Saturday, 10 September 2016

Death Parade - A story about people

Death Parade's (somewhat deliberate) misunderstanding of humans and consequently, the spitefully deceptive test of judgement with a binary output left a sour taste in my mouth early on and unfortunately it stuck around way longer than expected.

Essentially the show starts off with the setting that upon death humans go to a place called Quindecim fashioned to look like a bar with an arbitrer/judge posing as a bartender. Here they will have to contest against another person in a random and 'supposed' game of death. This game is further used to effectuate an "extreme" situation that would potentially reveal their 'true' nature, the arbitrer obtains key memories of their subjects(often relating to their death) to understand them better in creating this situation - it boils down to the question(not made explicit in the show): would they put their life on the line for an ethical/moral action? the answer to which will determine whether they would get reincarnated or thrown in the void. While that sounds fine in theory, it really implied towards a belief that people can simply and inevitably be evil/bad from birth to death under the saying "bring out the darkness of the heart" which is wrong as a fact - people are mostly influenced by the circumstances of their growth and their environment. To some extent their behaviors are hereditary (which again is a result of centuries of cultural or circumstantial influence).

These things brought me to question what is the worth of a man which would've been a good thing for a show to pull off but it was a point I reached out of frustration than subtle hints the show put forth. Perhaps that's just me.

Through the course of the show, I had hoped for two things: one being its admittance to misunderstanding people which was a tad late but it was well done. Secondly, I had hoped it would question its binary output - does it really acknowledge that their current criteria for executing a person's judgement(i.e. being inherently evil/bad) implies that everyone is capable of reincarnation, heaven or what not. This was not explicit in the show at the very least and I am a little disappointed at that considering how significant it is to the overarching plot.

Despite the show later on admitting to one of those fundamental flaws which was also core to its overarching plot I was not a fan of how indulgent it was before the revelation was made. I couldn't really feel the gravity of the drama involving those being judged knowing how wrong everything already is at a fundamental level. The second episode talked about the subtleties of human emotion which was very interesting to watch and hear but that moment was brief and is undermined by the more glaring issues with the plot.

The show's excuse for their judgement system was cited to be because it was basically easier and that human empathy will only make it difficult for them to perform their role. It was also implied that they officially disregard any understanding or knowledge of how the world works from a moral/philosophical point of view. Implications are cool things to present/talk about a universe but I don't really think they are a good thing for something so fundamental to its setting. I have many questions I'd like answered which sounds cool but really, these are central to its story and not something one would leave.

The final episode left the show driving a meaningful point: what it means to be alive under the belief that people don't live just to die but people die because they live which is the root of their misconceptions about humans. Now if there's a meaning to live, there's also a meaning to be an arbitrer hence they are alive as well and not just "puppets". Whatever the meaning is, it can't be "judgement" as aforementioned, their criteria for judgement implies that everyone is fitting for reincarnation, essentially there is nothing worth judging - Quindecim is not necessary at all. The setting they built through out the course of the show is a waste.

It's possible that idea of reincarnation/void and effectively their entire little world is a plot device meant to push the narrative with a theme about people. In that perspective a lot of it makes sense but that's not to say that I am entirely happy with the way it progressed. Too much of its deliberate wrongs felt indulgent in the world to a point that it left me down right bitter - part of the reason being that at least some of the characters were were wary of the wrongs but they just played dumb until later. Secondly I am not a fan of how much it relies on the plot device even if it did end up delivering something meaningful, it could've been more minimal.

My qualms aside, I will admit to some episodes being genuinely entertaining and intense albeit they were few and I felt it really could've used more of them early on. It was nice to see Decim finally gain an understanding of humans through empathy with his experience interacting and observing Chiyuki so the conclusion was good in one sense.

Worth pointing out that the show is terrific in terms of character animation as it showcased a wide range of situations - nuanced, emotionally agitated and even during an intense action sequence. It's definitely a treat for sakuga fans.

Overall I really like the narrative goals - what it means to be alive, the worth of a person and the importance of life but I am so not happy with the way it progressed and presented. From what I had heard, I had high hopes for this show and going by what I saw, I don't think I overestimated it. It just didn't go well with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment