Death Parade: Episode 12 (END)

Suicide Tour 「スーサイド·ツアー」

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That was beautiful.

I’m really left with such a myriad of emotions. Decim finally judged Chiyuki and as we’ve come to expect, he developed human emotions himself – sorrow, deceit and despair, emotions which arbiters would judge to be dark and void-material. In certain religions, someone who commits suicide is automatically sent to eternal damnation for forsaking the life that was given unto him/her. So the starting point for Chiyuki’s case would be the void right? The relevance of Mayu’s story in episode 11 makes perfect sense now.

Mayu forsaked her own life (suicide) for Harada (sacrifice). Ginti, being the arbiter standard against which we watch Decim make his choices, sent her to the void. For someone who was willing to sacrifice for someone else, without trading anyone else’s life but her own, being sent to the void was very unfair. Ginti’s choice can be said to be as a result of him not understanding the concepts of love, sacrifice and selflessness. Chiyuki’s given the same test by Decim – she can trade someone else’s life for her own, giving her a chance to return to the living, to make amends, apologise to her mother and appreciate her life anew. With the same catch, she looked back at the lessons of life learnt in death from other guests and realised that she cannot trade for someone else’s because that person has people who cherishe him/her too, like her mother does towards her. Decim sent Chiyuki to reincarnation instead, because he learnt love, sacrifice and selflessness.

Suicide is a selfish act and it struck me more this episode than in the last when Chiyuki said that ‘people just can’t understand each other, it’s wrong to want to understand each other.’ She thought on one hand, that no one understood her pain and on the other, that it’s wrong for anyone to try to pry into her personal pain. Flashbacking to past guests made her realise though that they all made the mistake of keeping their feelings in and not expressing their anger, jealousy, grief, fears, to people who cherish them – side point: this is how good Death Parade’s composition is in coming together in this grand epiphany finale. Watching her mother blame herself for not understanding Chiyuki’s feelings only made Chiyuki realise in hindsight how she made the same mistake as all those guests. ‘I’m sure it’s not wrong for people to want to understand each other. And even if it is, I want us to understand each other. Everyone has feelings for someone’ and nobody lives in isolation. Not even you Decim, and I’m sure that dummy of Chiyuki serves well to remind you of that.

1: Arbiters cannot quit making judgments, for that is the reason why they exist.

It’s very interesting that Nona and Oculus et. al. are dummies themselves because I’ve always thought they were higher beings. Truthfully, if you’re told to just do your job because that’s what you’re there for, wouldn’t you be upset? I would. Unless I’m denied my ability to question and think then yeah, I’d just work all day long like Ginti does. That’ll be a bit sad though wouldn’t it… But arbiters don’t care because they won’t know to care. They’re just dummies who have no hearts, until they learn? It was a little bit tear-inducing (I blame my maternal instincts) to see Decim clutch at his heart so dearly – it’s like watching a child learn what sadness is for the first time. But it’s necessary and well done on Decim for embracing Chiyuki’s presence, proactively wanting to learn from her what human suffering is and crying his heart out there. Oculus, watching on with Nona, ain’t too happy because – reason 2.

2: Arbiters cannot experience death, for that brings them too close to being human.

So for what reason do arbiters “live” for? That’s how Ginti does his job but wasn’t he just that itsy bitsy sad that his cat left him?  I think Mayu left him with plenty to think of, if he dares to. Nona plays with the words “live”, “alive” and “death” and uses them to describe the arbiters/Decim, much to Oculus’ displeasure. It made me wonder – what’s wrong with being brought close to being human? It’s the fear isn’t it? Of death and one’s impending, unknowing end of mortality. If arbiters know death and hence fear, can they easily do their job of sending a soul to the void for eternity? Don’t forget they have a job turnover of 7,000 souls per hour! So it’s merely for convenience of doing a job right? Isn’t that heartless *cough* corporate *cough*? They’re dealing with people’s lives here! Which brings us to reason 3.

3: Arbiters cannot feel emotions, for they are dummies.

