First Impressions – Death Parade

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Death Parade arrives like a refreshing breeze blowing the stink of mediocrity from the room.

OP: “Flyers” by BRADIO

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How glorious it is, when a series with great expectations delivers on them in full.  Even in a good season I’d have placed a lot of emphasis on Death Parade, given how much I loved the Anime Mirai short it’s based on, Death Billiards.  But in a season with remarkably little on the schedule that seems even interesting, much less potentially great, this show is carrying a huge load.  And while it’s only one week, the early returns suggest it can carry it.

I loved everything about this premiere, starting with the incongruously upbeat (both visually and aurally) OP by BRADIO.  If you watched Death Billiards (if you didn’t, you should) you know the basic premise here.  We have a gorgeously post-modern bar called “Queen Dekim”, wherein works a mysterious white-haired bartender (I always thought he looked a bit like Ginko) named Dekim (Maeno Tomoaki).  Visitors arrive via the elevators (that there are two is significant) remembering little of their recent past.  It’s soon clear that this is a place of judgement, and that Dekim is an arbiter.

If there’s any caveat I would offer in my optimism for this series, it’s that we don’t know exactly what we’re going to get long-term.  Because this episode very much follows the form of the OVA, we don’t know if the entire series will do so, or whether there will be more focus on continuity and the supporting cast (we meet pixieish Nonaginta (Okubo Rumi) and Onna (Seto Asami) in the premiere).  And if it’s the former, it’s impossible to say whether that episodic style can remain as effective over 12 episodes as it is for one.  Might this formula grow a bit stale over time, or the darkness a bit overwhelming?  It’s possible – but I can say that over the course of one OVA and one TV episode, it’s a knockout success.

Make no mistake, this looks as if it’s going to be a very dark story – which you know if you watched DB.  “Man’s inhumanity to man” – and sometimes specifically those close to him or her – is an obvious recurring theme.  In this episode the ante is upped from the OVA, as the visiting pair is a husband and wife.  Takashi (Nakai Kazuya) and Machiko (Kawasumi Ayako) remember little except that they’re married, and were just on their honeymoon.  They appear to be devoted to each other, and as Dekim explains the situation in his usual cryptic fashion Takashi immediately assumes a protective role towards his wife.  But – and one can bank on this always being the case with Death Parade – things aren’t quite what they seem to be.

The game chosen to decide the fate of the fufu is darts – the game of 501, to be specific (which, like billiards, is one at which I’ve spent many hours in bars and pubs).  There’s a quite sadistic element to this contests based on the first two we’ve seen, and this one is especially insidious – each player is given seven darts, and the board is composed of parts of the opponent’s anatomy.  As the game progresses each player seems to remember more of their past life – including Takashi recalling his conviction that Machiko was cheating on him (based at least in-part on an overheard conversation between two of her friends at the wedding).  That’s when the lies begin – and in what I’m certain is going to be a recurring pattern, the cruel fun as a viewer is going to be in trying to figure out just what the truth is.

There’s a lot of deep psychological analysis going on in these first two stories, and a rather pessimistic (though not entirely fatalistic) view on human nature.  Is Machiko in fact lying about the friend “Matchy” being the topic of the overheard conversation – or about her pregnancy?  Might she have later lied about her true feelings – and infidelity – in order to convince Takashi to win the game and save himself?  We’re left to puzzle over this as events spin out of control, but in the end it appears that the real lie was Machiko’s professed love for Takashi, and indeed their marriage itself.  But of course, the fate of the participants isn’t determined by who wins the game – it’s determined by what the participants reveal about themselves in the process of playing it.

If I have any quibble about the first episode, it’s that we’re flat-out told what happens to the players – Takashi is sent out for reincarnation, and Machiko is sent to eternal torment.  That’s what I guessed (as with Billiards, the Noh masks seem the key), but I think it’s more effective if the result is left to our imaginations.  Apart from that, though, it’s a masterpiece – vastly superior to any premiere so far this season, and likely to be one of the best in 2015.  This material is perfectly suited to the Madhouse aesthetic, and writer/director Tachikawa Yuzuru has now validated the promise he showed in DB and stamped himself as a potential superstar.  The show looks fantastic – the art-direction is top-notch, and it blends 2D and CGI as well as any series I’ve seen in a long time – and the writing is smart, biting and incisive.  This is a glorious vindication for the Anime Mirai program – giving a talented creator a chance to step up and take control of a project is exactly what it set out to do.  The results with Death Parade are spectacular, and this looks as if it has a chance to be one of the best series of 2015.

