Death Parade presents its own attempt in answering the always interesting question of “what happens after death?” Recently deceased characters wind up in a bar called Quindecim where they are told to play a game they must stake their lives on and are judged during the game on whether their soul will go to heaven (reincarnation) or hell (the void).
The judges in this situation are called arbiters and judge souls based on their memories and the parts of their character that manifest themselves during the life or death game. The winner of the game is not relevant.
The first episode follows a pair of newlyweds. During the game, we learn that the wife, Machiko, was unfaithful and lied and the husband, Takashi, is a bit of a coward and can have a violent temper. At the end of the game, he is sent to be reincarnated and she is sent to the void.
One of the more disturbing aspects about the anime is the way sins are weighed. According to this particular arbiter, Decim, adultery and deception are weightier than violent rage. Because Machiko cheated and lied about loving Takashi she is sent to the void. Takashi simply flew into a rage and attempted to attack Machiko after the game.
Not nearly as bad. He gets to go up.
What makes it even worse is we learn in the second episode that Machiko lied to protect Takashi. The head of the arbiters, Nona, even suggests Decim may have mistakenly sent her to the void. The situation is smoothed over with a simple “everyone makes mistakes” and an encouragement to take the situation to heart.
Whoops, sent a soul to hell on accident. Oh, well…
What a scary thing for the judgment of your soul to be left to the eyes of a finite, fallible arbiter…
…and what a heavy burden an arbiter must bear.
In reality, anyone subjected to this test would wind up in the void. No human is perfect and holy enough to be able to say “I deserve heaven.” Without Jesus the situation is hopeless.
“For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.””
These episodes made me think not only of final judgment but on judgment we naturally tend to rend on each other all the time. Even when Decim could see the entirety of the couples memories and the characteristics drawn out by the life or death game, he could not see or understand the most important part. He could not see or discern their hearts.
We have even less insight into the lives of even some of our closest loved ones, let alone others that we loosely interact with on a daily basis or people we see on the internet, TV, etc. Any judgment we render on another can only be an educated guess based on dangerously little knowledge.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
Only God can see a person in his or her entirety and, further, only God can understand that person. Even if we could see the heart, we don’t have the discernment to be able to judge that heart. It is too great a task and burden for humans and we simply are not worthy of it.
Even though I know all of this, for some reason I still find it hard to not to make a snap judgment of others based on my own limited view. Whether it is because of fear, ignorance, or my own smug sense of righteousness, I can sometimes struggle to keep an open mind that is ready for grace instead of judgment.
I hope I can remember that the only thing that will come from my judgment is a retraction of the grace I was so undeservedly given and the closing of a door to a connection that could have been something beautiful. Nothing good can come from offering someone judgment, but so much good can come from offering someone grace and love.