This week on Death Parade, the curtains have finally been pulled all the way back and we get a good long look at the show’s universe. It is well timed too; with about five episodes left, I think it was the right move to tell us just what is going on so that we can set ourselves up for the endgame. Up until this week, there were just too many questions about the nature of the arbiters and the odd dimension they live in. This week’s episode really answered a whole bunch and lets us, the audience, focus on the series’ primary plot tensions – will Decim and his human emotions be able to revolutionize the arbitrating business? What will happen to the Assistant (at this point, I feel sure that her name has been mentioned, can someone give me a heads-up if it has?) and what does the Chavvot book have to do with it? This episode really exposed the show’s complexity by revealing the several plotlines running in tandem while concurrently heading towards their collective conclusion.
The first, though arguably the least impactful, of the episode’s major revelations are the three rules the arbiters must follow. I say they are the least interesting because for the most part, I think we already sort of knew them. None of them are particularly shocking or unexpected though it is interesting to see that the rules are not natural laws but rather something that the old guy (Oculus, I believe) enforces. The first rule which says that the arbiters cannot stop judging seems odd in light of Quin’s move from the bar to the Intelligence Bureau though I guess moves within the ‘company’ are sanctioned. The second rule disappointed me ever so slightly; I felt the show might have been better off had the arbiters had their own backstories which would in turn affect the judgements they passed. I suppose that might have been a little too much for the show to cover in such a limited time but having said that, I think the angle of the arbiters being clean slates has some merit to it as well. The last rule is the most interesting to us I should think; of the arbiters we’ve seen so far, whether current or former, I don’t think any of them can be said to lack emotion – except Decim, the only one among them who really does have emotions in the first place. I wonder if this is Nona hiding her mischief in plain sight – with Ginti’s permanent irritability, Quin’s chatty gregariousness and Nona’s own spunk, I doubt that Oculus would suspect Decim, of all people, of being the one carrying human emotions.
Speaking of Quin, we’ve heard her mentioned casually in conversations before this but we finally get to see her, only to realize that she’s been in the opening right since the very beginning! She seems like a nice girl, talkative and friendly though you do get the sense that she isn’t quite cut out for those painful decisions where you have to condemn someone to the void despite your misgivings. I would guess from the Quindecim’s name that she is the bar’s first owner, unless the bar was called something else first like the Nonaquin (wow, Word didn’t red line that, interesting) and then Decim essentially bumped Quin’s senior out of the name. In any case, we confirms what we suspected about the nature of the gems and the Information Bureau and also brings up the spectre of what could be the plot’s overarching conflict – the rising numbers of dead versus the limtied manpower that the arbiters have. I wonder though, why they are limited in manpower when the arbiters are just dummies in the first place?
Decim continues to fascinate me. We’ve heard him say that he has a deeply held respect for fulfilled life before though I remember that at the time, the line felt out of place (it was probably just a translation thing, where some sentences just don’t retain their nuances as well) but hearing it today, I found myself agreeing. I really like his way of paying homage to the dead – he will never remember them but in his mannequins (heh, quin) they will have some sort of permanence and legacy. It’s one of those acts that serves absolutely no rational purpose but is touching nonetheless. The scene featuring Ginti and Decim’s last exams was very interesting as well. I haven’t seen Death Billiards yet, though I suspect that the characters featured during the final test were from that one-shot (do one-shots exist in anime?) but what I was focusing on was how Ginti has been set up as a basic, less complex version of Decim. Think about it, both men are fairly inexpressive – Ginti with his grumpiness and Decim with his emotionless stoicism – but where there is some depth to Decim, as evidenced by his emotion and his respect for life, Ginti seems more like the typical, average arbiter. He enjoys making the people dance for him, and like I mentioned last week, I feel that that is an almost inevitable consequence of holding such power over people (I would quote the Stanford Prison Experiment, but let’s not go there). I don’t despise Ginti for pressing the buttons to force out the ‘darkness’ in the human’s souls but I can certainly see why Nona thinks that the system could use improving.
I’m going to hold off on commenting on Nona’s grand plans and what will happen to her little experiment because for now, there are just too many questions and I suspect we’ll get more information soon enough. Instead, let’s talk Ginti. There is a certain cruelty in the character; by his own admission, he sees humans as little more than playthings that wiggle and squirm to entertain him. It’s pretty fucked up but at the same time, I can’t bring myself to really dislike him – he’s not my favourite character by far but it seems that there is hope for him too. The girl from the last episode (who was also in the opening, though I totally missed it last week!) is hanging around the Viginti (we don’t know why) and her influence might someday rub off and turn Ginti into less of a hard-ass. She’s good comic relief and it’s really unfortunate that the one time I don’t remember a character’s name, they turn out to be a recurring character. I don’t really know where the show is going with that particular relationship but I do note that the male idol guy who was with her last week is absent this week, which along with Ginti’s threat of chucking her into the void, makes me wonder if the dude got the axe. It would be really odd if he did – they were all singing and dancing at the end of the last episode, it would be a weird, dark twist for him to be sent to the void.
There are a few small pieces keeping us from getting the full picture and most of them have to do with the Assistant, the last big enigma in this show. She has finally realized she is dead and she seems reconciled with the fact (based on how she doesn’t bring the issue up with Decim, who she is closest to). We also see that she remembers Chavvot from her childhood – her mother used to read it to her. Apart from that though, we still don’t know a great deal about her but I’m fine with the show holding on to this little mystery till the end. It’s not fun if we’re told everything all at once, after all. I’ll end today’s discussion with the episode’s title: ‘Alcohol Poison’. Liquor does play a role in the episode – Quin and Nona have a happy drinking session and Decim’s ability to make good drinks is noted as well but apart from that I didn’t really note any reason that alcohol should feature so prominently in the title, nor did I see any poison. Anyone have any idea?