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ED: “Last Theater” by NoisyCell

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52 comments

  1. G

    There was a dire need of a bucket while I was watching this piece of excrement, a place to express the rising feeling of disgust. It was also funny though, especially the laughable attempts at persuading us that here comes a "new talented director kids, enjoy." I could go at it scene by scene but it's not worth the time. The fact that this episode was so well received by the anime community is a strong argument for burning the whole thing down. I am terrified of the fact that this is perceived as quality. It's actually dangerous. And I don't mean just for artistic or commercial reasons. Seriously if people think that this shit reveals something deep and dark and real about the human condition, I am terrified. I am also terrified by the fact that the misogyny on display here is not just excused (as usual) but celebrated. It's serving up the worst impulses of the anime community and saying 'there you go'. Only it's not esoteric inside jokes and classic anime pandering here. It's something a lot more disturbing: the pretension of anime as a mature art form and Death Parade as the herald of anime growing up. Absolutely disgusting.

  2. B

    Misogyny? Disgusting? Piece of excrement? You sure you didn't accidentally watch Cross Ange? I sure as hell didn't see any of what you described in Death Parade.

  3. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so the fact that I could not possibly disagree more with that one isn't really the point. But it's worth noting that the comment was obviously written to be inflammatory and start a pissing contest, so bear that in mind when responding to it.

  4. G

    I liked the episode but did not like the payoff at the end. He appears to be becoming unhinged over what happened and goes to attack her but is restrained and sent off to be rewarded with reincarnation and she makes one small comment that its a lie and off to hell she goes for eternal torment?

  5. I think there's a good deal assumed in that interpretation. Which one of her lies was the real truth? I don't think we know. There's also the matter of their respective behavior during the game. It's not simple, but I like that about it.

  6. Z

    Interesting interpretation there.

  7. C

    I honestly wish I knew what you're talking about. It's cruel, sure, but "piece of misogynist excrement" is a bit too much, isn't it?
    From the beginning of the episode I was afraid that the outcome might be either too sexist or too obvious because it was, well, about a man and a woman. But I guess it couldn't be helped.

  8. A

    What you just wrote, was the most idiotic thing that I have ever seen. At no point within your rambling, incoherent response, were you any close to what could be considered rational thought. Everybody in this comment section is now dumber for having seen it. I award you no fucks given and may god have mercy on your soul.

  9. Z

    I kind of like that this series is getting mixed responses. It's boring when every comment you read is *standing ovation* bravo bravo bravo in unison.

  10. X

    @Zeta Zero I can agree with that, but…

    @Goh You can't make allegations like that without providing any support and expect to be taken seriously. The fact that you refuse to justify your opinion, much less with the rationale of it "not being worth the time," doesn't make me inclined to consider it valid. If you'd care to explain why you found the show misogynistic or otherwise disliked it, I, for one, am all ears, but baseless inflammatory posts don't do anyone here any good.

  11. A

    I like this dark anthology premise. Reminded me of an old manga Yami wa Tsudou (e.g. Tales from The Darkside, not to be mistaken with the George Romero show), in which there is an in-between room and a guardian inside to gather lost dead souls and judge whether they're fit to be given second chance at life or proceed into the afterlife. Really like that one. Death Parade seems to be very similar, but with adult characters instead of high-schoolers, which is certainly a nice change of pace.

    I'm not exactly floored by Death Billiards (*still wondering about the ending of that one), but I like the premise enough to commit to this show someday.

  12. D

    Never watched the DB short, so I wasn't really sure what to expect going into this. I was pleasantly surprised. There was something about it that reminded me of the first episode of Shigofumi. A similar sort of innocence (in this case – the dead couple's relationship) at first glance that reveals a much darker and complex dynamic below.

    I also agree that the result should've been left ambigious, though it didn't really stop my mind wandering a little on what really transpired there, since it wasn't all that clear. The obvious result seems to be that the wife was discarded into the void while the husband was sent to be reincarnated. But their final interaction didn't leave me entirely convinced. Maybe Machiko did indeed lie in the end there, seeing her husband break down infront of her and effectively not being the man she loved anymore. So her choice was to sort of severe her ties with him and her former life by lying and accepting her fate. Given the not-so-subtle Buddhist undertones here, maybe she achieved a sort of enlightnment by her final action while the husband himself was clearly not ready for it? This is all sort of tinfoil hat territory, but nevertheless I had fun watching the show and trying to figure out the implications of what I saw.

    It was a pretty great first episode overall and I have high expecations for things to come.

