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.