Perhaps fittingly for a penultimate episode, ‘Memento Mori’ is a sombre, reflective episode, even by Death Parade’s standards. Unfortunately, by those very same standards, the episode isn’t a particularly strong one. It feels, in some ways, that the studio didn’t quite have enough content to fill the episode out and decided instead to stretch the reveal involving Chiyuki’s life story out as much as possible while also shoe-horning a resolution to Ginti’s story line. The result is that the episode’s message, if there ever was one, ends up being a little muddled. On one hand, we have Decim in the middle of understanding the meaning of life and hopefully applying his newfound wisdom to Chiyuki’s judgement but on the other hand, we see Ginti who seems to embody the traditional method of arbitration. The audience’s connection to Ginti and the only two souls we ever see him judge is tenuous at best and as a result, it’s hard to truly summon any real emotion when their sentences are finally passed. We can only hope that the efforts spared on this episode are returned tenfold in the show’s finale next week.
The episode itself is named after Decim’s popular blue drink, which was in turn named for an Italian phrase meaning, in essence, ‘remember that you must die’. It’s a fitting message for Decim as he tries to make sense of what it is to be human. The time for Chiyuki’s judgement has finally come and’ it’s clear that emotionless and stoic as he might be, the decision will not be an easy one for him. The majority of the episode however, isn’t centred on Decim but rather on Chiyuki and her life. Over the course of the last ten episodes, we have seen a variety of tragic lives and equally tragic deaths. In comparison, Chiyuki’s life and death don’t particularly stand out; she lived a happy, wonderful life for many years, but could never get past the first truly major, life-changing hardship she encountered. Depression is a serious issue of course, and often enough, it doesn’t take a serious of catastrophic events for a perfectly content young woman to become clinically depressed and suicidal. The trouble is, from a purely storytelling perspective, we have seen this all before and while it strings to see a fairly likeable character like Chiyuki suffer through it, the emotional impact isn’t quite as powerful as it could have been. The nature of her injury (presumably, a broken knee) doesn’t feel severe enough to illicit sufficient sympathy from the viewer to truly grip the soul. Something life-threatening or truly unfortunate, like an amputation, would obviously shift the scales better but at the same time, the show could have stuck with the broken knee and instead dwelled more deeply into how she suffered after the injury. Instead, it feels like the vast majority of her life was pleasant and fulfilling but after barely a moment’s suffering, she is dead. In all this, it feels as though we are not yet finished with the story of Jimmy and Chavvot and it remains to be seen how that plays into the finale.
The episode’s secondary storyline focuses on Ginti, Mayu and Harada. If you don’t quite remember who Mayu and Harada are, don’t feel bad – we haven’t seen these characters properly in absolutely ages and while it has been odd that Mayu, especially has had cameo-like appearances in almost every episode, it was surprising to see them return to the main stage so late in the game. The last time we saw Mayu and Harada, they were dancing and performing in the Viginti while Decim, Chiyuki and Ginti watched. That in itself was something of a surprise since we had been led to believe that Mayu would be saved while Harada was condemned. It seems that Ginti wasn’t quite done with them just yet, however. Every time Ginti is featured, exceptional care has to be taken in understanding his motivations; behind that eternally grumpy face is a mind that is more thoughtful and perceptive than it appears. In this particular episode, his decision to force a final choice on the mostly innocent, carefree Mayu might seem cruel, unnecessary and random and one interpretation of his actions is indeed that they are all of those. From a more generous angle, however, there is certainly a case to be made that he noticed that Mayu would want to be with Harada forever and thus sends her to the void as well. Whether that is in itself cruel is questionable – if you ask Mayu, she would have picked going to Hell with Harada over being reborn but the truth of the matter is, if you’re going to be wiping her memories clean to begin with, should that even matter? It’s not as simple a question as it seems and it seems fair to assume that Ginti forced Mayu to choose between a stranger and Harada just so that he has a justification (whether for official purposes or just for himself) that she is actually a shallow enough person to choose the love of her life (since we’re being generous) over a random stranger (who looks suspiciously like Yagami Light from Death Note). This, in turn, begs the question for whether or not there is even a right choice in such a situation but we’ll leave that to the philosophers and instead consider this: from a story-telling perspective, what purpose does Ginti’s little exercise in this episode even serve? Is it simply an excuse to show the audience what happens in the void? Or is it hinting that Ginti is not, in fact, a jerk with a heart of gold but instead a character that is truly incapable of understanding the value of human life?