Is it possible to be a truly good person? How can you do it? The Ghouls talk about the thrilling, horror-anime Death Parade where the recently deceased's morality and goodness are put to the test. Gabe explains why the Arbiters cannot be trusted and that their tests are very flawed. Kat explains the complexities in the human experience and how philosophy broke her brain.
Sources in this episode: Death Parade is a Bloody Anime Version of The Good Place
Death Parade Is About Life, Death, and the Darkness of the Human Heart
Ways to Help:
Media from this week's episode:
Death Parade (2015) Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa
Summary by IMDB: After death, humans go to either heaven or hell. But for some, at the instant of their death, they arrive at the Quindecim, a bar attended by the mysterious white-haired Decim.
Death Parade: An Afterlife Bar Reveals the Darkness in Our Souls
by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Show Synopsis: Death Parade explores some philosophical ideologies that have you questioning your own “goodness.” In Death Parade, we follow Decim, a bartender and Arbiter. This monotone, softboy holds games for the folx who’ve just died. Strangers, sometimes lovers, sometimes long lost friends, arrive at the underworld bar and are forced to play a game. They can range anywhere from darts, arcade games or Old Maid and there’s even a hint of DDR from the opening sequence. They only know they need to play to win, they are told their lives are on the line. However, through the journey of the games the person’s true intent, who they were in the world, and whether they are worthy of a second chance are revealed. Tensions run high and you truly don’t know what to expect. This show does a phenomenal job of skewing our expectations of what is good and begs you to ask the question, “What would you do to survive?”
The truth is there is no heaven or hell. Participants are already dead. They don’t remember they’ve died or what happened before the elevator doors opened on Quindecim. The games do put their “lives” at risk however. There is no Heaven or Hell, but there is Reincarnation or the Eternal Void. You might be thinking, “I never asked to be alive once, why would I want to be alive again?” Well, the alternative - the void - is not only endless nothing, you are a soul without a body forced to exist with only your sadness, pain, and anger to keep you company...for all eternity. That sounds horrific and worse than Hell in some ways. Makes you wonder, what kind of awful person could warrant such a traumatic end (or continuation, I guess)?
Throughout the season, we are introduced to new people (contestants) who are to be tested. We only get an episode (two, tops) to spend with these characters. Over the course of whatever game they’re playing, we see pieces of who they are emerge. Each person is complex, having lived a full life until their death. They all have regrets. They all have people they miss. They all have secrets. They all want to continue living.
It's a thrilling show that has you guessing as to whether the characters are reliable. What kind of life did they lead? Will the darkest parts of their souls send them to the void? I love the flow and the exploration of morality in the show, but this part - the darkness of the soul - didn’t sit well with me. So let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how one’s morality is judged, their fate decided.
Problem with Arbiters:
Arbiters are beings, humanlike in appearance, that host and manage the games. Like a GM would in an RPG, they set up the scenario, generate challenges, and calculate your outcomes from a distance. They are not telling the story, they’re simply helping the participants navigate the world to get to the story’s end.
The Arbiters have 3 rules (a 4th is later revealed). 1. Arbiters cannot quit making judgments, for that is the reason why they exist. 2. Arbiters cannot experience death, for that would bring them too close to being human. 3. Arbiters cannot feel emotion, for they are merely puppets.
The show’s throughline story seeks to explore this puzzle. Can beings that do not have emotion, have not lived and so cannot truly understand the impact of death, judge the lives of humans? Decim has a new assistant to help him with his judgments, the dark-haired woman who cannot remember her name. It is revealed later that she is named Chiyuki and is a human that Decim previously failed to judge so he is given more time with her. With her alongside him, he is shown how barbaric and cold the method to which these judgements are made can be. The Arbiters have a device they use to further agitate and stress the players of the games. Some of the games include pain that is inflicted on the players to instigate their reactions further. This is with the intent to “bring out the darkness of the soul” so they can judge the human’s true nature.
Darkness of the Soul/Morality is a Gray Area:
In an article on Kotaku titled, Death Parade Is About Life, Death, and the Darkness of the Human Heart by Richard Eisenbeis the writer asks, “Is it right to judge people not at their best but at their very worst?” Decim and the other Arbiters are tasked with judging the darkest parts of people while they themselves lack the full understanding and depth of human emotions and experiences. It’s later revealed that Decim can feel human emotions, an experiment by boss-Arbiter Nona, which is a catalyst for Decim’s minor rebellions and later, emotional breakdown. Eisenbeis goes on to say, “it’s clear from the start that there are some serious flaws in said system. Despite being granted a portion of their guests’ memories as part of the game, the arbiters are nonetheless left unable to digest the data in any but the most objective—i.e., emotionless—way. And as the games only bring out the darkest and most emotional parts of people, this can lead to incorrect judgments.”
Humans are complex. None of us are all good or all bad, we are a plethora of experiences, emotions, and desires. Throughout our lives we are put through challenges that can alter who we are. We see in the show how certain traumatic events can turn a hero into a villain. We see how love can influence us to do reckless, hopeless things - such as lying to relieve someone of pain even if that results in your own soul being banished to the void. In an article on SlashFilm titled, Death Parade is a Bloody Anime Version of The Good Place by Rafael Motomayor, they go on to explain how the conditions these games are in negatively impacts the intended neutral effect the Arbiters are setting out to accomplish. “The question then becomes how can anyo