Death Parade 01 and Power January 13, 2015Posted by navycherub in Anime, Essay.
Tachikawa Yuzuru is a lucky man. Plenty of talented directors have gotten Anime Mirai shorts, but only he got the chance to turn his idea into a whole show. And, personally, I am quite happy about it, too – ever since Death Billiards, which I loved, I’ve been on the edge of my seat trying to catch whatever bits of work he has been tied to. That goes from one-off episodes of Bleach to his role as assistant director next to Shinichiro Watanabe on Zankyou no Terror last year; it isn’t a lot, but when he is in charge, you can immediately tell, because he has style. So I entered Death Parade with bated breath.
And Death Parade didn’t disappoint.
A cool thing about the drama in Death Parade is how it is conveyed physically. The characters are well-developed despite only being around for one episode because time is used efficiently – Death Parade understands the role visuals play in the viewer’s experience and utilizes it well. From the beginning, Takashi’s perceived role in his relationship with Machiko is obvious through the way he puts his hand out as they decide to play along with Decim. The “power” in the relationship constantly sways throughout the episode and it is expressed through their statures. The camera treats Takashi and Machiko roughly equally when the game begins, as they both stand at the dart lines. As the game progresses, though, Machiko falls, leaving Takashi as the stable one. When Takashi announces his suspicions of Machiko’s cheating, the camera looks at him from the ground up, giving him the most power he has in the entire episode, while Machiko is seen downward. Machiko unveils the farce and takes control for the rest of the episode, though; she was in control the whole time, and the camera treats her favorably, giving her control over what the viewer sees from her contrasted with Takashi’s ugly emotions on full display.
The camera is also used to disorient the viewer – shots are composed from normal angles when the characters are calm, but are unafraid of changing to slanted or otherwise uneasy, shaky shots when they are frightened or the status quo is being broken.
Of course, the plot of the episode does some interesting things, too. In Death Billiards, the outcome was kept intentionally vague, leaving it up to interpretation. However, in Death Parade we now realize that people are sent for reincarnation or “the void”. It is unclear on which, if either, is a punishment; in most religions with reincarnation, it is seen as a bad thing for those who were not virtuous enough or didn’t gather enough karma. “The void” could be nothingness, the worst punishment, but it could also be a place of enlightenment. However, Takashi goes down the elevator with the white mask representing purity, implying that he got the better end of the stick. Machiko is sent down the elevator marked by a Hannya mask, which can be seen to represent jealous women, but I rather like the interpretation that it represents the complexity of human emotions. Both could be true at the same time, but given that Machiko appears regretful and might have even essentially saved Takashi at her own expense, it seems very fitting that her complex, human feelings be, if not “rewarded”, at least acknowledged. One last interesting thing about the elevators actually happens at the beginning of the episode, as Takashi and Machiko enter the bar through the opposite elevators they leave from, which is a nice touch considering how their roles are reversed as the episode plays out.
Next week is looking to be completely different, as we get to meet the colorful cast introduced to us in the incredibly addicting opening, so I am looking forward to more Death Parade as the new season marches on.