Yesterday was meant to be a vacation day. Unfortunately for me the Friday was spent in bed wrestling with a bout of man-flu. These occasions, were illness strikes, serve as a stark reminder that I am not impervious to ailments. I am very much mortal and like everyone else will someday meet my demise. As I lay there, in a feverish stupor, I began to ponder what happens to us when the Grim Reaper comes a knocking. Some denominations believe that we get whisked away to heaven, whilst atheists (such as myself) believe that we simply cease to be. Death Parade’s take on the after life is that spirits of the departed are transported to a pub, where a quick game determines if said souls are to be reincarnated or exiled away to an empty void.
Death Parade’s setting is the Quindecim Bar. Most of the anime’s dozen episodes start with a pair of recently deceased entering the saloon. Unaware of their plight, as all knowledge of their passing has been expunged from memory, the two visitors are coerced into competing in a random game. A digital roulette wheel selects the contest from a range of pastimes that include cards, air hockey, Street Fighter II and Twister (the latter which I hear is great fun to play with members of the opposite sex.) Each game comes complete with a supernatural surprise. The inaugural episode for example features a darts duel between newlyweds, were throwing a projectile at the board causes their significant other to feel immense pain.
Unbeknownst to the competitors, the outcome of their match doesn’t matter one iota. How they behave during the session determines whether they will be reborn as someone else or hurled into purgatory. The arbiter who decides each person’s fate is the pub’s courteous bartender Decim. He’s a pasty skinned chap who collects mannequins as a hobby. Decim is exceptional at pouring drinks, but his lack of emotion can be a hindrance when it comes to judging the nature of his guests. It’s for this reason that in Death Parade’s first instalment he is afforded a perceptive assistant named Chiyuki. Throughout the series other characters make an appearance, including Decim’s pintsized superior Nona and Ginti – a crimson haired mixologist who has nothing but contempt for humans.
My rating for Death Parade is five stars. Thanks to the wide spectrum of personalities that go through Quindecim’s doors the series is able to evoke a gamut of emotions. Some episodes made me laugh, others brought me to tears and on a few occasions I raged over Decim’s verdicts. Perhaps that illustrates what a fine line exists between saints and sinners? Whether you brand someone good or evil often comes down to your own personal values/beliefs rather than the person’s actions. As someone who detests filler I admired how Death Parade made every episode count during it’s modest twelve part run. The first half of the series follows an episodic format, but as the narrative approaches its climax things shift to the mystery that ties Decim and Chiyuki together.
In terms of audio and visuals Death Parade deserves a thumbs up. The confined bar setting didn’t prevent Madhouse’s animators from going all out during certain scenes. Until now, I never knew that a game of air hockey could look so epic! The voice acting, which is a vital component of any good psychological drama, was top notch too. I also dug the show’s OP and ED. Flyers (the tune that kicks off each episode) will make you want to boogie, whilst Last Theatre closes things out with a ditty that will appeal to rock ballad lovers. Now that I think about it, catching a cold on my day off wasn’t so bad. Staying indoors resulted in me watching an excellent anime. I doubt going out to my local tavern would have been more enjoyable than spending time at the animated Quindecim Bar.