Oh god it’s winking at me!
Time for conflicts to come to a head. Time for the veil surrounding Kurokami to come undone. Will you care about her plight, or will this peter out and waste your time? Let’s find out!
I made no secret last time that Death Parade has been trying my patience. Not to the point of where the series is broken, but just a series of questionable choices from the story side of things. Production remains quite strong, and while the acting leans to the hammy, it isn’t really to the detriment of a work where mood is so important to the presentation.
We open with Decim asking to be suspended from judgments, parroting Kurokami’s words from last time. There needs to be more purpose behind them. But Nona quickly sniffs out it’s Kurokami’s influence saying these things, not really Decim himself coming to the conclusion.
Kurokami’s body is breaking down. It seems Human recreations have a finite existence in this afterlife place. Nona orders Decim to judge her finally, and adds in she will send a special guest.
But Decim is aghast. He doesn’t think that darkness is Kurokami’s true nature.
Again, back to this utterly confusing thing about darkness being their metric. That is not what we’ve seen, and why is it the goal?
This is the problem with the dilemma. Arbiters have this dogmatic way they judge, perhaps it is so old a metric that no one lives who was around when it was conceived, as we are led to believe all the arbiters were born at some point. Centuries past, perhaps, but still born. Even creepy grandpa god isn’t REALLY a deity, just a powerful Arbiter type.
“Why do we judge Humans on the lurking darkness within?” “Because.” “But shouldn’t we have a goal?” “Nope, it’s jsut the way it is.” “Okay, so, how about I judge people based on something else, if the reasons behind it don’t matter?” “WHAT? YOU FUCKING HERETIC! DO IT THE RIGHT WAY!”
There needs to be SOMETHING behind this. The argument of tradition is very powerful in Human minds (very much so in Japan), but often those supplement the basic idea of tradition with something. Gay marriage isn’t tradition, therefore it’s wrong. But the argument is also clothed in the idea that it is “immoral”, that there are no children to be conceived therefore the state should not have an interest. Now I’m not trying to debate the merits of those arguments, but merely illustrating that there ARE rationalizations, no matter how flimsy, behind the fact that it is tradition.
If you put “It is tradition” in a vacuum, it ceases to be a moral dilemma, and becomes a black and white argument with only one clear answer for us to conclude. Having a bad guy whose motivation is clear is important, and we lack that here. It’s doubly confusing because they are so dogmatic, while simultaneously saying they couldn’t care less.
Well soon Nona’s special guest arrives. An elderly lady who is super sweet and recognizes the Chavvo illustration. But she can’t place where. Though we find out she is an illustrator, so we can figure that out handily enough.
The pair are going to play Old Maid. Decim joins them as a two person game of it would be silly.
This game, of course, will feature no Arbiter dickery. But that’s not really the point, it’s character exploration Kurokami. The old lady figures out that this is the afterlife because one of the playing cards, supposedly drawn from the particpant’s memories, is of a drawing she never drew.
She says she’s better off not knowing how she died, just content that the cat’s out of the bag. She explains she was never able to have children, and was glad to see her illustrations, the closest thing she has to children (her legacy), in this manner. She rather enjoys the game and reflecting on her good life.
In this, the old lady is playing a counterpoint to Kurokami. Speaking of, she finally remembers her name: Chiyuki. But for the purposes of consistency with the rest of the series, I’ll still mostly refer to her as Kurokami.
Decim determines he cannot perform the judgment in the traditional way, after all. He has become too close to Kurokami.
Meanwhile, creepy grandpa god has learned of Nona’s plans in…egh….it’s true what they say, all perverted things start to blend together after a while.
Mayu is being tested in an abnormal way, as well. We open Episode 11 with her and Ginti debating what to do about Haruda. Ginti says she can save Haruda’s soul, if she sacrifices some poor sap to the void in his place.
…Who looks an awful lot like Yagami Light….sure is Death Note in here…
Mayu seems hesitant, and then outright unsure, as she asks what kind of person he is. Ginti just laughs, asking a very poignant question. “What kind of person would it take to send Haruda to the void?” Mayu has no answer for this
Meanwhile, we’re getting Kurokami’s backstory during her life. Chavvo is what encouraged her to become an ice skater, and a pretty damn good one, too. We follow her struggles, her family helping her along, winning trophies and titles throughout high school and beyond.
I have to say, this whole sequence is amazing. Decim quietly observing, and literally taking in Kurokami as a person, even having one of his “favorites” play the piano during the performance. We’ve seen sort of an essential person over the past 10 episodes. But here is where we finally see Chiyuki, and not just Kurokami. This is what occurs when she has all the extranneous stuff stripped away, name, title, location. This is us, witnessing side by side with Decim, what is considered the “person” of Chiyuki. The experiences that defined her life as her memories cycle through. This is arguably the best sequence of anything we had all season, in any series.
And then, Kurokami’s knee wears out. And her memories flash a matching injury. It ended her career, and all she could do was simply exist. The accident doesn’t directly kill Kurokami, but it does end her life.
She expresses quietly to Decim how skating had been central to her life. Her friends, her family, her boyfriend, they were all cogs centered around her skating life. If Chiyuki cannot skate, she ceases to be Chiyuki. All those relationships which SEEMED important suddenly became hollow and uninteresting.
A way I like to interpret the old lady is that counterpoint to Kurokami. She said she couldn’t bear children, and going by her and her husband’s age, we might be able to attribute that to something atomic radiation related. I like this interpretation, because it shows her in a light as having gone through tragedy, but as she says, she lived a good life. Because in the end, she still knew what she was.
Kurokami lacks that. Skating was so much her identity that she built her life around it. The demonstration we see was wonderful, and distilled the person who was Chiyuki down to the base elements. But what happens when you take those away? She can walk and talk, sure. She can make comments and serve drinks. But she has no identity, she is just Kurokami no Onna. And she even takes on a self-hating, defeatist attitude.
I admit this is ballsy of the show. One of our leads basically admits to a severe form of narcissism where she saw her friends and family as buoys to her own life, and didn’t really consider them interesting when they ceased being able to serve to that function. Doubly ballsy that she’s supposed to be the “Human” one. So where will this lead us, hm? How will she answer the true tests of selfish dark desire now that her memories are restored?
We’re left on Mayu being sent to the void. We can take away that she went through with the test, although Ginti didn’t have any intention of following through on it. This is literally as Kurokami describes, Arbiters seeking darkness as a form of self validation.
What I love best about this scene as Mayu plummets in the elevator is how the entire thing goes dead silent as soon as she “dies”. Props as always to this series production.
Decim slips Kurokami a rufie, post credits asks for her memories to be forwarded. Nona is alerted that her plan is in progress, when who should come to greet her but creepy old man-sama.