  13. B

    Really? That last moment when Machiko walked away, biting her lips before professing about the baby, and Dekim's facial change as he watched her walk away didn't strike you as odd? Not to mention she was the first to realize they were both dead?

    Not sure if I'm over-analyzing, or people are missing the point of this first episode.

  14. B

    Mind you, she was also the one who accidentally killed Takashi (guilt); Dekim explained they'd go to heaven/hell prior to her confession as well.

  15. R

    I think the anime pretty heavily implies one interpretation we should take (Machiko was lying about her love and the marriage and the whole thing was a sham) but there's numerous other interpretations that I think could be viable as well, especially considering her behavior towards the end after she realized what was in store for both of them.

  16. m

    I have very mixed feelings about this show. The premise is great, and seeing people reveal things about themselves in such a heavy situation can be very interesting, but it also is way too full of holes to stand up. It feels entirely too arbitrary to be the final call on who goes to heaven or hell. So nothing in your life makes any difference, but it all comes down to what you say out loud in this game afterwards? In any extreme fear inducing situation people are going to act differently than they normally did in life. To make that the entire basis of the afterlife makes no sense. If a being had the power to create such a world, why would they need to have a game to decide how fit/unfit one was for heaven? More to the point, how would they not be able to know when someone is lying, and why would they just go along with that? So if the wife was telling the truth at the very end, then they needed her to come clean out loud in order to punish her, and if she was lying to save her husband's soul then how does someone being willing to sacrifice their soul for another deserve eternal hell? Are we supposed to believe its a case of "well he was such a dick that for him to go to heaven a good person has to go to hell in order to even the scales"? Brilliant premise (that I admit would get old fast if it was a case of ppl are cruel when extremely fucked up situations happen of the week) that wasn't executed very well. The one area I see it having great potential is in the bartender and the two who came in after the ED. If we get a lot of focus on who they are, how they got the job, why they need to "get used to it", what their true role is in the decision making process, and everything else that comes along with that side of the story I think it can be a great show. But if it sticks to the whole "ppl are so wicked and evil when they are forced into completely unbelievable situations that are over the top fucked up" shtick that too many shows have done in the past, then I'll end up dropping it sooner than later.

    I will add that if this is being done bc the god/gods in charge are cruel and that becomes part of the story than I could accept that as no longer being a ridiculous premise. It's just that having this be a way of deciding one's worth as a person is so illogical that I can't see how any being with power would come to this as the answer if it wasn't for sport or cruel laughs.

  17. I don't think it works if you try and break this episode into something straightforward. There are many different interpretations conceivably supported by the events, and things that don't add up. I like that ambiguity, though I can see that not everyone will.

    For example – this was pointed out by observant viewers (and I'm ashamed I didn't think of it): Dekim said the goal of the game (as is the case with 501) to get to 0. But in 501, you can't possibly get 501 points with 7 darts. Even with 7 theoretical max throws (triple-20 – not, in fact, a double-bullseye) you could only get to 420 points. Is it possible the test for "Heaven" is to see whether the two parties will cooperate and throw their darts at the same board?

    Then you also have the fact that as many have noted, "Heaven" and "Hell" don't exist in Buddhism in the literal way they do in Christianity. And clearly, the mythology of this series contains elements of both. Where is the "Void" that Machiko was sent to? Certainly the Onii mask suggests a dark answer, but again, there are multiple possible interpretations here.

  18. P

    I don't know much about Buddhism, but isn't the cycle of réincarnations much more akin to a hell you can only escape by reaching the nirvana? Could this void be more of a reward in that perspective?

  19. Z

    Perhaps, but the rules are so seemingly arbitary and shrouded in mystery you'd have to be a HxH character to figure it out.

  20. M

    What Pierre Arnould said is correct. In various Eastern religions, "Nirvana", which is presumably the equivalent of "the void", is freedom from the cycle of life and death.

    Of course, the writers may have equally misinformed understanding of reincarnation as many comments I've read all over the net that believe the void is bad.

  21. m

    @GE that's very true about heaven and hell in Buddhism not being the same as what initially pops into my head, and it's certainly undeniable that the story was well written, the animation great, and the premise very original and intriguing. I hope they don't keep it an episode of the week format, and we get to learn more about those who run/host the game. That has so much potential for greatness along all kinds of different paths. I just do struggle to grasp the idea of having that game as a way of judgment, but a lot of that comes from my filing in the blanks with things that don't make sense and they could've planned it in a way that will cast all of that aside. It's also a great point about the number of darts and the true potential of the game. If they toss in episodes where people actually show kindness and help each other I think it will go a long way to ending my fear that it's just another "tragic" story of how people are cruel and everything is evil a la Gantz. If it's like that I'll be dropping it quick as I've never been a big fan of anime where everything bad that can happen does. It needs a lot of explaining, and I don't mean in terms of the open ended way this ep ended, but more in terms of the rules and background. I hope it does that bc in a particularly shitty season a unique and thought provoking show would be great.

