This show should strike me as a winner—so why are my feelings so split?
By all rights, Death Parade should make me jump for joy. It has sleek, ethereal art, fluid animation, a premise tied up in fascinating ideas about human weakness, redemption, the weight of one person’s “sins” against another’s, and asks tough questions about the supposedly infallible arbiters of salvation/damnation that make up so many belief systems. The creators have clearly put a lot of thought into this mythology and taken the time to develop its “rules,” and it seems like every time the audience asks a question or points out a potential plot hole, Death Parade acknowledges and answers it by the next episode, further expanding the mythology of the story.
Which is great, no question, are all reasons why I should be singing DP’s praises, lauding the thought and creativity present in this show. And yet, with each episode, I find myself just a little less excited and a little more concerned about the series as a whole.
Maybe it’s because Death Parade pulled back the curtain so early in the process, spelling a lot out for the audience instead of teasing it over the course of multiple episodes (or trusting us to put the pieces together on our own), and I’m worried about how it will sustain that early sense of ambiguity and mystery if it continues down the path of least subtlety. Maybe it’s the sense of things coming together just a little too cleanly, a little too—what? calculated, maybe, to the point where the characters (particularly those of Quindecim) feel more like chess (or mouth)pieces rather than individuals.
Or maybe it’s just this niggling sense in the center of my gut that this story has a real issue with how it writes women, identifying (and judging) them exclusively by how they relate to their (romantic) relationships with men. Granted, it’s early enough that the series could easily remedy this in its next few episodes, but it’s still a sense of unease I can’t quite shake, like this story may not have the depth and complexity it first appeared to have, and that the Quindecim and its people may end up losing a lot of their hypnotic charms the more time we spend with them.
All that being said, I’m still very much on board with what’s happening here, and I still feel like Death Parade has the chance to be one of (if not the) best new series of the season. I just hope all the good I’ve seen in these early episodes continues to hold true, and that all my concerns are addressed (or prove unfounded altogether). If the series can create an emotional and thematic backbone out of its recurring cast, add some variety to its female characters, and maybe not spell things out too explicitly, then I think we’ll be in great shape for this to be the morally ambiguous, thought-provoking series it initially promised to be. Fingers crossed, anyway.