are in is nothing more than a form of limbo.
Decim the bartender is a judge who, evaluating the past life of the deceased and their reactions during the game, decides which of the two will be able to reincarnate and be entitled to a new life and who will remain forever in the eternal nothing.
Couple after couple, Decim values tireless person after person, but what if, one day, a person appears who remembers being dead? How could such an individual be judged?
Anyone who has wondered, at least once in their life, what will happen on the day of their death. Death Parade is based solely and exclusively on this theme and addresses it in an interesting and curious way.
It is assumed that, being an oriental-style anime, the viewer should not be surprised if instead of the classic Heaven and Hell, definitions used to make the situation better understood by the Western public, the choices are between: resurrection and oblivion.
In the anime, oblivion is compared to Hell, while the resurrection to Heaven, but it must be admitted that this relationship is not as clear-cut as it might seem.
Religious speculation aside, the constructed context is not bad at all. From the first episode the viewer is catapulted into medias res in the Quindecim, the twists and turns follow one after the other and the viewer remains glued to the screen.
From time to time different realities are presented, the deceased people have different life stories and this allows us to address the most varied issues. Here then is the desperation of the suicide, the newly married couple, the elderly lady and much more.
The life stories and the various moral implications, and more, are dealt with accurately, trying to evaluate the positive and negative aspects of the situation and, above all, always trying not to stop on an approximate judgment. Despite the diversity of situations and characters, after the first episodes the viewer soon begins to tire of the usual unfolding of events.
To remedy the problem, some countermeasures have been adopted, a different barista and the peculiarity represented by Chiyuki, but they have not completely solved the problem.
On a graphic level, the series is well done and cared for especially for the expressions of the characters (apart from Decim); as far as the sound sector is concerned, absolutely nothing to say, very well done both as regards the internal ost, and for the opening and ending which are very cute and catchy.
Defects of Death Parade are few, except for a plot that in the long run seems a bit repetitive and the stories of the dead that are strong, mostly, on tragic and tearful contexts; the only real note of demerit, or rather regret for the viewer, is the desire to explore the surrounding panorama of the series.
It would have been nice to know better how the world beyond is organized, both hierarchically and structurally. Unfortunately, it was not possible, perhaps due to a precise choice by the author.
After seeing Death Parade, the viewer is led to ask himself what is the meaning that the director wanted to give to his work. The subject matter is not the lightest and the hypothesis of a product made and finished to entertain the public must be excluded, behind the whole work there must be a precise message. Which it is is difficult to tell.
The people who died and were judged by Decim belong to different categories and types, however, there is a strong intention to prefer complicated and particular situations that deeply affect the viewer’s imagination and sensitivity.
Here then is that witnessing the desperation of the deceased, who often died due to an accident or a wrong “choice”, has the effect of enhancing the life that is being lived in this moment; a “let’s hold tight” to our very existence.
Overall Death Parade is a series that is appreciated, both for the theme and for the way in which it was addressed.
In some situations, there is an excessive slowness in the plot, which could have been evolved or deepened in some aspects, but it is nothing serious.
More than appreciable is the idea of bar games, as well as the evolution of the character of Decim: thanks to the encounter with Chiyuki he understands reality and truth that, otherwise, an automaton-like him could not understand. It is really a pity that the world beyond is devoid of a real structured and well-illustrated form.