Death Parade is a Japanese anime TV series, developed, written, and directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa. The anime has been produced by Madhouse, which is often acclaimed to be one of the best anime studios in Japan, producing several emblematic series such as Death Note and Monster.

Death Parade is considered to be one of the best gambling anime TV series of all time. It is included in several lists that offer Japanese animated TV series recommendations for betting enthusiasts. 

If you are someone who loves the adrenaline and anticipation gambling anime titles provide, Death Parade will surely become a new favourite series for you. In this unique betting anime, players no longer gamble with coins, but with souls. The stakes are higher than ever, as each person’s chance of being reincarnated comes at the expense of someone else’s soul being sent into the void.

The anime series originated from a short film – Death Billiards – released by Madhouse for the Young Animator Training Project’s Anime Mirai in March 2013. The original movie was received with great enthusiasm by the community of anime fans. 

In the light of such a positive reaction, Madhouse decided to develop a new anime TV series based on the successful movie. Death Parade aired in Japan between January and March 2015. The Japanese TV series is licensed in North America by Funimation and in the United Kingdom by Anime Limited.

Plot: Death Parade Setting

Death Parade portrays an after-life world where souls are subjected to a final test that will decide the eternal fate of their immortal souls. In the universe depicted, whenever someone dies, they arrive at a mysterious bar, run by bartenders that serve as the arbiters of souls in the afterlife. 

All the guests who arrive at the bar must take part in the Death Games, gambling with their very souls. Each game round includes two or more players. As players are introduced to the game chosen for them, a bartender shall announce that the results of the gameplay will decide whether the players’ souls will be sent for reincarnation or into the void. 

During the games, the guests of the bar get to remember the choices that led them to their ultimate demise. The games are particularly designed to make players believe they are always close to losing. Hence, they will have to make a drastic choice: give up on their morality and play unfairly or stick to their moral compass and follow the rules.

The anime focuses on the Quindecim bar run by Decim – a lone bartender – and his assistant, who is mysteriously called “the black-haired woman”. Decim and his assistant closely inspect each game, witnessing the many shades of human emotions, from desperation in face of ultimate damnation, to everlasting hope despite all odds. 

List of Characters: A Death (Parade) of Names

Death Parade features a few recurring characters, with mysterious names inspired by different mythologies, that offer subtle hints to the role they play in the anime.

Decim

As mentioned above, Decim is the bartender of the Quindecim bar which is located on the 15th floor of the building. He supervises the Death Games between the souls that have reached the afterlife and must be subjected to judgment. 

His name originates from the Roman mythology deity Decim – alternatively named Lachesis – who is responsible for measuring the thread of life for every person. Just like the main character from Death Parade, the divinity decides how much life is assigned to each human.

In Death Parade, Decim’s hobby is making mannequins resembling the soul guests that have made an impression on him. The hobby is his unique way of paying tribute to the souls that he remembers fondly. 

According to the role he must play in the afterlife, Decim is not supposed to have any human emotions, for he must objectively judge each person’s soul. Hence, his great attachment to humans poses a great risk to his position.

The main character holds the power to force and deceive the guests of the bar to create psychologically challenging situations, so he can differentiate worthy humans from those that don’t deserve to live again through reincarnations.

Although the arbiters are supposed to be nothing more than emotionless puppets of the afterlife, Decim will suffer a gradual transformation throughout the anime series. 

As he has great respect for humans that have lived their lives to the fullest of their capacities, his main goal is to become a better judge every day. This aspiration will cause him to cultivate deep human emotions, such as grief and romantic love.

Nona

Nona is the main judge of the afterlife, which makes her Decim’s superior. She has the appearance of a small girl, despite the several centuries she has spent as a judge at the Quindecim bar. She’s directly reporting to Oculus and manages all the other arbiters.

Her name draws inspiration from the Roman-Greek mythological Fates, who were white-robed deities of destiny. According to legends, Nona is the ninth Fate, having immense power over the destiny of both humans and Gods. One of her many missions is to decide when gods and mortals deserve to be saved or put to death.

In Death Parade, Nona appears as an analytical detached character, who slowly grows more understanding of human nature as more guests make an appearance at the bar. She is fully aware that the justice system is by no means perfect, so she often relents to more merciful verdicts, as she comes to understand the great intricacy of humans’ souls.

Castra

Castra is quite the enigmatic character, making brief appearances as she oversees human deaths as they happen around the world. She is the one who decided which souls are sent to which arbiters. She appears as a small, young woman, wearing a skull helmet.

Her name is symbolic, also drawing inspiration from Greek-Roman mythology. She is the third Fate, who is also known as Morta in the Roman legends. Hence, Castra plays the role of the Queen of Death.

