Posted on 31 March 2015 with categories: Death Parade

 

When I heard that Death Billards would be getting a full 12 episode series called Death Parade I was quite excited. The one episode short looked to be an excellent concept for a episodic series. A bar which people are sent to when they die which decides whether they go to heaven or hell depending on a game? That idea alone has barrels of potential. However the writer of Death Parade had other plans and went instead with a ongoing plot. The end result is a series torn between great episodic death game episodes(with the exception of one) and a mediocre ongoing narrative with a lacking foundation. In truth the writing focused on keeping the audience in the dark in order to promote mystery and intrigue but kept us too alienated to become emotionally involved. When time comes to reveal the answers are lackluster and the ongoing plot ends on a flat note.

The art and animation is what you can expect from Madhouse. Solid and consistent animation throughout the show and background art can be quite stunning. I can say that Quindecim is a truly beautiful bar and I have a certain fondness for the command center full of red wine glasses. The opening is incredibly catchy and brightens your day every time you see it. Though it is unsuited to the very nature of the show. The main character, Decim, is very endearing despite his unemotional demeanour and the show really didn’t give him the development or arc that he deserved.

Death parade is a case of mistaken direction where the story can’t decide whether it wants to make us laugh, cry, curious or melancholic. The result is a melting pot of genre and a confused tone. A search for a core concept when in truth there was a great core to work with already. Also despite so much focus being put on the ongoing story, one episode characters are oddly more developed than the main cast. I am being harsh however as Death Parade does have moments of greatness. There is potential in this writer. He just needs someone to tell him to stop and look at what he has. If you are able to overlook the flaws of death parades plot and embrace it’s highs then I recommend this show to you. I can say with certainty that it is half great. Your enjoyment will depend on whether you can overlook the other half.

Posted on with categories: Death Parade

So this is the end of Death Parade. Or at least this is the end of what may be it’s first and last season. The ongoing plot didn’t so much as tie itself up but rather fizzle out. Leaving a second season to tie up loose ends. A second season that may never come. I mentioned before that I didn’t understand why Nona didn’t what Oculus to find out about her plan as I didn’t understand what consequences were in store for her. Those consequences have been revealed to be…nothing. Oculus just let her carry on with it after questioning her. So why all sinister dramatic tension in his scenes if he does not even play the role of villain? But that isn’t the worst of it as as plot hole opened up. Nona reveals that she did this in order to change the judging system so that arbiters are given emotion to judge humans on human terms. The problem is this enigma of why the believe arbiters do not have emotion when they very clearly do. After all in order for Nona to want put this plan into motion she would need to have emotion to find something off with the current system. Really all her actions are called into question with this. Making it that she either had a poorly formed whim of a plan or she had miraculously planned for each and every detail. Even for those details which were completely dependant on people acting to plan even when unaware of any plan at all.

The matters between Chiyuki and Decim were over melodramatic for my taste. The nature of Decim’s offer was obvious from the start. This really did seem like a reenactment of the choice Mayu was given in the last episode except, as much as it pains me to say this, Mayu’s was done better. We all know Decim was not going to send Chiyuki to Hell so it was really just a waiting game. But they really tried to get you emotional with Chiyuki begging to live and Decim experiencing emotions.(Still confused on that. Decim does have emotions. Otherwise how can he respect and care about the guests?) All for the final tearful goodbye and Decim’s smile. Only to go back to business of judging except now Decim smiles and there’s a Chiyuki doll by the counter. So all and all nothing much changed. The ongoing story ended on such a weak note as expected hence why I was so opposed to one in the first place. As far as endings go it’s not bad. It could have been much worse. But nothing about it seems final. This is more or less a life goes on ending leaving things to a possible second season. Though if there is one I would prefer they disregard the loose ends completely and focus on episodic death games. As this series should have done from the get go.

