Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody
Episode 4

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody ?

Episode 4 of Death March picks up right where the third one abruptly left off, with Satou, Liza, Pochi, and Tama scouring the dungeon they've found themselves trapped in for Zena. The crew cooks some food, makes camp, fights off some monsters, and eventually Satou uses his new sword and growing repertoire of skills to hold his own against the Demon Lord, who is not to be confused with his boss, the Demon King. If this beat-by-beat plot description feels a little rote and formulaic, that's because the episode is too. Despite slicing their way through a number of increasingly large baddies over the course of twenty-two minutes, there's very little in the way of conflict, consequence, or tension to be found here. It's simply another week of Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody hitting the most basic and mandatory plot-points of its genre in the most generic and lifeless way possible.

This is technically an improvement from where the show started, which says a lot about the incredibly low bar for success Death March has set for itself. The show has a plot now at least, and as bare bones as it is, it's still more than what the premiere delivered in terms of storytelling. Satou has mostly toned down his creep factor,, but on the other hand, that tinge of lasciviousness was also the closest thing our hero had to a personality trait. Death March is no longer actively upsetting in its execution, but it's simply settled into the routine of a bland power fantasy instead.

Credit where it's due, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the level of respect Satou showed the girls this week. It's obviously a problem that Satou has slaves to begin with, especially since he has shown almost no inclination whatsoever towards freeing them. Still, he does at least have the decency to acknowledge that it's kind of skeevy that he levels up his “Tamer” skill by treating his slave girls with the bare minimum of respect. It doesn't excuse how easily Satou goes along with the whole “giving slaves permission to do everything” routine, but at least that can be ironed out in future episodes. A worse show would have Satou taking advantage of his ownership of the girls, so Satou thankfully avoids that pitfall. He remains a featureless blob of a protagonist, but he isn't as distasteful as he easily could have been.

The closest this episode gets to being exploitative is Liza, Tama, and Pochi's incredibly unnecessary bathing scene, but the single frame of it whizzes by so fast that it barely has time to register, let alone offend. This speaks to the weakest aspect of this episode, which would be the horrendously sloppy animation and direction. Death March has looked crummy from episode one, but this episode is a new low entirely. Significant portions of the episode's dungeon-crawling and battle montages are rendered in poorly-drawn still frames, and the scenes that don't look like a slide show are choppy and poorly edited all the same. Scenes fly by with little room to breathe between shots, and not one of the action beats has even a modicum of weight or dramatic heft. Despite the ostensible difference in power and skill, Satou's battle with the Demon Lord feels no more significant or exciting than the first encounter with a CG lizardman back in the first episode. Death March doesn't strike me as the kind of series that will focus much on fighting, which is good, because it has neither the style nor the substance to pull off even a basic action scene.

And so ends another week of Death March. Satou has gained a number of titles and skills, and he's also added a couple more slave girls to his growing collection, which is honestly worrisome, and not just for the obvious reasons. The show might have eased up on its most alarming problems, but it hasn't succeeded in being any less stilted or boring overall. The last two episodes of Death March were seemingly meant to represent the kind of high-stakes, action-packed adventuring that justifies Satou earning his “Hero” title, but they made so little impact that I can barely remember what happened in them. At this point, I might prefer the version of Death March that makes me upset; at least then it would conjure up some sort of response from me.

Rating: C-

Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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