Oculus

Oculus is a God-like figure in the world evoked in Death Parade. He is a powerful being with a long thin beard and spends most of his time playing galactic pool. He manages the arbiter system, and he has been the one to design the current justice system.

Oculus’ name probably comes from the old Greek word for eye, which is symbolic of the character’s role in the anime: he can erase memories and know the truth of any soul’s past life from the moment they first appear.

The Philosophical Meaning of Death Parade

Death Parade stands out among other anime TV series that feature gambling or the concept of the afterlife through a strong emphasis on the human’s right to act upon their free will until their very last moments.

The philosophical meaning of ‘Death Parade’ is reflected in each person’s individual right to salvation. Hence, at the beginning of the anime, viewers may not understand the purpose of a game that will decide people’s fate in the afterlife. Aren’t the arbiters supposed to evaluate people’s actions from the time when they were still alive?

In short – no, arbiters don’t have this option. They must always judge the fate of someone’s soul solely based on their actions when playing their final game. Since people’s life and death are usually unfair, everyone gets a second chance of saving their souls despite the mistakes they might have done while they were alive.

Players of the Death Game are announced in the beginning that the outcome of the game will decide who gets to be reincarnated and who is sent into the void. So, every player will have to fight for his salvation fully aware that a victorious outcome will send an opponent’s soul to obliteration. Hence, a moral dilemma arises: one can only save their soul by damning someone else’s.

From a certain point of view, Death Parade is a thorough analysis of human nature. Sometimes, the souls that arrive at the bar are just as harmless as they appear to be, sticking to a moral code even when the outcome of the game points to their loss. However, there are several cases when innocent-looking people hide evil intentions that are revealed by the ruthless games that put their morality to the test.

The anime strongly emphasises the dual nature of the human soul. Most people who arrive at the Quindecim bar are a mix of both good and bad traits. A man can be an abusive director at his workplace, and a devoted father and husband to his family. Death Parade gracefully emphasises that people are never completely angelic, nor fully evil. 

Every person that comes to the bar had done some good during their lives, while still hiding certain darkness within their soul – be it envy, jealousy, or something far more horrifying. 

Viewers will slowly be introduced to the main events of each guest’s life, and witness how the perils of life drove them to make questionable decisions. Hence, more often than not, the Death Games will end with emotionally heated revelations, which are sometimes accompanied by pure violence as the fear of damnation sinks in.

In Nona’s words, the most primitive emotion people have is neither the will to do good nor the determination to succumb to evil. It is always fear. Hence, the guests of the bar are subjected to undergoing highly stressful situations that often bring them to the point of psychological breakdowns.

When faced with the fear of damnation, in several cases, people’s good natures evaporate, and inhuman behaviours take over. The barbaric and cynical method of having people fight for salvation makes Decim slowly start to doubt the justice system, as, in great moments of distress, the inhumane too easily slips in.

All the 12 episodes of the anime series are soaked into a philosophical atmosphere, as Quindecim gradually turns into a place of meditation and reflection on human nature, and the arbiters slowly come to understand that evil is only a point of view.

The show presents viewers with a myriad of morally questionable topics, such as depression, suicide, plastic surgery, revenge, and cheating. The morality dilemma the characters face at every Death Game, as well as the empathy that comes to light in moments of pure desperation are the main elements that make Death Parade a true pearl of Japanese animation. 

Fun Facts

There are many symbols hidden throughout the series that anime enthusiasts are meant to discover. While some are quite obvious, like the meaning behind some of the main characters’ names, a few details are only meant to be discovered by truly clever watchers.

1. The symbol of the jellyfish

2. Light Yagami makes an appearance

In the 11th episode, viewers are introduced to a character that looks very similar to the main character of the beloved anime series Death Note, produced by the same studio as Death Parade. His appearance brings forth a possible explanation for the worrisome increased rate of death Nona had previously complained about at the beginning of the TV series.

3. The window Decim stands in front of is meant to represent the hope for reincarnation

When greeting guests, Decim appears to be standing in front of a very bright stained-glass window that resembles an image of Heaven. The imagery further proves Decim’s relevant role in deciding the fate of the souls that arrive at the mystic bar.

Conclusive Thoughts

Death Parade is truly a gem among all the betting anime series out there. The anime portrays an in-depth investigation of human nature. It successfully delights viewers with beautifully animated sequences and a unique setting.

The anime makes the viewer take the role of a second judge in the lives of the people that arrive at the bar. The viewers witness the events of the guests’ past lives unfold, as the fear of damnation threatens to ruin the goodness of their hearts and are able to pass judgment on whether someone deserves to be reincarnated.

Beyond the philosophical meditation on life and the excitement of the games portrayed, the anime beautifully unveils the myriad of emotions that constitute the human soul and emphasises everyone’s right to decide their ultimate fate.

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