    @Zeta yeah I share your worry about how arbitrary the game feels, and even more worried that it'll turn out to be the game being hosted bc that's just how God thinks judgment should be carried out. It has potential though, but I'm tempering expectations in the Btoooom era of anime.

  22. R

    Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but I got the sneaking feeling that the whole game was rigged in a way that was purposefully incorrect and a bit nonsensical (like the way you feel when you're watching a game with loaded dice) and that it might actually be a plot point later on? Or you know, too much credit but hey who knows.

  23. Z

    Not bad although there is nothing revolutionary about it. The aforementioned Yami wa Tsudou, Jigoku Shoujou, among others, have trodden this territory before. But it has all the production values and the MADHOUSE label so I imagine people will love it just the same.

    OP sequence is terribly out of place though. Terrible.

  24. M

    Hmm… I founnd the OP fittingly self-aware.

    It's too early to make a complete conclusion (the next few episodes could drastically alter the show's tone), but the initial impression is the writers know the premise is a bit of a joke.

    They are blatantly manipulating your expectations left-and-right, and they didn't seem to add any comic-relief to the story itself, so the OP may be their way of saying "Stop thinking and just enjoy the show."

    The contrast is better, in that case.

  25. M

    Jigoku Shoujo was exactly what came to mind as well after I saw this ep, which I thought was a show that executed it's premise better and I'm not even as much of a fan of that as some are, even thought I liked it, as I saw only the 1st season(others are in my backlog though).

    Based on the synopsis and on this ep, I'm assuming the show's intention is to bring out the true nature of people by pitting them against each other in such nasty circumstances. Although that's putting it wrong tbh as it's more like, trying to bring out the worst in them.

    If the show's gonna use this episodic format showing characters we can at best feel sorry for but never really care about behave when faced with games where their lives are at stake, it better work on it's execution. Once again, Jigoku Shoujo did it better in terms of a show that explores human nature in usually bad conditions & has people going & sending(or trying to send) others to hell. You could at least care a little bit about the some characters there, or hate them more even as you got to know a lot more about their circumstances, what drives them to want to send others to hell, etc. Death Parade practically just blazed through the couple's issues though that might've been just an introductory episode decision in which case, I'll cut it some slack. But I guess we'll find next week or the one after.

  26. G

    "but in the end it appears that the real lie was Machiko's professed love for Takashi, and indeed their marriage itself."

    I'd like to talk about what I see as the most interesting and best part of the episode, how Machiko's love for Takashi managed to change fate.
    I am deeply convinced that what I'm saying is true, and somehow it bother me that so few people managed to come to the same conclusion as me.

    The most important scene is of course when Machiko starts to "reveal" to her husband the most horrible things a husband can hear, "I never loved you." "The child isn't yours" "The marriage was only for the money"
    Why did she do that? The game was over, all that was left was going to the elevators.
    And why did Dekim was so surprised by it? No, wait a minute, HOW can Dekim be surprised by it?
    We already know from Death Billards that the results of the game are predetermined (observe how Dekim is ready to pick up the shards of a broken glass before it's even fallen to the ground), but that it's also possible to change fate.
    I think that's what Machiko did in this scene, out of love, she put on the mask of a terrible woman and lie after lie took all the guilt away from her husband onto her.
    Takashi isn't driven mad and agonizing over the fact that he killed his wife and unborn child out of jealousy and paranoia, he's just angry at her now.
    Another consequence to that, is where Michiko and Takeshi end up, void and reincarnated respectively, by assuming the role of an evil woman she gets labeled as one. Perhaps their positions would have been reversed if she didn't change fate at the moment.

    All in all I find it extremely heartbreaking that so many viewers are completely missing this beautiful act of self sacrifice.

  27. M

    I'm afraid I remain unconvinced. It's a a fair interpretation, but an equally plausible explanation to her final outburst is that she simply didn't want to hold onto any further emotional baggage herself.

    It's also open to interpretation whether the game was predetermined or whether her outburst really changed fate.