Posted on 24 March 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

So we are reaching the final conclusion and things are coming to a head. Chiyuki’s memories are restored and we find that in life she was an ice skater. An odd choice but it did lead to a rather beautiful scene of Chiyuki skating on Ice as she recalled her past. Admittedly I did try to ignore the obvious reasons as to why the camera avoided looking at her feet (Those feet skating movements would have been tricky to animate.) as I found the nature of the scene poignant and picturesque. Though Chiyuki’s backstory was rather underwhelming.  While it is true that considering Decim’s inexperienced standing as an arbiter that he wouldn’t get someone with a extreme past but when the series has been eluding that her past held some deeper meaning it’s rather disappointing to find its not really that significant. An ice skater who got an injury that prevented her from skating anymore and killed herself. I find the nature of her suicide somewhat strange as it didn’t look to me like she was all alone in this. Is it a Japanese thing to remain passive and hope they pull themselves out of their depression? Despite it being one of the worst things you could do in that situation? Really when she considered herself worthless after losing her ability to skate, I think leaving her be afterwards only confirms that thought.

Yet the best part of this episode was with Ginti and of all people, the girl from episode 6. With Harada’s soul going to the void, Ginti presents the choice to sacrifice another to save his soul. The person to be sacrificed just so happened to be a cameo of Light Yagami from Death Note. In that case you really should have pushed that button Mayu. Yet despite Ginti’s attempts to get her to reconsider, Mayu decides to go to the void together with Harada. This is a really well done scene that I would applaud in normal circumstances. But it rather falls apart when you take into account that she is quite literally going to hell for a boy band member she obsessed about. A boy who she barely knows anything about. Not the love of her life or a dear family member. Just why was this character given such a great scene? Episode 6 just destroys what could have been a powerful scene. I like the meaning behind Ginti being unable to push Mayu into showing her inner darkness. That an arbiter that took sadistic joy in judging couldn’t make up his mind about how to judge one girl. But I think this was the wrong character to do this with. Mayu didn’t deserve main character treatment in this matter. So we have one more episode to push things to a close. I must admit that much like Ginti I have trouble judging this. When taking in the show as a whole I could define it as half-great. The weak and strong moments of the show are in equal measure. But an ending can change everything.

Posted on 16 March 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

So Onna name is finally revealed and newly christened Chiyuki plays a game of old maid with a storyteller. Death parade, you are doing it again. You are drifting from what should be the focus of the series and really pushing this ongoing plot thread. So we learn a number of things. One, that Chiyuki’s time in quindecim is limited and soon she will return to being a dummy. As for what happens to her soul…well it’s not specified. That Decim is starting to want to abandon his role as arbiter as he respects humans lifes too much to judge them. That Nono is getting Quin to retrieve Chiyuki’s memories and Oculus has learned of the whole scheme after doing….something to the elevator operator. Well if you are going to push this on me then fair enough, I will give this my full attention.

If I was to describe my feelings for these developments I was say I was apathetic. This could be attributed to the fact that I care more for the games than this ongoing plot. However I believe there is another reason why I do not care for this. Simply put, I do not know the stakes. So Oculas finds out that Nona put human emotions in a arbiter. So what? Is he going to kill her? Fire her? Congratulate her? And if this is so risky then why is Nona trying to do this? I understand that it’s not good to spoonfeed everything to the audience and that keeping a person’s intentions secret is used to promote intrigue and thought. But we do not have the slightest idea of even how this world functions. We only have a vague understanding of how the arbiter process works. I said before that it’s good to keep things in the dark but if you are going to go this route then at least show a basic understanding of what’s at stake. For I cannot fear for these characters lives if I am not certain whether they can die. So how does them getting in trouble a threat when essentially they cannot be punished? Well besides being separated but I don’t have the attachment to the characters to really feel for them. I like Decim and Chiyuki is alright but I don’t really know enough about them to form a big attachment. That I believe is the real reason that I do not care for these developments. I am just too much in the dark to see how these things affect these characters.

While things may speak to the contrary, I don’t hate this plotline. I can find myself getting drawn in if it was more clarified. However this is at odds with the death games as a majority of those are now mostly filler. They may have affected the characters slightly but the main goal of making Decim question the system was really the only matter that needed to be driven home. So with regards to the main plotline the death games are…time fillers. I do not like this. The game in this episode is a prime example of that. The game of old maid didn’t bring any new revelations to the characters besides Chiyuki learning her name. I don’t see the reasoning as to why Nona would bring this guest as she didn’t provide anything the audience didn’t know and her life didn’t serve to do much besides affirm Decims beliefs. Which is counterproductive when Nona is telling Decim to continue to judge as an arbiter. So how is this old woman supposed to change his mind on the methods of judging? This is exactly why I keep saying the focus on the games. Because unless you can answer these questions satisfactorily this plotline will end weakly.

