Pt.4 – Death Parade: A Thematic Analysis
“Somewhere there exists a mysterious bar. When you arrive at it, you are forced to play a game against another person. It might be darts. It might be cards. If you win, you get to leave. If you lose, however, you die.” (Eisenbeis, 2015)
Now that I’ve discussed the technicalities of my autoethnographic research on anime, I have now arrived at, what is for me, the most important and exciting part of the research: the thematic analysis.
The first thing to say about “Death Parade” is that it is an incredibly hard show to describe. The basic plot revolves around a mysterious bar called Quindecim and the bartender Decim, whose role is to determine whether people go to heaven or hell. Decim uses a series of games to get people to compete against each other, and in doing so, they reveal their darkest secrets and true nature. It is incredibly convoluted, but in the best possible way.
Life and Death
The principal theme that the show explores is life and death. The show is incredibly existential and raises many questions about the purpose of living and what happens to us when we pass on. It’s fascinating to watch, particularly as someone whose not overly-religious and has little understanding into the various beliefs on reincarnation or rebirth. The show also questions whether the concept of death and the afterlife is part of the human experience and whether it influences us and our behaviour. That certainly seems to be the case…
(MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD)
In episode 9, one of the people being judged (Shimada) is told by Chiyuki (Decim’s assistant) that there is no heaven or hell, only reincarnation or ‘the void’. She does this in order to prevent Shimada from carrying out his darkest urge of inflicting pain on the other person, who he believes wronged him prior to his death.
This isn’t the clearest of examples, but it does illustrate the show’s existential exploration of the way humanity’s actions are influenced by the knowledge of death and the possibility of what follows.
The Darkness of Humanity
In addition to life and death, “Death Parade” is also incredibly interesting for its examination of humanity’s inherent darkness and flaws. The use of flashbacks is a key component to almost every single episode as it gives us (the viewer) insight into the actions of the individual prior to their death. This is where “Death Parade” really goes to some dark places. Sexual assault, vengeance, domestic violence and suicide are all represented in the various flashbacks, and these make for uncomfortable but essential moments.
A further issue, that is explored in the later episodes, revolves around the question of whether individuals should be judged solely on the darker aspects of their lives. At one point in episode 9, Chiyuki (Decim’s assistant) says to Decim in a moment of raw emotion that “there are as many emotions as there are people. The fragility of someone who lets their anger get the best of them… The strength to overcome fear because of love… You can’t comprehend anything about them.” It is an incredibly powerful moment, one that I had not expected to see in an anime and it is incredibly effective in highlighting the show’s evaluation of human beings and their flaws.
Through this thematic analysis, I was able to satisfactorily convey my thoughts on “Death Parade”, which surprised me in so many levels. Although I had no real expectations before starting this anime, I had in no way expected such an insightful, soulful and philosophical examination of life, death and human nature. I’m so glad I picked “Death Parade” as my first foray into the anime world.
Eisenbeis, R 2015, ‘Death Parade Is About Life, Death And The Darkness Of The Human Heart’, Kotaku, 20th May, viewed 22nd October 2017, < https://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/05/death-parade-is-about-life-death-and-the-darkness-of-the-human-heart/>