    And finally, that consequence you speak of shifts drastically if you recognize the Eastern interpretation of the void: Nirvana.

    What you think others missed, just might be your own hopeful misinterpretation. Too early to say though, only episode 1.

  28. z

    I'm with you. I thought it was clear the wife sacrificed herself for her husband after the mishap with the darts where she would have won. I expected there to be a twist (it's never that easy!), but the result was rather hollow and all too quick in the end. Very cut and dry, and having nothing to do with the person's actual merits in life. On top of that, the husband devolved into a mess of wrath and revenge (and excessive snot!), and actually tried to harm his wife (why did Dekim bother to stop him?), behaviors not worthy of salvation. I'm not familiar with the original, but if this is going to be a reoccurring formula (sending the "wrong" person to Hell), I am not impressed.

    I did however like the production values and character designs. After the opening, I was thinking "Yay, adults!" I had to check if Natsume Ono was involved, because the characters have her look to them. Especially Dekim, who looks like Yaichi. The preview looked like the next episode might be less formulaic, so that's promising at least.

  29. G

    I remain 100% sure that her final outburst is almost entierly made up of lies, it's really blatant that's she's acting.
    About the predetermination thing, it is clearly stated in Death Billards. I'm not making anything up. And Dekim being surprised is something extremely noteworthy when you take that into account.

    I recognize the budhist interpretation of the void, but who knows if that's the one they're using in the show considering they also mentioned heaven and hell.
    I still like to think that rebirth is a more enviable fate than non-existence.

    Maybe we'll never get to see more of the couple in the rest of the show, and I think it's unfair that so many people will view Michiko as a despicable woman, I just want to offer this alternative interpretation in the hope that it will make some people appreciate her character and the episode itself a bit more.

  30. w

    From a few readings I had, the "void" is more like "heaven" because, well…it's "emptiness." There is neither pleasure nor pain in it; thereby, no conceived problems, stresses, desires. It's also said to be "calmness." As to reincarnation, I remember one Philo class I had; it was discussed that reincarnation is "hell" because those who will die without this "calmness" or die with regrets again and again, will most likely experience suffering again and again in living. (not so sure; not an expert.) Reincarnation, however, can be "heaven" too, personally. After all, just the thought of being in the void—not feeling anything or what—is kind of sad and would seem a punishment.

    Anyway, I do feel that the wife only lied at the end, when her husband was a goner. Honestly, I think we're contrived to sympathize for the husband; it seems like the perspectives of the flashbacks and even the tension were greatly imbalanced. When the wife said she was in love with someone though, the flashbacks of her meeting her husband(?) for the first time seemed to show that it has always been the man her husband was whom she meant, and her owning to having a lover was just to satisfy and confirm her husband's blame—like someone accused as a witch before owning up as a witch. Hmm would have to check, though…But it seems like before marriage, the husband was a different person to her.

  31. B

    It's interesting to note that near the end when void was mentioned, the kanji used was 虚無 (きょむ) rather than 虚空 (こくう). The former is very much emptiness, with kanji words indicating "hollow" and "nothing," whereas the latter is composed of "hollow" and "realm/space," something you'd expect to see if they were referring to a Buddhist-style heaven or hell.

    Hell was also said using the more common, 地獄 (じごく) instead of 奈落 (ならく)(which, as far as I know, is the more common referral of Buddhist hell).

  32. w

    If that is so (I watched it quickly, so I didn't pick up the terms used), I think they used the most common terms rather than the Buddhist ones just for the sake of the easy understanding of the audience. If they intended it for another reason, it could be that the hell and void they refer are different from the Buddhist terms in real life.

    At this point, it seems like reincarnation is more like purgatory though, rather than hell. More readings on the Buddhist "void" is quite interesting because it's said to be the closest thing/place you can be to the "Absolute Reality"—who you may think as God in other religions—who/that is "unoriginated, uncreated, unformed."

  33. S

    Its interesting that a series with this kind of theme pops up out of nowhere, considering that a number of nice manga with a similar setting already exist (e.g. Fushigi na Shounen and especially Skyhigh).

    I'll propably follow the rest of the series and see where it goes. This premiere was definitely one of the more interesting ones so far.

  34. P

    Just a little more fuel for the discussion: did you notice that, when they both arrive, above the husband's lift was an Oni mask and above the wife's lift was an Okame mask? And that when they left, the masks had switched?

  35. M

    Wow, this episode really made me think a lot. Here's my interpretation of what happened.