Posted on 7 March 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

Well the end of the episode did get over melodramatic but still, a very good episode. It is rather amusing to see two people bond over a shared goal of revenge. Their thinking slowly edged towards a dangerous outlook it became clear that one of these two is not on the same wavelength as the other. The detectives attitude throughout the game became worse the more he remembered and when the two remembered their sins, he was the one stating that they were not wrong. In truth, is he right? Murderers and rapists are not the kind of people who you can just chuck into a jail cell for a couple of years and hope they learn the error of their ways. You cannot force someone to change their thinking. The person themselves needs to recognise their own mistakes. Of course, even if you were to get three ghosts of past, future and present to show them the error of their ways chances are that they would be completely apathetic to it. So perhaps we would be better off without these kinds of people. However then the problem with this kind of thinking rears it’s head in this episode. When the detective got his revenge he lost his goal and when that happened he took of the role of what could be described as a living arbiter. He watches peoples sins and then judges them for it. Thus the problem is this, when you adopt the methods of a killer in order to remove scum from society then you in turn become scum. You cannot judge without being coloured by those you judge.

So in this death game we have a practiced serial killer and a impulsive killer. Both motivated by revenge for a loved one. The detective in turn egging on the young man to finish his revenge and giving him determination. The ultimate poetic justice comes that he has already taken his revenge and did so by pure stroke of luck. For the second person who just watched and didn’t lift a finger to help his sister was the detective himself. I find the logic somewhat flimsy as I think attempted rape and assault is more than enough reason for the detective to intervene. The reasoning that the person needed to commit an act first when he had very intent to do so just seems to be here to make the detective more villainous. In fact that would be my problem with this episode. The detective just changed to a villainous persona and started taunting the young man. For someone who was cold and indifferent that’s an odd change. But it did lead to an interesting development. The opportunity for the young man to take his revenge a second time. With the detective inciting him to do it and Onna begging him to put it aside. Even going as far as to spill the beans about void and reincarnation. I am not sold on Onna’s outburst here. I understand that she had misgivings about the process as a whole but I didn’t get the impression that she was this opposed to it. On the contrary I thought it was more than she didn’t like when the arbiters manipulated the process and not the process itself. So was sighing a bit seeing Onna attempt to convince the young man not to take his revenge and succeeding…nearly. Though the effect she had on Decim was fascinating with how she got him to question the very nature of his role. So I now see the pattern of this show, a death game is always followed by an intermission episode. I am not happy about it as the background dealings of the death games are significantly less entertaining than the death games themselves. With the amount of time left in this series I would prefer if these plot threads about the storybook and Nona hiding things from the boss be abandoned in favour of focusing on it’s strengths.

Posted on 4 March 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

Why do you do this to me death parade? You dodge your true potential and instead focus on background exposition or, of all things, comedy. Then just as I was about to lose interest and give up, you present the best episode of the series so far. Now this, this is what I was talking about.  A death game between a detective and a young man with one of them being a murderer. I was hooked from the very first minutes. This episode really worked because it focused on the core characters. Namely Decim, Onna and the players. No distractions. No off tonal moods. Most importantly, no boy band fangirls. The detective was clever in gauging the situation and the young man’s dilemma of speaking to a cop when he had a severed hand in his bag made the conversations tense. What I truly loved was they changed over the course of the game. In the beginning neither of the two looked like killer material and both seemed to be good people. But then they’re memories started coming back. More and more reasons why these two could kill came up and their personalities did a turn as they remembered. The light-hearted detective turned cold and determined and the young man desperate and anxious. Truly it is a scary thought that one memory changes someone so much.

