Rolling Ballade 「ローリング・バラード」
Aww that was a heartwarming (yup, pun fully intended) episode wasn’t it?
I didn’t expect this show to offer such diversity so early, which is great! After the first honeymooners’ emotional disastrous meltdown, a certain dark expectation was set for this psychological thriller show. Who knew that episode 03 would deliver a psychological thriller that actually ended on a happy note? That’s just such a contrast to the first couple which in itself was a twist of what to expect from what is easily one of the best shows in Winter 2015.
This week, Miura Shigeru (Majima Junji) and the girl who can’t remember her name (M・A・O) bowl for their “lives” in the suitably apt and as ever, interesting game of Rolling Ballade. I say the girl who can’t remember her name because that’s just it, she entered Quindecim not knowing who she was or having any other memory at all, which is important and honestly, the delicious crux to this episode. As it turns out, the customers know each other from way back when they were playmates at the neighbourhood playground along with another girl, Chisato, who had moved away some time in elementary school. My take is that unbeknownst to him, Miura had always fancied Chisato, causing him to never look at the other girl, Mai, who in return, had a one-sided crush on the guy all through their growing years. Mai went as far as to have plastic surgery, telling her doctor that she’s sure she wants to go ahead with the procedure because ‘there’s a boy she really wants to take notice of her’. The cynic in me thinks Mai is sad and deserving of my sympathy but the romantic in me (yes it’s in there somewhere buried under shoujo escapism) thinks it shows absolute devotion to her years of unrequited love. And that’s what Miura saw in the end too. Like Decim said, it really could’ve ended badly once the customers regained their full memories but as surprised as he was, this reviewer felt a renewed sense of optimism for non-shoujo-as-real-as-it-can-get anime romance.
So why was Rolling Ballade a suitably apt game? Because it involved bowling (seriously the animation this episode was top-notch and the Death Billiards jellyfish were back!) with bowling balls that contained each others’ warm, beating hearts. Which meant that as the scores tally, one could feel the opponent’s heartbeat literally, be it out of fear, trepidation or as it turned out, doki-doki nervousness – all that blushing from Miura was kinda cute. As we’ve come to understand from episode 02, the customers regain their last memories at crucial climaxes during the game which is purposeful so as to judge them for the humans they are. This came for Miura when he had a flash back of Chisato’s departure, when he recalled how he thought a certain bowling alley employee looked really cute and eventually, that said employee was actually post-surgery Mai and how before he could confront her about it, they had died in a bus crash together. For Mai, she remembered when Chisato left too and misunderstood that she herself was Chisato. An innocent mistake no doubt – I actually went as far as thinking maybe Chisato died and had her heart transplanted into Mai, but when she knew the whole truth of events, it was a mistake she didn’t have to admit to even though Decim probably wanted to judge her for her honesty. So why? Because Miura remembered everything. Because Miura knew everything. And the big man that he was accepted Mai’s choices and finally accepted her for everything she is. He could’ve scoffed at her for lying to herself with plastic surgery and for lying to him that she was that Chisato but no, he looked past all of it because hey, they’re both dead already anyway. So why begrudge when there’s nothing to hold onto anymore? I think if he were alive, he’d probably also pluck up the courage to talk to Mai, confront her about their feelings and still go out with her. Either way, what a guy. Likewise, Mai may have made skin deep sacrifices to get Miura to notice her but ultimately, it’s the Mai underneath that he’s accepting and that final lift scene was probably meant to convey her coming to terms with who she truly really is.
The first and final date:
I went WTH when Decim tried to joke by giving the customers a 5 min date. Honestly even I thought he wasn’t kidding. It’s so so heartwarming (yup the pun continues) to see them bowl to the end, like Kuro kami no onna remarked, as though they’d forgotten they were wagering their lives and were therefore genuinely enjoying themselves. The bowling lane was beautiful, surrounded by water lily ponds that the couple could even row a boat in! A beautiful first and final date of 2 beautiful souls – they both got reincarnated if you look at the mask on top of the lifts and with that, a beautiful end to this week’s Death Parade that just gives you a nice warm fuzzy heartfelt (ok I ought to stop with the puns now) feeling.
Preview: Death Arcade「デス・アーケード」
It’s good that next week we continue with the arbitrating of new customers but I wanna see more of the supporting cast already!