    I think she definitely cheated on him after the marriage (hence the ring on her finger), but she regretted it immediately afterwards (notice how she covers her face in regret and clenches the pillow). Her feelings of guilt were also why she was "out of it lately", as the husband said, not just her pregnancy (again covering her face in the pillow while sitting next to her husband).

    I think she genuinely loved him and was pregnant with his baby before the marriage and she cheated on after the marriage because her husband was likely acting cold towards her because of his doubt, after he overheard her friends talking at the wedding.

    The person her friends talked about was indeed Machida Yuuki and Machiko (there was a place at the wedding reserved for Machida Yuuki shown during the ED), further showing that Machiko married her husband out of love (along with the happy flashbacks shown when she mistakenly threw the dart at his heart).

    This is the reason why Decim was only surprised after she said she was only with him for the money. She probably had this outburst to get rid of her guilt and tell him what he wanted to hear, while making sure that he goes to heaven.

    What I was not pleased with was the final punishment. I can understand why she would be sent to the void (assuming it is negative) for cheating, but I think the husband should be punished equally. He actually tried to kill his wife (although she was already dead) for cheating on him, which in my eyes is even worse than actually cheating.

    However given that he was mentally destroyed by the game and her revelations, I can see how his behavior can be justified to a certain extent, but in my book attempting to kill a defenseless human being deserves severe punishment no matter the circumstances.

  36. e

    Nice OP X,D, and I got the impression the black-haired woman is some kind of new recruit for the bartender squad (and if that's the case she'll get the peculiar pupil cross look eventually).
    About the couple judgement while the final outcome is still sort of hazy – both rules and actual meaning of hell and void – I'm on the wife's side and she did lie at the end to relieve him of his pain… while it's very possile that she cheated (once?) in the weeks after the ceremony, as her husband grew bitter towards her due to the fateful infidelity gossip (and from what I gathered the card in the ED does point at Matchy actually being an old friend of the wife), she had married him out of love. That said, between the spoiled trust between them and his behaviour during the game he was not the man she had fallen in love with anymore. Both her outburst (she wore the oni mask so to speak – while the husband had been turning into one for a while, his mind tormented and poisoned – to relieve both him and herself of the pain. Cue switch from okame to oni elevator mask at the end?) and her desperation turning into quiet sad acceptance at the end in this sense conveyed also her grief.
    If (IF) the void/hell in the show are closer to Buddhist tradition they should be a transitory state/phase of sort. The husband is going to be reincarnated – he has to work on his soul a bit more and could not let it go. He's not ready – , the wife is getting a break and a (temporarily?) afterlife free of violent passions and strong wordly attachments. More than a stark good/bad end this feels like the point where their spiritual journeys diverge. The elevators point just at their next destination rather than ultimate end. But still, I'm speculating here.

  37. v

    "I always thought he looked a bit like Ginko"
    The only thing missing is a Mushi repelling cigarette

  38. I love the fact that that this episode is not only sparking so much discussion, but genuine disagreement about what actually happened. That alone makes it a thousand times more essential than the rest of the feed corn on this schedule.

    I think the folks making the argument that Machiko was faithful and made up the entire story about cheating and went to Heaven make an interesting case. But I still can't reconcile that with the onii mask on her elevator door. I just don't think that's the message the show is trying to send.

  39. B

    From how I'm seeing it, she goes to hell to allow Takashi to heaven (her confession is after Dekim mentions they'll be sent to either heaven or hell, making it likely she's extrapolated far enough to understand this; Machiko was also the first to realize they're both dead). Dekim's surprised face then, is from her decision (or so I'm assuming).

  40. e

    The masks carry a certain ambiguity per se I agree.
    Now, as one of the commentors pointed out, the white mask is okame, but what about the oni mask? Okame is generally seen as positive and as a standard of beauty, joy, myrth, happiness and the ideal bride/woman. But as a standard of beauty is a bit dated nowadays to the point is not necessarily a compliment looks-wise.
    The oni mask features resembles a hannyu mask – and if you browse hannyu masks you can find them in different colors according to the material – … that is the dark and demonic side of women/brides, sprung out of jealousy and rage (whatever interpretation you give to the elevator destination I'm still staying my case that the husband came in as the oni filled by both jealousy and rage, while the wife wore that mask once when she cheated [her own dark feminine side] and again at the end in reaction at her husband going bonkers [the rage side, although that's a complex mix she displays there. Part of the rage is directed at him and at his accusations but part of it is also about her own guilt if/when she cheated…] . This is for the Noh mask part as a representation of the souls' state.
    Then there is the Mask = Good/Bad end/destination bit. But again which is which in the show – or if there is a good vs bad meaning – is still not so carved in stone imho.
    But (?) there is also seeminlgy a custom of oni masks been hang on walls and doors to ward off evil.

