Madhouse animations tend to be 50/50 with me. Never the actual animation, but the stories themselves. From the get go I didn’t know what to expect from Death Parade. The visuals instantly lead you to think it’s a serious and darker story in tone which is accurate. The confusing part is the opening song which paints a different picture. Now usually I don’t watch the openings of animes because they are always misleading, but I happened to catch this one and I wish I hadn’t since it gave a far goofier feel to the show and I spent the entire episode waiting for the other shoe to drop. The episode itself starts off with a couple exiting separate elevators and finding each other. They don’t remember how they got there and they don’t know where “there” is. After a long-winded opening it’s revealed that they must play a game with their lives as the stakes. Reluctantly they push a button to decide their game and Darts comes up. They’re then each given seven darts, but just as they think it’s a simple game of darts the twist of the different areas being connected to their bodies comes in to play. For instance the bullseye is the heart and the pain is amplified by the amount of points. The other twist is quickly revealed when the husband throws his first dart and it injures his wife.
Eventually human nature kicks in and this seemingly perfect couple reveals their true nature and a bunch of emotional baggage is dragged out.
The episode had potential, but when the couple began yelling at each other the emotional weight wasn’t there. More than likely that’s due to the fact that we really don’t know these characters and we’re instantly seeing them at their worse. After the wife wins the game (which is still a loss for her) she tells the husband the “truth” that she was using him for his money and that their unborn kid isn’t his. It came off hollow and more like the words of someone hurt just trying to lash out at the person that hurt her. Instead it was meant to be the truth… yeah didn’t really ring true to me given her delivery and the fact that she was fighting back tears the entire time.
After the events conclude they’re put back on to their separate elevators and one is sent to reincarnation stew, while the other is sent to the void. Let me just tell you I didn’t really get the reasoning behind it and probably would have sent both to the void. In all honestly it was a bit sexist in the choice with the logic being that the husband wouldn’t have done what he did if the wife hadn’t done what she did. Which is the dumbest logic ever, but that’s what the show goes for.
The animation is great for what it is. Nothing really happens in the episode other than flashbacks for the characters and darts hitting a board. Overall it was very clean and character designs while still Madhouse influenced weren’t what I’d call their usual designs. They were more reserved and realistic looking if that makes any sense at all.
Overall the episode explains half of the world we’re dealing with, but it wasn’t very interesting nor was it that well executed. It wasn’t the worst anime I’ve seen, but I don’t think I’ll be back for the second episode even if it looks to expand on this world of limbo.