How many times can I put “Death” into the title of this blog post? Easy answer: 3. You literally just had to count. The answer was 3. It’s not a problem. 1 life, live it. But take 1 away from 3, and what do you get? 2. And the last couple of episodes of Death Parade were a 2-parter. Coincidence? Jet fuel.
This is the first two parter Death Parade has had, unless you count the first two episodes, which weren’t so much a two parter than the same story told twice from different perspectives (which was totally rad). All the other episodes have had self-contained stories that affect the overall narrative by showcasing different elements of the world and its rules and exploring those in different ways.
This time Decim and Kurokami have to handle a judgement they wouldn’t usually have to because everyone else is so busy. One of the two guests is a murderer, something Decim apparently hasn’t encountered before (due to the normal rules, it would seem).
One of the guests, Shimada, is a young man who went into work right out of school to support his sister, as they lost their parents at a young age. The second, Tatsumi, is a middle-aged detective. It’s clear from the offset that crime, and the police / criminal / judgement dynamic in general, will be one of the largest themes in the story.
Early on Shimada looks inside the bag he arrived with and finds a bloodied knife hidden away, but, as with all the guests at the Quindecim, he doesn’t know why he has it. In fact, given the traumatic nature of their deaths it seems that Shimada and Tatsumi remember even less about their deaths than guests usually do. Conversely this time Decim allows Kurokami to look into the memories of the guests for the first time.
To help draw out their memories Decim makes them play air hockey this time, using pucks that represent their organs, which, in a similar manner to the “Death Twister” of Episode 6, Cross Heart Attack, only ramps up and becomes dangerous later on.
Death Billiards, the short film on which Death Parade is based, only had a runtime of around 25 minutes, slightly longer than a normal episode of Death Parade. As a two parter Death Rally / Counter has a significantly longer runtime, and they really make use of it. While the set-up seems simple, there’s actually more twists and turns to it than previous episodes. As the plot threads weave together both thematically and narratively I often found myself on the edge of my seat.
The break between the episodes isn’t a frustrating cliffhanger, it just kicks it up into a slightly different gear as Death Parade so often does, making it interesting on a whole other level and immediately obvious why it’s a two parter. Instead of simply expanding the story’s length with the extra runtime the end of the first part crouches down, opens up a trap door, and lets you glimpse the depths to which the story can run. It’s not cheap, but rather very compelling.
The animation is as always of the highest quality. The Quindecim is as always both dull and dark, and sparkly at the same time, feeling truly otherworld. It’s the detail in which Death Parade’s art and animation usually excels, and it’s the same here. As with the other “death games” Madhouse expounds on the minuteness of the air hockey and its players, revelling in the small things and making them large, adding to the odd lense that is the world of the Quindecim — pucks flying across the board, sweat, tears, and, of course, blood. It’s tense and imposing.
And by the end of the two parter you will probably be just as exhausted as all involved, from the game’s participants to Kurokami, and even Decim goes harder than usual with this unusual case laid before him. This could very well mark the point, just past halfway (it’s a 12 episode series, but may get a sequel), where it steps forward and really starts to get towards its conclusions. There’s a definite feeling of a shift with Death Counter’s conclusion, of structures built toward reaching their head. It works.
But will it pay off for the next episode and the rest of the series? I sure hope so. It’s one I consistently can’t wait for the next episode for. This two parter might be the best story from the Death Parade vault yet.