    ——————————–
    For the record I believe she lied about marrying him just for money and carrying another man's child (both visuals and montage of her memories of their dating and marriage ceremony are happy ones). The cheating probably happened (I say 'probably' because the colour filter + grain right there and then is different from all the other 'true' flashbacks, including his)… after her husband's increasing paranoia about 'Matchy'.

    If the game is a test of their character and even admtting the cheating part was true… Even in her betrayal and rage she was still about him (she cheated [?]and was filled with regrets [body language on the bed + murky image filter], then hurt whe he accused her and basically told her he never trusted her at all = less concerned about her image and more about his opinion of her. The baby accusations entail their status as a couple and family. ) lied to ease his grief at having killed his wife and his unborn son unjustly… but that only left him with rage at her and his subsequent exploit was horrible). She was 'you', 'your son', 'your opinion of me', 'us'. The husband came off as more self-centered when the chip and darts went down. His life, his dreams, his sons, his honour. Me, ME, ME. Bit of an overkill reaction there (bad pun!).
    Back to speculation: the Void would fit the wife's emotional state either way. After that emotional s**tstorm some emptiness or calmness or nothingness could even be appealing… Could be her conscience being erased. Could be being purified. Punishment? Reward? Neither? Both?
    For the husband… *I* would rather have him (and his wife) trying their best at Reincarnation Roulette rather than grabbing a straight-out celestial reward after his appalling behaviour at the end but eh it's just episode #1.

    TL;DR yay ambivalent clues and Schrödinger afterlife elevators? 😀

  41. G

    ''But I still can't reconcile that with the onii mask on her elevator door. I just don't think that's the message the show is trying to send.''

    I made myself clear on that first post. I think that this whole discussion, based on "what happened in the end???'' is fundamentally meaningless because the series is not worth it. There's nothing of thematic value there,no 'message' besides the depressingly shallow and facetious misanthropic views of the creator. But yes, other than that you are absolutely right on the above. The series clearly blames her in the end, paints her as the devil, a soulless bitch. While the husband may be flawed and paranoid he is definitely 'redeemed' by the narrative and the resolution.

    What's really interesting though, is that even if what people are saying WAS true, and the woman lied about the affair (never mind that frame with her on the bed with another man) it's still deeply pernicious. The saintly wife who sacrifices herself for her brute of a husband.

    And we can even talk about the specifics of the execution if you want. The animation and 'disturbing!!!' faces that are so praised reek of falseness, the symbolism (blood on the ring omg!!) is laughable combined with what comes before and after and the whole premise seems to based on someone going one day 'hey that sounds cool, let's make an anime out of that!' with zero thought or substance put behind it. Normally it makes me mad when people react negatively to people analyzing things, it's classic anti-intellectualism. But here it feels to me that people not recognizing instantly Death Parade for the piece of crap that it is, that's the real death of intellect. Again, I'm saying this fully cognizant of how patronizing and smug that sounds.

  42. w

    @Goh: I like to think that "Belief is the death of intelligence" sometimes, especially in extreme cases.

    Although you think this show is meaningless, you labeled it as "crap," which still gives it meaning. And even as crap, it is able to fertilize people's thoughts and opinions for a discussion. Doubting that this show is crap, though, is just natural; and I don 't think that's death of intellect because people are also using reason to point out why they don't think so. Not everyone thinks the same as you after all, and it's ok to be smug about it. As the adage says, somebody else's trash is another's treasure.

  43. R

    Well see, this is basically the far end of the extreme that doesn't even leave any room for debate to begin with so I don't see how it served any purpose other than to try and place a giant billboard in everyone's face with your opinion.

    Seriously, if you hate it so much go to another post about another show and leave everyone here to their own debates. Thanks.

  44. G

    It would be the saddest thing if a person came to read these comments in the future, expecting the heavy criticism the series deserves and found only praise,skepticism and speculation while the elephant in the room (that it sucks) was nowhere to be read.

    And I reject the facile argument that 'if you hate it don't read it/watch it /criticize it'. It encourages circle jerks and actually silences people. I didn't tell you to stop talking about it. Obviously,I can't nor want to do that. That doesn't mean I am not saddened by the fact that people bought what was being sold here and I also consider the series' pretense and message far too infuriating to NOT write on it.

