It has been a long time since an anime has strung me along the way Death Parade has. It is interesting too because the only other anime I can think of that has done this is Dragon Ball Z. The difference being that in DBZ I would wait weeks to see the resolution of a fight; but in Death Parade I wait weeks to see the resolution of a single emotional story line.
A couple months back I wrote a piece about the ambiguity of my feelings towards the show. I was annoyed at its slow moving pace and lack of information. At the time of that article only 4 episodes had come out, and I usually stick to a standard of giving an anime 4 episodes max before deciding if I will continue.
I just finished watching the 12th episode and I can say with confidence that I’m still in a limbo of sorts. As I stated before, a significant story line came to a close (presumably) this last episode. It felt good to have some conflict resolution, and to have a lot more of the puzzle filled in. Unfortunately, I’m feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the outcome.
In my previous article I pointed out that the show does an amazing job of animating these very base level emotions that any of us would go through in similar situations. It showed heart break, remorse, gratitude, desperation, and a whole host of others. To me, this is where Death Parade succeeds the most, and to be honest I’m not even a little surprised. The people who make this show also made Death Note, and that show had a very similar talent for conveying humanistic reactions and emotions when a person would be under different forms of duress.
(Speaking of Death Note Look Who Made An Appearance in Episode 11)
I don’t read manga, and so the fact that Death Parade is an anime original doesn’t bother me. What I think can be drawn from the lack of manga is the lack of story structure. Obviously anime and manga aren’t always, one for one, the same, but having manga roots allows the anime to stick to a predetermined path. Death Parade is a great show, but it constantly feels like I will never get the answers I am looking for.
Death Parade is the type of anime that just plops you down and doesn’t explain anything. It forces you to watch and try to figure things out. In general I think this is a very good way of presenting an experience. Even games could often times benefit from having a few less instructions and a little more trust in the players. An example of an anime that does this well is Attack on Titan. From the beginning to the end you are never really told much more than what the main character knows, but the show also doesn’t leave you wondering if you’ve missed something.
If I had to boil it down to a yes or no question of whether Death Parade is good, I’d have to say yes. There are some really emotionally and artistically beautiful scenes in that show that I haven’t seen in many other anime. You do grow to really love the characters (at least some) and have a desire to learn more about their world. It also forces you to ask questions about how you might react being in these supernatural situations, and any piece of art that can make you think like that, is doing a good job.
But be warned! This show is not your typical anime. There is very little suspense, absolutely no fighting, and no terrible monster or government which needs fighting. No one is trying to destroy the world, and there is no obvious love stories. This anime takes its time to show you what it is made of, and how it wants you to feel. This is neither good nor bad, but if you prefer Gundam Wing type anime, this one may not be for you.