When Death Parade first aired a month ago, it immediately had to make a choice. It could either focus on the ‘play a game to decide your fate’ aspect of the premise, or it go for something deeper and less formulaic. I would have loved to see more of the arbiters and these beings are touched by seeing the best and worst of humanity on a daily basis. The potential for character development was almost limitless and it seems to me that the opportunity to explore how different personalities respond to the tragedy in others’ lives would be one that most writers would jump at. I’m quite disappointed that Death Parade seems to have opted for the safer, more repetitive route but at the same time, I feel that four episodes in, there is still some time for the show to make something better of itself.
Personally, I feel like the crux of the problem is that it feels like there is no overarching plot connecting the individual episodes. The last two episodes made it difficult for the audience to immerse themselves into the show’s plot because even though the characters are fairly well developed (given the amount of screen time they receive) and usually have stories that could become interesting if spun well, the fact that we all know that we won’t be seeing them after the episode makes it nigh impossible to form any sort of attachment to them. What’s worse is that the characters that we do see regularly, barely feature in the episode at all and aren’t getting the kind of character development that I hoped for. It makes me, personally, feel very removed from the story simply because I don’t find myself caring very much about the judgement passed on these temporary characters and in the meanwhile, the characters that I do care about are just static.
I had a really tough time making myself care about the characters this week though. The male ‘contestant’ is just so incredibly bland that he just had no presence in the episode at all. Meanwhile, the woman was somewhat interesting in that she subverted my expectations a little – I had expected the typical tale of a teenage mother who was forced in an abusive, unhappy marriage but I found it quite refreshing that the show bothered illustrating just how the abuse she endured herself made her become a violent, abusive person herself. It’s an aspect of domestic violence that is rarely shown in fiction though it is well-documented and known in the real world. It was a little bit of a shock see her really lay into the poor nerd but it was certainly an interesting development since it added a new layer of complexity into how we see the character now – on one hand, given her sympathetic history, the normal tendency would be to pity her or even to cheer her on but on the other hand, given the way she behaves and the angry violence in her, you don’t really know which side of the line to come down on. Sure, technically, you can censure her for the way she behaves while still sympathizing with what she has gone through in the past but in reality the two emotions are often mutually exclusive. In the end, she was a fairly well-developed character, with her love for her children and her determination to move on from the ocean of negativity in her past being counterbalanced by her rage, arrogance and violent tendencies. In comparison, the guy was just painfully one-dimensional. Sure, his mother never loved him and it’s sad that he felt forced to suicide but at no point did I feel any particular strong emotion towards him. He just bored me, which is can be a sign that a character has not been well written.
There were a couple of pretty unusual moments from Decim this episode. I won’t go so far as to say that he has become more emotional but at the same time he doesn’t feel as apathetic as he did two episodes before. His gentle assurance to both participants at the episode’s end felt odd and really out of place. Also, if they both did ‘well’ then why do they both not get reincarnated? I’m not really complaining about the decision per se since the lady is an altogether nasty piece of work, past trauma or not, but why even try to comfort her if you’re going to condemn her anyway? I definitely agree with the Assistant’s point that Decim is artificially introducing more strain to the situation than necessary and it begs the bigger question of whether it’s fair to judge people when they are at their worst. I personally think it’s fine but it is interesting to think about it, isn’t it? It’s one thing if they display that side of themselves naturally but I wonder if forcing that nastier side to emerge artificially isn’t a little underhanded.
So, that’s all I have for today. As you can probably tell, I’m a little disappointed by this latest episode but it’s not awful and based on the preview for next week it seems like we will finally get to meet some new characters and see what they’re all about. At the same time though, it’s looking like there’s going to be another game of the week next week as well, but with the new arbiters (hopefully) getting involved, I think we might see something fresh.