  45. T

    One thing to note is that in Buddism, reincarnation is NOT NECESSARILY a good thing. According to the circle of reincarnation, depending on your actions in previous incarnations, you could get anything from (a long time in) Hell, Vermin, Demon, or even as Saint, Buddha, Heavenly Spirits, etc. In fact, being reincarnated as a Human is not that "great" of an option (it's in the lower half of the circle, along with other "bad" options) as according to Buddism, all Human have to inevitably suffer four great pains which are: birth, old age, illnesses, and death.

    Based on Takeshi's action, I'm not sure if he'd get a good option to reincarnate as (the jealousy and paranoia; his intentionally hitting his wife and lying that he "slipped", regardless of whether it's justified due to his wife cheating or not, etc..)

    The important clues as to which of Machiko's statements are true, I think, are when she covers her face (crying?) as her husband is being dragged away, and the last expression on her face as the elevator closes, which I interpreted as regret/sadness.

  46. J

    I was also disappointed and surprised that the "results" were flat-out stated at the end … I hope that Ginko was lying. I will cling to that thought as long as it remains possibly canon.

    I also hope for some older characters in the next episodes. To be honest I thought the OVA was far superior to this ep.

    I am also strongly inclined to think that Machiko lied at the very end to save the man from the guilt of having killed his baby and wife. If what she was telling was the truth then there would have been no reason at all to come out with it at that point.

  47. A

    I think the fact that this episode has sparked so much debate over what actually happens to the couple in the end shows the quality of the writing in keeping things open-ended enough for these kinds of discussions to take place.
    For me, leaving things open to interpretation is more interesting than the author just saying "This happened". It was the best thing about the pilot, and it's the best thing about this first series episode.

    That said, I did doubt that "Death Billiards" had the legs for a series, but it looks like they're expanding the background to the point where it might not end up being 'game of the week'.
    Although I am looking forward to the "death airhockey" promised by the OP….!

    Talking of the OP, that's just brilliant, and the sequence where Decim and the dark-haired woman are dancing on the pillar really stands out. Favourite OP of the season, for me.

  48. R

    This was an amazing episode. And sorry, but people saying that jigouko shoujo has a better first episode… just no. Not even close.

  49. d

    Just wanted to say (and I'm sure it's been said numerous times by now), that I interpreted it as Machiko getting the better end of the deal, as I always thought in Buddhism that the "void", or Nirvana was always the goal, and that escaping the cycle of reincarnation was the greatest achievement. Takashi simply wasn't ready.

  50. U

    Quite enjoyed the first episode. Some observations from the opening:

    Except for the black-haired waitress who is apparently new, all of the other ones in the intro seem to have that cross shaped eye pattern. I wonder if that means they are also arbiters or in some way in the system while she is not (yet). I wonder if she is going to be sort of the protagonist of the show aside from the probably guests of the week.

    Also some or all of the games I assume are shown:
    Named:
    Billiards
    Darts
    Air Hockey
    Bowling
    Trumps

    Also seen on the bar in the intro in front of Decim:
    Mahjong Tiles and probably riichi sticks
    A pair of ice skates
    A kendama
    A cup and some dice
    Some sort of dradle or top?

    Look forward to seeing where this goes.

  51. e

    Some more elements to consider:
    – the aquarium/jellyfish symbolism
    – in the OP the bar staff is seen pumping fist (and crammed in… /coming out of?) from the 'oni' elevator
    – the black-haired girl (OP again) is being released into Decim's arms by the seemingly same tendrils he used to restrain the husband at the end of the game
    – the seemingly same tendrils take the shape of said girl and Decim's arms/body
    – the singing bartender girl with the side braid and her blue birds (the blue birds of happiness? Japanese anime do love this bit of symbolism :p)
    – Bartenders as Kannon? They mimic one of her forms with many arms in the OP. And if you count the girl (in-training?) the main ones in the OP are 6 (Roku Kannun) + 1. http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kannon.shtml#sixkannon
    – the old bartender with his hair and goatee resembling a lotus flower. More enlightenment! For a moment I wondered about him being the old man we saw in Death Billiards but looks like they're two different persons.
    – talking about the OVA, we got person A (the young cheating man winning the game and also assaulting his game opponent ) + tendrils restrain (see assault and rebellion to being dead) + okame elevator vs person B (the apparently overall dignified man with one implied bully past flashback) 'calmly' going in the oni elevator. And no mask/elevator swapping.

  52. h

    oh that's the hatsu that was used on killua by chimera 😀
    on another note
    thumbs up for madhouse ,HxH ,parasyte and now DB

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