by Zac Bertschy,
We're almost at the finale of Death Parade, which means all the loose ends are beginning to tie up, and unanswered questions are starting to reveal their secrets. This penultimate episode focuses on two things: one, Chiyuki's backstory and how she died, and two, Ginti's final judgment on the two souls that have been haunting his bar since episode 6, superfan Mayu and boyband heartthrob Harada.
Chiyuki's backstory is pretty predictable, which is a little surprising given how strong the writing is in this series and how much they've been building up to this moment. Once they revealed the ice skates on her personalized playing cards last week, I kinda figured it'd be something like this – talented figure skater with big aspirations sustains a career-ending performance and so she takes her own life. Chiyuki's posthumous realization to Decim that it isn't worth trying to understand anyone rang a little hollow for me – she's overcome with emotional nihilism now, after swallowing a super-sized portion of sociopathic melodramatics thanks to Detective Scumbag and his murderous pal only a few episodes ago?
At first I didn't quite buy the sudden shift into “man, humanity is bullshit” territory from Chiyuki, the show's emotional center, but it's supposed to be a moment of weakness following the intense remembrance of how she died. The system even gets to her, I suppose – how can anyone maintain optimism about life in the face of your own greatest failures and insecurities flooding back into your mental space? Thankfully, Decim isn't having any of it – her judgment appears to be complete, but he knocks her out with a laced cocktail and takes her into the elevator himself. Decim seems to have shifted from curiosity about human emotion into a deep-seeded desire to fully understand it, even obtain it himself, and sees Chiyuki as his guide and partner – clearly strong feelings have developed. Maybe those emotions are strong enough for him to try and stick it to the very system that burdened him with all of this unfairness in the first place. I think maybe that's what we're in for here (provided Oculus doesn't get in the way, but that happens in the post-credits stinger, as expected).
What's going on with Ginti is a lot more complicated and reveals more about the judgment process than we've seen yet. Unable to send Mayu and Harada to the void after their death game, Ginti provides Mayu with a false choice designed to incriminate her soul. He claims Harada's soul can sidestep the void if he sends another soul in its place, and gives Mayu a choice, showing her a photo of a dude and busting out a big red button. Send this dude in his place, he says, and you can save him. He pushes her into it, even; she asks what sort of man the guy in the photo is, and he replies with “well, what kind of person would he have to be in order for you to chuck Harada's essence into the soul dumpster?” which sends her over the edge and she makes the decision he expected her to make all along, which in turn makes his desired outcome painfully simple. Off they go to the elevator.
Here's where we get the episode's most interesting reveal, in my estimation – Ginti explains what the void is, which is a “graveyard of souls” where you fall, for eternity, consumed by negative emotion. He manages to trick Mayu into thinking that if she takes the elevator with Harada – which is mislabeled as the elevator leading to reincarnation, even though it's headed straight for the trash bin – she'll be able to recover his soul and they can continue on together. He's half right – as it turns out, Mayu and Harada burst into points of light that intertwine and become one in their descent into the void. It's a nice touch, and it makes me wonder – this entire scenario is framed as though Ginti is tricking Mayu into showing the true darkness in her soul, mindlessly condemning a stranger to save her beloved, not even knowing if she's sending an innocent man to an eternity of hopelessness and despair. But that unification of souls in the void – did he do them a kindness? Was she proving her love for him instead, and off they go, forever united? Maybe Mayu softened Ginti's dark heart (so to speak) and even he's willing to pass judgments that are fairer to the human spirit? It's an interesting twist, but I'm curious to know if they'll have any time to expound on this or clarify it given we have maybe 22 minutes of story left and there's still an entire climax to go.
How all of this wraps up and whether or not the show succeeds thematically all rests on what happens with Decim and Chiyuki next week. The writing in this series has been above par nearly the entire time, and it's clear they have a lot to say about empathy and emotion and the crucial necessity of understanding other people. Chiyuki's role in that is paramount, and exactly what Decim has planned for her in that elevator will make all the difference. We'll find out next week!
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