A few bad notes however. While this was minor, it’s the first part of a two part episode. While that’s fine it was disappointing when the episode ended just as things were heating up. Another thing is that game they played wasn’t very interesting and felt like an afterthought. The added “pain factor” was really just a rehash of the first games(and death billiards) gimmick. Finally the greatest offender was the after credits scene. I was having a lot of fun speculating as to who of the two guests was the killer. But then Onna goes and says the answer. Why did Onna have to spoil the surprise? This twist have been more effective if it was unveiled in the next episode. I don’t get the reasoning of revealing it here. While I am still interested in how this will play out, one of the things that made this episode so engaging has been removed. But negative points aside, colour me surprised. This episode is a great set-up for the next episode and hopefully a turning point in the series.  You have my attention again Death Parade. So please don’t mess this up.

Posted on 25 February 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

Why is the girl from the last episode still around? This episode brought up three rules about arbiters. The third rule, about arbiters not having emotions, Is odd to me. For the arbiters we have been introduced to are very emotional. They state that Decim was given human emotions yet he is the least emotional of the arbiters. So are the others faking emotion? Is is a guideline and not a reinforced rule? Are the feelings they have not really emotions? Is this a logic plot hole or a philosophical inquiry? Well in either case I don’t like it because I am not watching to debate what is truly real. I am here for the death games.

There was one in this episode briefly though it was more an afterthought as the episode focused more on the arbiters. Admittedly seeing how Decim became an arbiter is interesting and insight as to why he has the hobby of building dolls. Though this brings up the question of if the guests bodies are dolls then how is it that they can drink, spit, bleed, etc. I suppose you can just say that it’s the afterlife and that’s just how these things work. But that’s why I oppose explaining it’s process or applying a sense of logic to it. Because if you apply logic to this part of it you must also have to apply logic to the whole process. That my friends, is where plot holes and inconsistencies raise their ugly heads.

Alright I think that’s enough complaining. This was a better episode than last week’s train wreck.  There are intriguing elements to the direction this show is taking with this subplot of sorts. Its clear that Nona has violated the rules and is trying to keep the leader from noticing that Decim has an assistant that he clearly shouldn’t. The new character, who I mistook for a boy from the opening, is a nice foil to the straight laced, business only Nona The end of the episode even teases a death game between a trousome pair normally given to more experienced arbiters. I welcome a return to what should be the focus of the series.

Posted on 17 February 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

Death Parade in a risky move has taken things in a new direction. A daring adventurous move that no one expected. And it is…absolutely terrible. Death Parade, what happened? Did no one read over the script and do a shaft head tilt in wonder? Was there not an Animator who said “Excuse me sir. But I was under the impression that this was a psychological thriller. Not a slapstick comedy.” This is just one of those creative decisions that just has me baffled. To think that a team went over this and thought it was a good idea is something I have difficulty comprehending. But well here it is. This weeks Death Parade attempted to be comedic with a game of twister between a boy band member and one of his rabid fans.

One good thing to come out of this was seeing Ginti’s style of judgement. It definitely seems less professional and more sadistic than Decims methods. The boy band fellow also had potential in his past. I like the idea behind his guilt but find his death to be ridiculous.  A girl getting revenge on him by first sleeping with him and blowing him up with a heart shaped bomb. I think poison would have been more cost effective and wouldn’t require you putting your incriminating DNA all over him. But then there was the main problem of this episode. The girl who is apparently so important that she’s in the opening for a few seconds. A girl who sports the dumbest death in the series so far(slipped on and bar of soap in the bathroom and cracked her head) and the most pointless backstory. A girl with a personality so aggravating that she deserves to be sent to hell just so she can be removed from existence entirely. At any point when the episode looked to be improving this girl just needs to say a line to drag it back down.

There was tonal whiplash everywhere. For example, at one point the girl was going to sacrifice herself and the boy was distraught over it do to his past of driving a fan to suicide. It could have been a moving scene but the only reason the girl is giving up is because she’s too ashamed of pissing herself in front of him. It jumped from comedy to serious business.  Not certain whether it wanted to make us laugh or get emotionally invested. The final insult is that this episode was pointless. It could be removed and nothing would be lost. True the series is only half over but besides an introduction to two characters I wish to never see again we learnt nothing new. With the series half over I can only see Death Parade as yet another premise with wasted potential.  Unless the last six episodes are consistently great this is likely to be a testament of misguided direction.

