Anime Review: Death Parade

Death Parade is a 2015 anime produced by Madhouse based on the short-film Death Billiards.

Whenever someone dies, they are sent to one of many mysterious bars run by bartenders serving as arbiters. There, they must participate in Death Games with their souls on the line, the results of which reveal what secrets led them to their situation and what their fate will be afterwards, with the arbiters judging if their souls will either be sent for reincarnation or banished into the void. The series follows Decim, the lone bartender of the bar where people who died at the same time are sent to, known as the Quindecim bar, whose role in judging these souls changes when he meets a curious black-haired woman. – Wikipedia

I first stumbled across this anime while searching for OPs for my Five Awesome Anime OPs list, and I was immediately entranced by its fun introduction.

That said, this OP is a lie. A dirty dirty lie! While Death Parade is an excellent anime I’d recommend to almost anyone, it’s definitely not the light-hearted fun show the OP would lead you to believe. On the contrary the first episode was one of the darker episodes I’ve seen across anime — especially anime that you’re not expecting to be dark. So then why would I recommend this show unless I’m some kind of masochist who enjoys spreading gloom? shhhhh don’t tell anyone!

Well the excerpt above might give a hint as to why. Simply put, it’s fascinating watching the games these people play as Decim tries to determine how to judge their souls. There’s an issue with the Funimation subs where instead of reincarnation or the void he tells them they’re going to heaven or hell, and I think it’s a mistake that should be clarified for a few reasons. You see in the short-film Death Billiards, we’re left with an ambiguous ending that implies the two contestants meet the opposite fates that we’d expect. Without spoiling too much, it seems the good person goes to the void and the little sh*t gets reincarnated. Most believe you can tell which fate someone receives by the mask over their elevator at the end of each episode.

This makes the most sense since the masks change and occasionally are the same for both people. However we’re also lead to believe that the void (the Oni mask) is the bad sentencing because of its negative associations and the sub referring to the void as hell. This isn’t necessarily the case however as many religions would consider the void as escaping the cycle of reincarnation and achieving Nirvana. That and Decim never actually says which is the true punishment which I think may actually be more telling about this anime’s real message. Another character does give it a pretty nasty description, but I think it’s best to take what he says with a grain of salt as well.

But hey you came here for an anime review, not philosophical ponderings (unless you clicked the wrong category ^_^). So let’s do some ratings!

Plot: 4/5

This is definitely an interesting show with a fairly original premise. Easily binge-worthy, but due to the macabre nature of the anime I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a watch party.

Character Development: 4/5

Initially I thought the characters in this anime were too static. Decim especially struck me as a super monotone character, though it didn’t really seem to lessen him as a character either. However the last two to three episodes really came through and packed in some very emotionally-heavy character development for most of the main cast.

Art: 4/5

I really enjoy Madhouse’s classic animation style so no real complaints here. I’m trying to be more selective on what I give perfect scores, and Death Parade nearly scored it with their custom credit sequences for each episode!

Enjoyment: 4/5

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on a crazy anime kick lately, but I don’t stay up until 4am watching a sub-par anime. And while I don’t think Death Parade will be to everyone’s tastes, I think it’s an instant classic! ^_^

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2 thoughts on “Anime Review: Death Parade

  1. This one is definitely an interesting anime. It draws you in to each story and the ongoing mystery about the world Decim lives in and the characters who work there is kind of fascinating, if still unresolved outside of one or two characters. Still, really fun to watch provided you don’t mind your anime getting dark.

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