[Full Review] Death Parade

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[Full Review] Death Parade Empty [Full Review] Death Parade

Japanese: Death Parade
English: Death Parade
Studio: Madhouse
Online availability: FUNimation
Premise: I can't say much that won't spoil the first episode. Spoiling the first episode won't ruin the rest of the anime, but I still think it's worth trying to preserve the magic of the first episode. Basically, two people show up at a bar called Quindecim and are told that they will set their lives at stake and play a game. From there, it's not much of a spoiler to say that the show looks into what it means to die and how people react to the thought of death. There's also an original short called Death Billiards that was created a little while back and which was then serialized into Death Parade. I watched it before watching any of the series, and I think it's worth watching first (wherever you can find it), but in truth, it's very similar to the first episode, so if you skip it, you wouldn't be missing all that much.
Story: 9
The story and content of the plot are absolutely incredible. The nature of the show is somewhat episodic, but there are clear overarching themes which delve deep into what it means to live and die as well as discussing ethics and the morality innate within humans. As the series gets further in, a more clear storyline emerges, resulting in a few particularly stunning moments. There are admittedly some plot points which get built up only to be resolved somewhat anticlimactically, and the story could definitely benefit from more extensive worldbuilding, but seeing as the show was only one-cour and was subject to associated time limitations, these flaws are understandable. Besides, such quibbles are minor when compared with the fantastic manner in which the more prominent aspects of the story are drawn to a conclusion.
Death Parade aims to take its philosophical inquiries seriously, but the difficulty there is that a careful balance must be maintained. Because of the gravity of the topics at hand, it is very easy to fall into melodrama by pushing too much emotion. Melodrama is perfectly acceptable if that is the goal, but when honestly aiming for depth of thought as Death Parade does, too much emotion can get in the way of serious discussion. On the other hand, if the show is too reserved with emotion, the discussion becomes boring and akin to a philosophy textbook, which in some ways defeats the purpose of employing an artistic medium such as anime. Fortunately, Death Parade manages to ride this line well, as will be detailed below.
Character Design: 10
The characters are where Death Parade truly shines. As mentioned, Death Parade thrives on philosophical inquiry, which is in turn driven by people and dialogue rather than events, so it is essential that the characters are able to hold their own in the earlier described environment. Because they are the primary vessels for imparting emotion, the characters must be carefully crafted to balance between melodrama and stiffness, while still pushing everything forward. The main and recurring characters in Death Parade do this very well. With such heavy topics, there is bound to be some very intense and emotional moments, but the interactions between characters prevent the balance from being disrupted while keeping characterizations consistent.
In addition, as mentioned, Death Parade is somewhat episodic, so there are a fairly high volume of characters who appear in only a single episode, but even these characters are fleshed out and meticulously constructed. While their stories are illuminated over the course of the episode, a lot of the details are left out to encourage the viewer to draw their own conclusions, and small movements and facial cues are placed throughout to help with these judgments.
Character Development: 10
Most of the characters are static, but the main characters undergo a decent amount of development over the course of the series, which I do not wish to spoil. I will simply say that the final scene is perfect and does a very good job illustrating the growth that has occurred.
Overall Character Score: 10
Art Direction: 9
Unsurprisingly, the aesthetic is quite gloomy with the color palette being dominated by purples and blues. Within this environment there are splashes of color which are used to good effect in drawing the eye to points of interest. While a number of scenes do have brighter colors, they maintain the aesthetic theme of death and finality by focusing on deep oranges with splashes of yellow and red to evoke thoughts of sunset and the end of the day.
The main and recurring characters are another source of color, as they are designed to visually pop within the otherwise dark environment, whereas the one-off characters are generally plainer and intended to resemble normal people. The proportions of the characters are somewhat unusual at first glance, eschewing the rounded face structure typical of current anime in favor of longer faces which lend a sense of maturity to the characters that fits well with the serious tones of the show.
Animation: 8
The animation is clean and smooth. A lot of the scenes are light on animation, but there are a few motion-heavy sequences which do a lot to highlight just how well animated Death Parade is.
Overall Art Score: 8.5
Music: 8
Unsurprisingly again, a lot of the music is heavily atmospheric and contributes to the ambiance. However, this on its own is not especially noteworthy. However, near the end of the show, there is a scene which is beautifully composed in every way, from animation to music, and the sheer beauty of that scene helped raise the music score (as well as the animation score from earlier) to where they are. In addition, the OP is pretty jammin'. It may not be a perfect match for the tone of the show, but the OP and ED are the best places for such a mismatch, and I rocked out to the OP many times, so it's hard for me to be too critical about it.
Sound Design: 8
From the sounds that Decim's (one of the two main characters) strings make, to the chattering of skulls which sent chills down my spine, there isn't much to say other than that the sound design is quite good. In addition, the aforementioned scene has some brilliant sound design with the music and sound effects being mixed superbly.
Overall Sound Score: 8
Personal Enjoyment: 10
I very thoroughly enjoyed Death Parade. It was interesting and thought-provoking and emotional, and I couldn't tear myself away for a single second. It's psychological and intense, but don't be misled by the psych tag into thinking that it's horror or suspense/thriller because it's really not. I strongly recommend that you watch it if you have the time, though as should be obvious by now, it can get pretty damn heavy, so be warned.
Final Score: 9.1


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[Full Review] Death Parade :: Comments


Post on Fri May 22, 2015 9:32 pm  Ethanmn

You need to stop selling me high quality ways to waste my time. I already have enough distractions as it is! Again if I find the time, I'll try to check this out.

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Post on Fri May 22, 2015 10:18 pm  ChaoticGrowth

Haha, I'm glad I could be a good bad influence. I'll also be writing up a review for Your Lie in April soon, which was my favorite anime that ended last season. It might even have taken the #1 position for me overall, though it feels somehow wrong to say so.

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