They must not feel emotions because that hampers the judgment process. Being emotional means being swayed to subjectively make a decision rather than to arbitrate objectively. It’s not an easy process and for that, dummies are used. But like Nona said, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean they should avoid such emotions because how can arbiters judge something they themselves do not comprehend? Decim and his poker face was the epitome of arbiter = dummy but if you look at everyone else – Ginti, Nona, Clavis and Castra, they have human emotions of envy, greed, anger and joy. So what Oculus/Nona must mean is that arbiters mustn’t feel pain in their hearts. Because once you do, it’s permanent damage that will ruin, bringing us to reason 4.

4: Arbiters may not work hand in hand with the life, for that will ruin them.

I think this one was added in by Oculus after the Decim incident. Will it ruin them? Yes, as emotions such as greed, despair, sorrow etc. consume us humans. Chiyuki’s story here played an impactful part in portraying just that. Being human and experiencing such suffering consumed her and drove her to suicide because that’s the easiest way to end it all. People who live through such suffering are the ones who come out stronger and better for it. Stating arbitrarily that it will ruin the arbiters is true up to the point of seeing Decim break down and lose his arbiter-iris composure. But when he got back up and got back to work, didn’t the suffering teach him to appreciate his guests and their lives more? Wouldn’t that give him more meaning to his work and make wiser decisions? Yes they would; Chiyuki was so affected by the emotional burdens of double-homicide Shimada and Tatsumi and now Decim’s tearful breakdown is what it means to truly understand his guests’ lives and their emotional burdens.

There’s not much by way of closure in Death Parade. Not much was explained about this universe and the arbiters and while there’s so much material for exposition, director and series composer Tachikawa chose to focus just on Decim in his growth throughout this series and the viewers are greatly rewarded in more ways than most other anime can claim to. Did we need to know just who Oculus was and what powers he held? Do we suspect Nona has greater plans up her sleeves? No, surprisingly we don’t need to know. Just as how we were introduced to guests/players each episode, became emotionally involved with their stories which are so real I sometimes forget it’s anime and then see them off into the lifts, we didn’t need to know what happened after they were reincarnated etc. Life goes on. That’s the beauty of Tachikawa’s Death Parade. Life, simply goes on. Even in death. The worlds continue to spin as Oculus plays in the final scenes, the arbiters return to their work and Nona continues to observe.

Death Parade’s not the first anime to explore the themes of life and death, sacrifice, understanding one another etc. but it’s definitely one of the best at delivering these themes succinctly and wholly. Maeno Tomoaki has done a great job at being poker face Decim just purely through his voice alone. It’s often the simplest expressions that are the hardest to express especially with just the use of vocal cords. Seto Asami has been resplendent portraying the various stages of emotions from black-haired girl to Chiyuki. The various guests who’ve come to Quindecim have also been memorable because their seiyuus have all done such a cohesive, wonderful job so applause all round for the production team for staying consistent in voice direction as they have in visual production quality.

I’ve always thought that the Japanese style of directing, scripting etc. of anime, movies, dramas, is one that’s very muted and understated. It’s like a paper boat floating along down a gentle river yet underneath it all are currents that no one sees. Death Parade is exactly that. It’s not overtly dramatic (like the Americans) or restraint (British). It’s quintessentially Japanese at the end of the day, at the end of each game. A lot is left in what’s unsaid. That’s Decim’s smile to Chiyuki right there. And therein lies the reason to why in spite of starting and closing in exactly the same way at Quindecim, I’m left content and satisfied in spite of the non-closure and forgone expositions. The OST is very fitting, nostalgic when needed but not too serious in itself by using the jazz/lounge genre to relax itself. The animation is tops – Chiyuki’s ice-skating, Decim’s web, those jellyfish in the tank… Death Parade has just been a 切ない (best translation I can think of – sentimental nostalgia) journey, very much like life. Stunningly beautiful and a great example of how important the Anime Mirai project is to new talent out there. This is a show worth revisiting once every so often, especially when you think the going’s tough on you. ‘I’m sure it’s not wrong for people to want to understand each other. And even if it is, I want us to understand each other. Everyone has feelings for someone’ ~ Chiyuki.


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