Death Parade – 09

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That certainly answered some big questions.

Way back after Episode #4 I raised the “Universe is kind of an asshole” question.  That is, that it seemed quite reasonable to me that the average person would look at goes on at Quindecim and say it was a bloody awful way for souls to be judged – and the question was, are we supposed to feel that way?  Misaki from that episode really started the ball rolling with her “Who are you to judge people?” accusation, and that cuts to the heart of what Death Parade is really all about.  I don’t think it’s coincidental that we saw Misaki and Yousuke turn up in the montage this week.

I think we can definitively say now that yes, the perspective of the series is that this arrangement is seriously fucked up.  Onna pretty much raised every point one might raise to make that case, and Decim really had no response because after all – how could he?  What’s interesting is that feeling seems to go considerably high up the ladder – at least as far as Nona – but the system has presumably been in place for Eons.  It’s nice that the show gets why things really are skewed, but my goodness – what does that say about God and the Universe from Death Parade’s point of view?

It was one long, dark journey of the soul to get to this point, I’ll tell you that.  This episode was intense, powerful and bleak, with plenty of darkness in the air without Decim needing to do anything to draw it out.  I’ll crow just a little for speculating that Tatsumi and Shimada’s deaths were connected – it certainly wasn’t obvious, but something was nagging at me that it was the case.  It just didn’t seem right that these two men would be here by coincidence – not with the nature of how they were chosen to be sent to Quindecim.

I don’t personally feel that homicide in the name of revenge is a justifiable act – I don’t think Tachikawa Yuzuru does either – but I also don’t think you can draw a moral equivalency between Tatsumi and Shimada (their respective reactions after their first kill are a crucial clue).  That said, I’m pretty certain they both ended up at the same place (which is itself a condemnation of Decim’s system and method of judgment).  For me, what Shimada did amounts to a crime of passion.  He was young, innocent of the world in some ways (though not others) and probably only ever loved one person in the world (at least that was still in it).  Sae was everything to him, and someone committed an unspeakable act of violence against her.  She specifically in effect pleaded with him to kill those who did it, and that’s what Shimada did,  He was weak, and lacked the perspective or foundation of character to resist the urge to do what he did,

For Tatsumi, it’s another kettle of fish.  In hindsight of course we know that he committed many murders in cold blood – dispassionate, carefully planned and (literally) executed.  But even the initial killing, of his wife’s murderer, strikes me as quite different than what Shimada did.  What I think is really going on here is that Tatsumi blames himself for his wife’s death (Shimada blames himself too, of course, though the circumstances are different) because it was his work that brought it upon her.  So he’s taken up what in his mind is some kind of “dark avenger” role, doing the dirty work society is too squeamish to do itself, to help convince himself that his wife didn’t die in vain.  In short, I think Shimada killed mostly for his sister, and Tatsumi did it mostly for himself.

Splitting hairs?  Perhaps – and again, in the end I don’t think it matters to either of their souls.  I think it would have been very interesting to see what would have happened if Shimada had been strong enough to listen to Onna and rise above Tatsumi’s goading, but we’ll never know.  And what of what Onna did?  She effectively broke character right in the middle of the play – pulled back the curtain and revealed the man behind it.  Again, I think her accusations were all right on the money, but if there was such a thing as integrity for this arbitration she certainly voided it.

Decim had nothing to say to her of course.  He’s not someone who has the perspective to be judging others and, of equal importance, this nonsense about “drawing out the darkness” is a travesty.  Not all of us are killers, of course, but given enough stress and prodding almost all of us will lash out and let the selfish and angry beast inside us show.  What does it prove?  Should all of us thus be sentenced to the void?  Now that Death Parade has answered the question of whether it believes the Universe is broken, it must turn to the questions of how it got that way, and whether there’s a will or a way to fix it.  Because the series so expertly explores its themes through the thoughts and actions of the characters, it’s going to be a doubly fascinating experience to see how it goes about delivering those answers.

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ED Sequence:

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  1. e

    You were right. Hence the bug you promised to eat lives! Silver linings, how I love ye.
    The ending sequence was both perfectly timed and heartbreaking in the way it linkes the episode – and series at learge – themes with the lyrics. Good job there.
    Btw seeing how effed up the whole concept of passing judgement is Onna's intervention was doubly welcomed. Really, wouldn't have had her behaviour any different.
    I do hope for this series to go tackling for possible answers after having made points on the (mis)workings of this world. In this sense next week preview is giving me a rather good feeling. Onna-baby may you survive the ordeal if ordeal is gonna be. And may you not be among the sacrifices that must be made.

  2. J

    That was quite the ending, an early contender for the best scene I'll see all year. I thought the Yona ending sequence a couple of episodes back was exquisite, but I this episode's has it beat for the sheer release of emotion alone. And it was technically well executed to boot, linking up with the series as a whole as you say.

    I can't say I called the exact turn of events either, but there was a clear sign that something was up the moment I heard FujiKei's voice last week (if you had to pick a seiyuu to give a "breaking speech" I can't think of a better one). I can see the differences between Shimada and Tatsumi's crimes, but if you're going to make a snap judgement on a person's life then it's not hard to see why the outcome would take priority. Which makes Onna's in-series reveal all the more important.

