Decim brings Chiyuki to her house in the living world to show her how things are – three months after her death. Obviously, coming across her own altar – not to mention the site of her depressed mother – is an overwhelmingly emotional experience for Chiyuki. He lets her know that if she wishes, he can bring her back to life at the cost of her losing all her memories of Quindecim. However, her reaction to this doesn’t seem to be what he had expected, and he eventually succumbs to an overwhelming emotion of his own – grief, for potentially the first time. This breaks the illusion he set up – of course, this had all been an artificial reality constructed from the memories he received from Chiyuki, which he intended to use as her final test to judge her on. The burden of shouldering such emotion makes the judgement too painful for him to bear, and the two spend a tearful moment.
It turns out all this pain that Decim now has to deal with was exactly what Oculus was trying to protect the arbiters from, although Nona believes that the pain is necessary for understanding the humans that they judge. Whoever may be right, it’s a bittersweet parting for Chiyuki and Decim – she may have taught him what sadness truly feels like, but she also taught him to smile.
I actually put off watching this episode for a while because I knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster that was likely going to end with me sobbing on my bedroom floor, but wow. It certainly didn’t disappoint, and in a way things worked out a little happier than expected. It was still very sad – the inevitable parting of Chiyuki and Decim meant it would have to be – but it still managed to have a bittersweet, somewhat hopeful feeling. After all, there’s no guarantee that Decim will never see Chiyuki again, after all – her soul’s going to be reincarnated, so I’m sure she’ll come through the elevator to Quindecim again some time, albeit in a different form.
I actually spent most of the episode dreading that Oculus was going to ruin everything as some kind of twisted punishment to Decim and Nona for acting on their own, but thankfully he didn’t. Maybe some people were disappointed that the previous episodes had this sense of foreboding like it was building up to something like this, but it’s clearer now that Oculus isn’t really that sort of guy. The implication is that Decim’s ‘punishment’ is only to carry on with the sense of loss Chiyuki would have left him with thanks to his unorthodox human emotions. However, Decim seems to be honouring her memory just fine, although it’s a shame we don’t really get to see how he handles the judgements without her input from now on, with his refreshed sense of self.
I don’t really know how many times I have to emphasize how phenomenal this show is at evoking emotions with its combination of music, facial expression and voice acting, but this episode took that standard and ran with it. And since Decim is such a stoic character, his crying scene was all the more hard-hitting. Having him go through basically the whole series speaking in a monotone, and then getting to hear Tomoaki Maeno’s incredible acting as his voice breaks from the emotion, was really something. If Decim cries, I cry, ok. I also really liked the artistic touch of having his eyes change – when at his most emotional, he no longer had the stylized cross-pupil eyes of the arbiters, but human eyes like Chiyuki. I took a lot of screenshots this episode and when I opened up the folder to organize them, half of them were of either Decim or Chiyuki crying. It was a brilliantly done scene that managed to yank on the heartstrings without being too over the top. And it made the parting scene later on all the more sweeter (and not just because Decim’s first Actual Smile melted my heart.)
I will admit that I’m a little disappointed that we never really find out exactly how Nona got human emotion into an arbiter, and it’s just one of those little things I’m going to keep wondering about and hoping for more material – a second season, an OVA, supplementary manga, anything – to clear up. Things like Quin, for example – she seems to have a whole story behind her that is never really dwelled on. Then there’s Clavis, the poor guy who barely got to do anything at all right up to the end.
Still, it was an amazing episode and a great end to a series I never, ever expected to be so good. Thanks for all the weekly suspense, Death Parade. I’m going to miss you and your spectacular opening theme, which I never, ever skipped.
I still remember reading the brief synopsis of Death Parade on one of those anime season preview charts and scoffing inwardly a little at the ‘stake your lives on a game!!’ thing, expecting some kind of 2edgey4u Dangan Ronpa wannabe, so for it to not only be the best show in the season (a privilege I believe it shares with Yuri Kuma Arashi) but one of the best anime I’ve seen in the last five years or so is something I never would have predicted. That’s no exaggeration, by the way – when the last episode finished I hopped straight on MyAnimeList to give it a 10/10 and add it to my Favourites. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an anime that actually made me want to give it a standing ovation. Madhouse have really outdone themselves.
Due to its occasionally episodic nature, however, it stands to reason that some of the stories within it will be better than others. However, I didn’t find a single one of them dull or uninteresting. For characters who (mostly) only last for a single episode, the writers did an incredible job at fleshing them out as though they were real people – they all had unique personalities, hopes, dreams, fears, but most impressively, were all completely different. Not one of the stories ever felt samey. Some may have been confronting and difficult to watch due to their content – many of them were not happy people after all, and many episodes of this show I wouldn’t recommend to anyone looking to feel cheered up. Yet, the ongoing narrative about Chiyuki and Decim manages to be – in the end – simultaneously heartrending and hopeful, and together they’re one of the best duos I’ve seen in an anime.
I’m sad to see Death Parade go, but I’m also glad that it exists. This is a damn good show, and the worst thing about it is that there isn’t more of it.