Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody
Episode 9

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody ?

If Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody truly suffers in any one department over the others, it would have to be in its action scenes. Death March has never impressed during its hack-and-slash beats; in fact, almost all of the series' worst cuts of animation have come from its action scenes. So I went into this week's episode with some trepidation, since the whole thing is intended to be an extended display of action and spectacle. We get Satou's climactic fight with the homunculi and Zen at the beginning, and the middle act is mostly taken up Satou and Mia's escape from the crumbling Cradle dungeon. There's a long-winded monologue to break things up in the middle and an extended epilogue to follow, but a majority of this episode sees Death March flaunting its worst assets for the longest time yet.

To the episode's credit, this is probably the best its action has ever looked animation wise, but it's still pretty rough to watch. The editing and direction is choppy throughout the episode; most of the decently animated shots either cut away too quickly or are framed too haphazardly to be appreciated. There are some very ugly shots that make their way into the production too, with several cuts of charging homunculi that look flat-out unfinished. To make matters worse, nearly every sequence up until the epilogue is bathed in an obfuscating blue tint that makes things hard to decipher. The series' signature fuzzy filter is present at its worst too; I'm baffled as to why this smeary Vaseline effect is relied on so heavily. (Maybe to try and replicate a kind of depth-of-field effect?). It remains unfortunate that such a hideous visual effect is one of Death March's only unique signifiers.

After incapacitating the homunculi, Satou goes up against Zen, and the fight is exactly what you would expect from this kind of series. Satou is basically invincible, so there's no tension or excitement to be had in seeing him do battle with anything; there's no need for creativity, skill, or surprise in any of these combat encounters, so Satou's battle with the undead king is no different from any other fight he's had over the course of the season. The show tries to make the encounter worthwhile by having Zen monologue about his tragic backstory, but it's too trite to inspire any sympathy or intrigue. The only mildly compelling point to be found is Zen's mention of having died and been reborn into his role, similar to Arisa, though it isn't clear if Zen came from another world or just lived multiple lives in this one.

Admittedly, the escape sequence that follow's Zen's defeat is the best portion of the episode; even with the show's requisite animation problems, there is some levity and momentum on display here. The sequence of Satou frantically scrambling across a tumultuous lake with Mia in his arms is the closest Death March's animation has ever gotten to being memorable.

The episode ends on a bizarre note, not because anything that happens is out of place, but because the epilogue feels as if it could be the conclusion to the whole season. Satou adds another servant girl into his harem, this time one of the homunculi that have all drafted themselves into his service, and all of the other girls he's met gather to cry over how worried they were about their master. Even Zena pops up to offer an almost-confession of love that might have been sweet in a show with a better script and characters. Satou riding off into the sunset with his gaggle of servants and slaves is exactly the image you might imagine this series would end on, and yet there are still a few more episodes to go. Given how little time is left in the season, I imagine this will either be another short arc or a collection of standalone episodes. Either way, I can only hope that they don't try to ramp things up to another series of episode-long battles, because this episode proved that Death March should stay as far away from that kind of prolonged spectacle as possible.

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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