For the final part of our winter anime 2015 review, we’ll be changing the format to highlight a particular show: Death Parade!
Japesland – 7/10
I picked up Death Parade a little late, and only because of Sean’s (our podcast’s co-host) recommendation, and when I was starting it I found myself pleasantly surprised as I recognized the setting and character’s of the short film, Death Billiards. I had no idea the productions were related (and I think Kaze is the only other person I knew who had even seen Death Billiards, except for maybe Sean). After the series finally kicked off its first few episodes I was thoroughly enjoying it and reasonably engrossed. I’m an absolute sucker for something episodic that tickles your philosophical funny bone, hence why I love Mushishi, and Death Parade scratched that itch enough to earn an 8/10 (I score I rarely give, I might add!). I finally had to drop it down a point, though, because the end just did not manage to maintain the atmosphere I had learned to love throughout the show, operating on some rather strange character transformations and assuming some development that did not actually occur. Had it ended on a cliffhanger, much like Death Billiards, I think I might have liked it more. That said, it’s still a worthwhile watch.
TWWK – 9/10
Do you remember, way back when, when we all questioned whether Death Parade could hold up as a concept throughout an entire season? When we were surprised that the first episode was actually good, and that ultimately, the fantastic OP would be what the series would best be remembered by? And then week after week after week, the show delivered excellent episode after excellent episode, mixing philosophy and fun, great storytelling with style, and creating a compelling overarching story while pulling us in with episodic tales. Death Parade was anime done right, a series that we can point at and say, “Look! Look at what anime can be!” And while it felt just this side of incomplete, just short of completing some grand theme or expressing a truth that could be life-changing, the series was fulfilling and more than just great in how unexpected it was – it was just great.
stardf29 – 8/10
This is a challenging show to evaluate, because honestly, for much of its run, I was not a huge fan of the show. I appreciated what it did intellectually and enjoyed it enough for that to keep with it, but I had my reservations. Perhaps my biggest initial problem with the show was just how negative the whole judgment process was, as well as the overall tone of the show. Thankfully, some episodes, starting with episode 3, helped ease that worry a bit, and eventually, the negative nature of the judgments would become a plot point that would drive the final arc of the story. And it was this final arc that pushed this show past its initial weakness and into being a great show, as it seriously connected with the more hopeful aspects of the human condition and gave a strong, emotional conclusion without losing its intellectual quality. Death Parade might have started out as just an intellectual “dummy”, but in the end, it gained a soul, and that is why I have no qualms giving it my full recommendation.
Annalyn – 7/10
The general feeling of profundity almost tricked me into giving Death Parade an 8, but there’s more to a good anime than intellectual exercise. I was intrigued by the scenario and the main girl’s identity, but that wasn’t enough to keep my attention. Death Parade lacked in two areas: character and conflict (arguably the most important ingredients of any story). First, the characters: The main characters were likable, I suppose, but not very relatable. To make it worse, they were fairly passive and bland—they made predictable choices that revealed nothing of interest about them. And most of the minor characters (the “guests”) were decidedly unlikeable. So I had very little reason to care about anyone. That problem led to the second one: weak conflict with minimal suspense. The stakes weren’t high enough. I knew all the humans were dead, so I stopped empathizing with their fear. And their souls’ fates? Meh. I didn’t know these characters well enough to care. That left the overarching plot… where the stakes still weren’t that high. What would happen if Girl didn’t get her memory back? Not much. What would change if Decim’s perspective on judgment changed? Not much. I thought Nona and Decim might cause a big scandal once they questioned the judgment routine, but even that fell short. Unlike TWWK, I only had a tiny bit of fun, and I didn’t find the overarching story very compelling. Think I’m being harsh? Well, I still gave it a 7. The visuals were nice. So was the philosophizing. And I admit, I did care a little bit about Decim and the Girl by the end. If you want more positive comments, scroll back up.
Kaze – 7/10
Unlike many who went in blind, I knew full well about Death Parade’s potential. Perhaps that’s why I felt so unimpressed by the first episode, which was simply a worse (though not bad) version of the original OVA. The biggest worry I had was how creative they could be in a show that relied on an already revealed trick. The answer was not very creative at all. Although the episodic parts were not poorly done, they greatly lacked the charm and intensity of the original. Fortunately, they decided to explore the world beyond that of the dead characters. This is where Death Parade got my interest as the world of arbiters proved to be more philosophical and ambiguous than at first glance. I would have given it an 8 if it had delved greater into those issues, but unfortunately, again, they didn’t delve into the issues nearly as much as I was hoping, resulting in a rather weak ending. Still, it was a good watch, managing to be interesting in ways that few anime accomplish.
That’s all for Beneath the Tangles’ winter anime 2015 review! We certainly didn’t talk about all the anime, so feel free to discuss any of your favorites we missed, or just the season in general in the comments below!