Posted on 10 February 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

If asked about how I think of death parade so far, my answer would have to be divided. On one hand the premise is rife with potential and it does have moments where it rises above the bar. But it also seems confused as to what it wants to be. We have death games between random people which shift between heartwarming to tragic. Yet we have exposition episodes about the state of afterlife. By appearances it’s episodic yet this episode looks to be setting up an ongoing plot thread. These paths each have interesting merits yet I think the show is trying to pull them all off. In truth I am reminded of a genius violinist who has a set path to greatness. Yet he insists that his true destiny lies in rock in roll and aims to play better guitar. Rather than choosing a path he wavers between the two, never doing either satisfactory.

So Onna is human. Though I had assumed so from the beginning. Actually I was given no indication that arbitrators were inhuman. As I was under the impression that Onna was being trained to be one. The interesting idea of game where one of the players played before is shot down before it could bloom. Instead bringing in a exposition episode that provides more questions than answers. There are details I like about the after world’s design such as the control center with wine glasses and raining blood. But this would need to be leading up to something. The battle segment was ridiculously out of place. I am glad the boss put a stop to it. I prefer my shounen battles in shounen anime thank you.

The storybook segment looks to be a symbol of Decim’s and Onna’s relationship. I question how someone dreams in storybook though. While I like Decims implied fondness for Onna, this story thread does not intrigue me. The conclusion of this looks obvious and potentially fatal. I am glad Maria Okada isn’t the writer of this series or this particular element would get dragged to the forefront and beaten for every forced emotional dollar. The new character is sadly just as figured. Hot headed and constantly pissed off. While his status as the former bartender of quindecim is a good point, his personality is just too stereotypical. And next week looks to be a flashback episode to when Ginti was the bartender. While it is a good way to flesh out his character I think this is just diverging into another unnecessary tangent. My interest is waning Death Parade. Please, prove me wrong.

Posted on 31 January 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Death Parade

Now this is more like it. An arcade game between two strangers with dark pasts. Excellent. But both did have a similar problem. That being they are both people who couldn’t see past themselves. It’s nice to see people react differently to the game. Here we have the two of them mistaking it for a reality tv show. But slowly realizing that something is off. The emotional breakdowns when things get dire were perfect. Misaki’s desperate bargaining and Yousukes deep regret over realizing what he gave up. Personally the most striking moment was the image of a despaired Misaki rhythmical tapping the attack button on the game after beating Yousuke unconscious. The fighting game itself was odd, like a joke game. I suppose it would be interesting to see their fighting game characters as how the general public viewed them. In Yousukes case, a typical shut in otaku. In Misaki’s a cheery vain tv actor.  This marks the first game that Decim interfered with to bring out the darkness of the players. It was a curious position for him being unusually cold. But looking carefully you could tell that he truly hated it. That look he gave the device he used to rig the game at the end of the episode showed how conflicted he was about it. I really like that about his character. He’s forced to play the role of the villain and yet is still compassionate. That last hug he gave the players betraying that façade truly moved me.

But here’s the question. Did Misaki truly deserve to go to hell? Herein Lies the problem with judging with a good or bad scale. There are always people who fit into neither category. Misaki wasn’t a nice person, that much is for certain but was she evil? Not quite. In truth she is more ignorant to the feelings of those around her. She was so caught up in her problems and misery that she failed to take into account how her actions affected others. The very thing that lead to her death. Misaki had a hard life that shaped her to be who she is. If she made a better choice for a lover she might have become a completely different person. With that said, in my opinion I agree with Decims judgement. Nothing was as telling as Misaki slamming Yousuke’s face into the arcade machine. She did regret it, yes. But only after she had done the deed. There were plenty of telling things in her flashbacks and her actions. I for example found it interesting that her special attack in the game where the children came to help and the only useful one was the baby. The only one too young to recognise his mothers faults. It wasn’t her fault but her experiences had corrupted her. She was past the point of no return. If given a second chance at life I fear she would only repeat her mistakes. Yousuke however recognised his mistakes and saw what it was he threw away. Therefore he was more deserving of redemption. Still Misaki’s end was a cruel one and one deserving of pity. Next episode we get to met the red haired fellow from the opening so I wonder what he will bring to the table.

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