Death Parade: Episode 04

Death Arcade 「デス・アーケード」

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‘Life is always full of unfairness’ and with that this episode returns to the delectable dark side of Death Parade.

I’m really appreciating the series composition and pacing of Death Parade so far especially with this 4th episode. Now that viewers are familiar with how things work in Quicdeim we skip straight to this week’s customers Tateishi Yousuke (Morita Masakazu) and Tachibana Misaki (Yamaguchi Yuriko) trying to exit, only for showbiz TV presenter Misaki to conclude that they must be in one of those hidden camera shows her manager arranged. The game this week is a good old fashioned arcade machine where the customers who unlike earlier customers, don’t know each other in life, yet play against one another in judgment.

We know that Death Parade is a multi-layered anime full of thought and insight into the human psyche and the darkest of each person’s soul. What director/writer Tachikawa Yuzuru has done is to brilliantly put all those elements together in each episode, tying everything beautifully with each game without viewers even realising it perhaps. So it’s safe to say that government projects such as Anime Mirai really do bring the best out of such talented, creative and hardworking individuals such as Tachikawa and I have the confidence to say that Death Parade will be one of the best animes of 2015 even though the year’s just started ^^

Why do I say Death Arcade suitably brought the story around together? Because while there are second chances and extra lives in games, there aren’t in life. When life throws you lemons, there’s nothing you can do but to make the best of it. There’s no KO to me this round, KO to you next round. Misaki had a crap life being a victim of domestic violence from partner after partner all whilst being single mom to 5 children presumably from different boyfriends. She eventually rises to become a TV star of sorts and in a way, her good fortune’s finally arrived and things are about to turn for the better, until her assistant/manager strangled her to death. The victim of DV turned her violence onto others. The mentally broken (because she can’t remember her violent outburst) Misaki physically and verbally abused her manager, breaking the woman in the process enough for her to strangle Misaki to death, which takes a lot of strength fueled presumably by repressed anger. So is Misaki a victim or a perpetrator herself? Would you sympathise with her or is she deserving of being sent to the void? This is the part I’m guessing Tachikawa wants viewers to think for themselves.

Personally, I do sympathise with Misaki as a DV victim and actually applaud the woman for working hard towards providing for her big family. The unhappiness on the faces of the older children do hint that she’s not that spectacular a single mom though so I’m guessing she lashes out at her children too in a bipolar sort of way where she swings between extreme emotions of happiness and anger. The pressures of society and providing for your loved ones can take its toll. How you deal with such pressures and in Misaki’s case, how she deals with the crap lemons she’s had thrown at her, shows just what kind of a person you truly are. As Decim said, life is always full of unfairness. So suck it up and deal with it.

Kurokami no Onna was upset that Decim controlled the game by sabotaging Misaki’s and Yousuke’s joysticks but it’s all part of letting him do his job as arbiter. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Forcibly bringing out the worst in people lets him see the darkest of the souls he’s meant to judge. So while Kurokami no Onna had every reason to be emotionally upset at how unfair things became, she and viewers eventually witnessed just what kind of human being Misaki in her utmost desperation became as she physically bashed Yousuke’s face into the screen, again and again. In this one final chance at redemption, she chose to abuse others instead of reflecting on herself yet again. So Decim thought it fitting to let her stay in the void eternally within the darkness of the deepest depths of her soul.

If you saw Death Billards, you’d know that the pair of customers can be complete strangers but who are tied together by some commonality in their lives and/or deaths. Yousuke’s an otaku who comes from a divorced family. He witnessed as a child how his parents fought. You could say he comes from a broken home living with his single father, just as Misaki herself is a single mother. But the twist is, Yousuke’s father remarried and his stepmother’s a compassionate woman who really tries hard to reach out to the guy. He chose to withdraw into his room and lead the hikkikomori diet of instant noodles even though his stepmother’s prepared a table full of warm, home-cooked food that just exudes love. With no apparent goal in life, a family he feels he can call home to and just no lust for living, Yousuke committed suicide and jumped out of his own bedroom window, right after I presume, he “died” in his video game. Ironic really.

Yousuke thought he had a crap life and just gave up. Game over. So he could’ve given up and just lay unconscious after Misaki’s head bashing. But Yousuke’s flashbacks kicked in to a scene of him overhearing his stepmother’s one true dream of having her stepson call her ‘Mother’ and as he was riding in an ambulance, her desperate pleas to Yousuke. Filled with regret, Yousuke made a comeback on the arcade game so even though it ended with a double KO draw, Yousuke emerged the true winner for finally appreciating his Mother and “living” to regret his actions. Hence his soul was given another chance through reincarnation.

I never knew Bleach‘s Morita Masakazu could sound so anguished. For this koekara reviewer, over and above everything else Death Parade is great for, the best part is in having seiyuus come on board like this each episode to voice a dramatic character they otherwise would not get a chance to with more mainstream animes. Pacing wise, while some viewers have whined that there isn’t a plot per se with this new-customers-every-week-routine, I find that the variety we’ve seen in these 3 pairs of customers so far was necessary before moving on next week to introduce other arbiters who work in the same tower as Decim whom himself seems to be doubtful of his own judgment of human emotions he has no comprehension of. You can’t be emotional when judging someone to heaven or hell but at the same time, you can’t be totally void of emotion too right? It’s nice that he gives them one last hug though. Can’t wait for the bartenders’ interactions! I mean, can you imagine the kind of work conversations they’d have? ^^


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One thought on “Death Parade: Episode 04

  1. Oh man, this is really up there in terms of the most painful episodes I’ve ever watched. The level of cruel emotion and darkness was so gut-wrenching and I kept up fervent hope for some kind of happy ending. Such a thought-provoking episode that really hit hard. I really felt for Misaki and the unfair hand she’d been dealt with in life and after so much unhappiness and violence against her, it’s so understandable that she’d lash out in desperation and defence in the only way she knows how. The way Decim just hugged them at the end and told them that they’d done well was just so painful to watch.

    Definitely a very brutal and hard-hitting episode and the best one so far, in spite of how much I wish it didn’t turn out this way!

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