    I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that answers will be provided to the mess we have seen – the interesting part will be how they are given to us.

  3. w

    I too would have loved to have seen Shimada rise above Tatsumis goading, even if just so that the episode would end on a less.. Depressing note. Wow. Possibly the best episode yet. I'm enjoying quite a few new shows this season but Death Parade is running rings around all of them.

    It's hard to add much when you've so clearly mirrored my own thoughts here. I'm hoping for an alternative to this style of judgement to present itself soon. But I'm also wondering what it could be. I'd like to see 'everyone deserves another chance' put on the table here, but I'm not sure that's the direction it's taking.

    Clearly given the pressure the residents are under to judge souls quickly, this does seem like an effective method. A more 'natural' method might take too long, since as they've said 'people are dying too quickly'. And it's a pretty horrifyingly beureaucratic take on the after-life, souls coming in like files to be quickly scanned through and sorted.

    The closest thing to a better method (or at least a more humane one) would be a reversal of the games priorities. As has been very clearly pointed out, the odds are stacked against the players. The intent of the game is to bring out the worst in people, it should be trying to bring out the best. But then I'm wondering if 'the other side' would consider that fair, or just restacking the odds so that they are in the players favour.

  4. v

    Did they explain how Shimada died? Or did I missed it?

  5. A

    Remember that Shimada got stabbed in the side by the serial stalker, he was slowly bleeding out in the bathroom when Tatsumi showed up and then he woke up a bit and killed Tatsumi. I would assume that he lost consciousness after that due to blood loss and eventually died of the same.

    Anyway, amazing episode, harrowing is the word I would use to describe it.

  6. A

    The stalker grabbed a knife from the kitchen sink and stabbed Shimada bevor he was able to kill the stalker. It happenend pretty fast. I had to rewatch the scene too …

  7. H

    That was very tense! I was worried about the show's direction for a bit, but I think it's definitely in the safe zone after that two part-er. Some might find the episode a bit too depressing to call it satisfying, but I think most can agree it was very genuine.

    I think Onna was basically saying that human nature can't truly be judged (certainly not like this), no matter how shrewd the system.

    Heard One-Punch Man is getting an adaptation. Good times.

  8. K

    This is a powerful episode. Again and again it comfirms and even exceed my expectations. My personal opinion of course is that Tatsumi is the greater devil since he kill not because of justice but because the pleasure of killing criminal. Shimada too me was more innocent because his entire world revolves around his sister. He was more innocent.

  9. v

    Thanks! I forgot that he was also stabbed in that fight. So many things happened in the span of 1 episode! (which is a good thing).

  10. v

    Sorry, the above comment is meant to be a reply to Alister Hagen for answering my earlier question.

  11. A

    Can we give a shout out to the excellent soundtrack and overall sound editing…

    Especially when they matched the OST with Shimada expressions throughout.

    Really well done show.

  12. There's pretty much no aspect of DP that isn't stellar, IMHO. It's a first-rate production in every sense.

  13. Z

    Best episode. Tatsumi is a badass.

  14. m

    Contrary to most people here, I hadn't wanted Onna to interfere as I wanted to see how this played out by itself. Though Onna's interjection was certainly understandable given how she wanted to protect the boy from breaking (which is even more important than passing judgement).

    I think I have never watched a production as beautiful and well-executed as this (anime format anyway, not movies)

  15. A

    "I also don't think you can draw a moral equivalency between Tatsumi and Shimada"

    On this one I disagree. Tatsumi and Shimada were driven by the same thing (avenging a loved one), and had the same final reaction (breaking down after their vengeance is done, with a slasher smile, like the one Tatsumi has after "hearing" his wife, and the one Shimada ends the episode with). Tatsumi just had years to live with this and change in his way, while Shimada died right after his murder so lacked the opportunity to develop further.

    In fact, I think it's one of the main point of the episode, repeated nearly verbatim by both Onna and Tatsumi : "everyone can ends up doing ugly things if pushed hard enough". It's one of the reasons Onna claims that the judgement is absurd (it's basically pushing people until they break, so how guilty can they really be as they are under duress ?), and Tatsumi says it more or less verbatim.

    So yeah, Shimada didn't end up as a twisted extremist Knight Templar like Tatsumi did, but he didn't even had the time for it so it might be due to a true difference in "soul", or just a lack of opportunity. When it comes strictly to their first murder, they are in fact carbon copy of each others and I don't see how you can argue they are different.

    As for the serie, strangely I feel better after these two bleak episodes. The casualness with which the eternal judgement on souls have been treated since the beginning of the serie was really making me feel very uneasy ("doh, I just condemned this soul to eternal darkness/obliteration while she was actually a very nice person. Oh well, nevermind, better luck next time" ; "Oh, these are the very souls of people and we'll pass eternal judgement on them, but because we're training someone we won't pay full attention"), and even if it was clear we WERE supposed to feel it's a fucked up setting, seeing Onna pointing it is still like being able to breath again.

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