Death is inevitable. Whatever your religious beliefs and views of the world are, some of us believe (myself included) in the afterlife. Based on how we lived our lives, we either go to Heaven or Hell. According to the Catholic Church, however, people who have lived good lives but are not holy enough to enter Heaven go to a place called purgatory: a place to purify the soul so that it may be worthy to enter heaven. What makes Death Parade a very interesting and intriguing anime is the unique way in which it presents the idea of purgatory.
Death Parade follows the story of Decim, an arbiter who has been tasked to judge the souls of those who enter purgatory, called Quindecim, and to decide whether they either go to heaven or hell. Decim judges these people through a Death game, in which the participants have to put their lives on the line.
These games range from pool, to darts and even video games. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately not; all these games have a catch to them. In Episode 1, for example, the participants play a game of darts against each other. The catch, however, is that each piece of the dartboard is linked to a specific part of the body and if a dart hits one of the body parts on the dartboard then the other participant feels pain in that part of the body. As the game and episode progresses, we learn more about the participants and the events leading up to their deaths. Once Decim has judged the participants based on their actions and true nature, they are either sent to Heaven or Hell.
Something that stood out for me in Death Parade was the individual stories told by the participants in each episode. Although the formula of events remains constant in most of the episodes, each episode is fresh and unique – you never know what to expect. Each participant that arrives in Quindecim has their own story, their own personality, that we can personally relate to in life. You feel for them and their personal struggles; you feel sorry for their circumstances leading up to their deaths. Decim is not supposed to feel any emotions for the participants while performing his judgement, yet there are instances where he feels for the participants and comforts them in their time of need. The participants are not over the top or boisterous, like in other anime shows; they are people we could easily see in our daily lives. The events surrounding their deaths are also something to think about and it also relates to the question of morality – what is deemed right and wrong. This question is explored later in the series and is so gripping and thought provoking, that it took two episodes to explore it.
What I also appreciated in Death Parade was its constant exploration of life and death (hence, the headline of this post). Throughout the series, the characters make their own comments and opinions about what it means to live and how it comes full circle once you have died. This makes me reflect on my own life right now and what more I can do in order to live a more fulfilled life. Decim’s assistant, whose name is not known, embodies this exploration of life and death. As the series progresses, she and many of the participants show how one wishes they could have done more with their lives before they died.
Death Parade, in my own opinion, is one of the top anime shows I have watched this year. It is thought provoking, gripping and also reflective at the same time. It questions our lives and our purpose in life while also trying to explain what it means to live a full life. The characters, especially the participants of Quindecim, are easily likable and there are some characters who grow on you. Despite its dark and serious tone, Death Parade shows instances of warm and light-hearted moments, especially with its catchy and funky opening song. Episode 3 was my favourite episode in the series, personally, as it was a very light-hearted and sweet episode of childhood friends meeting each other again, ironically, after death. So I ask you, dear reader, to watch this show with an open mind and to reflect on your own lives so that you can one day die knowing you have lived a successful and fulfilled life.
[All images used were screen-capped from the anime]