Anime Today: Eternal Judgment (Parade?)

If there is one thing of spiritual value that Death Parade has raised this season, it is the idea of eternal judgment. Considering that from its fundamental concept, the series explores the idea of determining a person’s final destination (or process), if not ultimate value, based on the human condition, it raises many questions for the spiritually minded. However, much like the “Emergent Church” movement, does Death Parade raise more questions than provide answers? That answer is difficult to determine.

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Let’s walk through how Death Parade defines its version of judgment.

1) Judgment is not objective. Although the arbitrators are sculpted as much as possible to be objective (which they emphasize in their non-humanness), it is obvious that not all arbitrators are the same. They exude individual personalities, which, in turn, create different results. This is also obvious insomuch as Decim and Ginti quarrel, and insomuch as Decim shows a change in values based on his interactions with the judged as well as the unnamed female protagonist (女, or “woman”).

2) Judgment does not send someone to a final destination. This was described throughout the series as the concepts of “Heaven” and “Hell” are provided to the judged, but the reality is that they represent reincarnation and obliteration, respectively. The judged do not spend eternity in Heaven, nor eternity in Hell, they simply continue to exist as a human or they cease to exist at all.

3) The rules of judgment are not concrete. In episode 3, both humans are reincarnated. In episode 9, while not explicitly stated or shown, it seems as though both are obliterated. While these outcomes seem consistent with Decim’s judgment of their character, they are equally inconsistent with the idea that one person is to succeed in regard to the other’s failure.

What are the spiritual implications?

1) Objectivity. If the Bible has one thing to say about the nature of God, it is that He is unchanging. For God’s Law to have any weight, it must be unmoving. In this way, while Jesus claimed to fulfill the Law, He did not claim to overturn it. Regardless of its truth (which is viewed differently based on each person’s belief), the only way for God’s judgment to be just is for it, and consequently His very nature, to be objective. According to the Bible, God is the only entity in which this is even possible. Death Parade seems to agree with this principle in part, at least, by showing its arbitrators to be “broken” (flawed through subjectivity).

2) Final Destination. This concept is an enormous departure from Christianity, but it also seems to be a departure from Eastern thought (to an extent). In the former, the final “Judgment” determines one’s eternal existence. This is subject to interpretation, but popular beliefs vary from sending souls to a literal Heaven and a literal Hell, to all being sent to a literal Heaven, to the negatively judged being destroyed entirely (obliteration, which shares some of its concept with Death Parade), and many others. Regardless of your interpretation these all differ from Death Parade‘s portrayal of judgment, with the primary difference being the degree. According to Eastern thought, Death Parade‘s system also seems a little backwards. My understanding is that the ultimate goal is Nirvana, or ultimate nothingness. Being trapped within the circle of reincarnation is not to be desired, it is to be escaped. In this way, one might assume that the negative judgment of Death Parade is actually a blessing. However, this either proves my ignorance of such matters, or otherwise proves Death Parade‘s humanistic focus.

3) Consistency. Similar to point 1, God’s judgment is based on the sinfulness of man. Men are not judged according to practical sinlessness, for then all would be eternally damned, but are judged on faith. This faith can take form as action, and thus exists a great point of contention that resulted in the Reformation of the 16th Century. However, all Christians agree that it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allows us to reunite with God. In this way, God does not judge man based on relative performance to other men (thus the fallacious thought process that says, “I am better than my neighbor, therefore I must be better in the eyes of God”), but on objective performance/adherence/faith.

When viewing a show that dives into the spiritual, one must always consider what it is trying to say and how it interacts not only with the culture surrounding its creator, but the culture surrounding its reader. Death Parade is no exception.

8 thoughts on “Anime Today: Eternal Judgment (Parade?)

  1. Just chipping in that, yes, Eastern thought has Nirvana or non-being as an universal gain (a gain of everything) rather than an universal loss (a loss of everything). Onna at least seems to see the void as a horrible fate, so DP doesn’t follow that belief… or the arbiters just don’t know that much about the details of the system.

    Achieving Nirvana by mistake or achieving Nirvana because someone sent you there are both incongruous concepts, though, so DP just takes loose inspiration from various belief systems.

    1. Thanks for the input! Glad to hear I wasn’t totally off-base in that assumption. I really like what Death Parade has been doing so far, insomuch as it has combined numerous concepts into something that does not quite seem to be any of them.

  2. “My understanding is that the ultimate goal is Nirvana, or ultimate nothingness.”

    I wouldn’t precisely call Nirvana “nothingness” in the strictest sense. Nirvana is more the state of having one’s energy recycled back into the total sum of Love and Energy that makes up the universe. Your individual personality might be lost, but your core, what you “really are” as far as Eastern thought is concerned…That is immortal. Hell, you can even technically go to Nirvana and then come back, in Eastern thought. A lot of famous holy men are this.

    1. Thanks for the explanation!

      Regardless, Death Parade seems to take a rather different approach from what might be considered the Eastern ideal. It makes for an interesting thought!

  3. This is interesting, a way I hadn’t thought about Death Parade before in this way, but I did pick up on how different it was of the Christian story. I find it interesting that throughout the course of the story Decim was becoming more human, than the inhuman arbiter he was meant to be.

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