Okay, so obviously it’s pointless to treat the true synopsis of Death Parade like it’s some big spoiler now, but I still maintain that the first episode is so much more effective if you watch it without knowing. Time to talk about it normally, then. As we saw in the previous episode, this strange bar called Quindecim is some kind of space between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and when two people die at the same time they end up there to be judged.
This episode uses the same plot from the first one – that of Machiko and Takashi – but this time, we see it from a different perspective, that of the black-haired girl we saw at the end before. This character doesnt’ have a name at this point – in the credits she’s literally referred to as ‘Kurokami no Onna’ or ‘Black-Haired Woman’, so for the purpose of these reviews I’m just going to call her Kurokami. Kurokami wakes up in a strange location where one of the arbiters of Quindecim – Nona- is waiting for her. Nona takes her to the bar immediately where she is able to observe what happens to Machiko and Takashi in a strangely educational way. Through this, we learn a few things about Quindecim – the ‘dead bodies’ that Decim revealed in episode one as an example of ‘what happens to those who don’t agree to play the game’ are actually all dummies. They use them to get the players to want to play, as they don’t know that they’re dead anyway, since if they did know then they would also know a ‘game to stake your life on’ is also pointless. The games themselves are purely for the abiters to observe their reactions to.
However, Kurokami has a different ‘reading’ of the behaviour of Machiko, believing that she acted the way she did at the end so that Takashi would not regret the fact that he allegedly ‘killed’ the baby. Her optimism causes some concern and surprise from Nona and Decim, as well as hint at the worrying possibility of them having actually made a mistake in their judgement of the two.
A lot of people seemed annoyed at this being a ‘recap’ of the first episode, but I don’t really think it felt that way. I’m actually glad for it addressing so many of the questions many people had with the result of episode one, and besides, there wasn’t anywhere near as much reused footage as I was dreading. It does make me wonder if this is going to be the format of the show for the rest of its run, though – the next episode preview does show a new pair, but I guess I’ll have to just wait and see. Personally, I think this could work if every odd episode was the story of a new pair and every even episode developed Kurokami’s character.
Speaking of Kurokami…who is she? She’s managing to be the most mysterious thing about this show despite being the most human of the people at Quindecim. There’s an implication that she, too, is dead – but who exactly she was, and why she was brought to Quindecim to work rather than for judgement, is likely going to be one of the central mysteries of the show. There are a few times in this episode where she seems as though she’s about to ask Nona these exact questions, but she’s interruted, which suggests that she too is not meant to know this early on. Nona only tells her that her role as Quindecim is a ‘helper’, but I guess whatever she helps with exactly will become clearer in the next episode. Her eyes are obviously going to be important – they’re normal human eyes, whereas the other Quindecim workers have the weird crosses in their eyes.
What was really interesting about this episode was not only that it brought up the question on everyone’s minds – between ‘reincarnation’ and ‘the void’, which one is meant to be ‘worse’, it also reveals that the arbiters at Quindecim are not all-knowing and they, too, are capable of mistakes in judgement. Whether they were truly wrong in their assessment of Takashi and Machiko is still left up to interpretation – which is annoying – but the possibility is still raised, and its something that angers Nona greatly. The fact that she directs this anger at Decim is also rather telling. Decim’s still a pretty hard character for me to read, he’s introduced as the typical all-knowing mystery guy but he’s revealed himself twice now to react in surprise. This episode revealed that the deceased’s memories are uplaoded to him, and that he has only those to go off, but his surprise at Machiko announcing that she did cheat on Takashi in the previous episode is probably the strongest evidence in favour of Kurokami being correct in her hunch that Machiko’s child really was Takashi’s. To tell the truth, the whole ‘who was right?’ thing is kind of a mess and I’m not particularly fond of it, so I hope that we don’t have to dwell too much on it anymore and that the next pair of newlydeads will be more interesting.
It’s true that this episode may not have the impact of its first, but it’s still deeply compelling and has me eager for the rest. I’m still very optimistc about how this anime will turn out, but I hope it can keep it up without becoming too samey, which is often the bane of episodic things like this.