Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody ?
This week's Death March can be divided into three distinct and mostly unrelated segments: “Satou and the Girls Go to a Play”, “Satou and the Girls Beat Up Some Ants”, and “Satou Visits a Brothel and Finds an Elf Girl”. While technically taking place within the same frame of plot progression, these vignettes barely feel connected, which only highlights Death March's janky take on slice-of-life storytelling. Still, nothing in this episode is outright terrible, and one scene's dialogue almost works in the show's favor, for once. It doesn't quite stick the landing, but it's an admirable failure, which is something you don't see often from this series.
This moment comes near the end of the first segment, which is the most substantial of the three despite its fair share of problems. Death March has proven mostly interested in having Satou and the girls wander around vague MMO settings to shop and sample food, but it never manages to make those things interesting, largely because the show's cast lacks personality, complexity, or chemistry. Our hero mostly just acts as benignly paternal as possible to every woman he meets, which is actually less interesting than if he were more unlikable as some of his inner monologue suggested he could be back in episode two. The girls are no better: Luna's only defining characteristic is that she likes Satou, and the three demi-human slaves just spout cutesy one-liners or espouse their cravings for meat. Arisa is the closest thing we've gotten to a character with more than one dimension, since we know her tragic backstory and whatnot, but even her present-day goals have been defined by just spending time around Satou so far. Slice-of-life only works with a cast and a world worth investing in, but Death March has yet to provide either of those things.
Our protagonist can probably relate to this, since Zena invites him and his slaves to watch a play that even Satou finds trite and boring. The Tragedy of Marquis Muno could potentially be foreshadowing plot and worldbuilding developments, or it could simply be a meta jab at the difficulties of making a successful adaptation when producers get involved; either way, the scene drags on far too long. It does lead to the episode's most successful moment, where Arisa and Zena get into a disagreement over their interpretation of the play's themes. Zena buys into the tragedy at face value, thinking that the doomed Princess brought about her own downfall, while Arisa finds the Princess to be a weak character and argues that the Marquis is more to blame.
As Arisa goes even further and uses Zena's perspective to analyze and break down her character, I was genuinely excited to see two of Death March's characters engaging in a conversation that explored who they were as people, showing how their interpretation of the world's art informed the way they saw the world. For the first time, Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody was demonstrating some aptitude for character development. Of course, then Arisa turns all this into a dig at Zena's romantic prospects, rendering the entire conversation just a presumable battle Satou's affection. Now, I don't think every piece of media in the world needs to pass the Bechdel test or anything, but I was incredibly disappointed to see Death March undermine this potentially complex scene by making it a simple ploy for tension in Satou's harem. Allowing the girls to have at least some dimension outside of Satou's existence would make Death March much more bearable, but it seems hellbent on wasting every opportunity it gets to improve.
The second main segment doesn't have nearly as much to chew on. It's another action sequence, like the climax of episode four, that's designed to show off Satou's heroics and the combat synergy his slave girls have developed. It's horrendous to look at, unfortunately, containing probably the worst cuts of animation and direction choices we've seen from Death March so far. The CG flying ants are bad enough to be unintentionally funny, and the editing is all over the place. Even some theoretically cool moments, like Satou using a couple of spare coins to knock some ants out of the sky, are hamstrung by lackluster animation and confusing framework. The battle does introduce us to a new character in the form of an elf named Bolenan, but not enough happens to say if they'll be a worthwhile addition to the cast.
And so our episode ends with Satou getting treated to a brothel visit by some fellows he rescued in the dungeons two episodes ago, after which he stumbles upon a dying escort and the small elven princess he was protecting. I won't pretend that I'm excited at the prospect of another small girl joining Satou's entourage, but I'll try my best to reserve initial judgment. If nothing else, more focus on moe girls means less time spent on terrible action sequences. If the show can avoid those in favor of more halfway decent dialogues between characters, then Death March at least has the potential to dig itself out of the doldrums.
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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