Reviews of “Death Billiards” (2013) and related work
- Spin-off: Death Parade (2015)
“Death Billiards” (2013)
Seen in 2016.
Two men walk into a bar.
Essentially a pilot episode for Death Parade (2015). So similar to the TV series that followed, in all of its aspects, that it could easily have been a mid-season episode following the installation of the Chavvot image over the wheelless “roulette” board. I believe this is the only place in the combined scripts where Decim claims to treat those who die at the same time, and his statement to the effect that the dead go either to Heaven or to Hell is only challenged in the series.
‣ Death Parade (2015)
Seen in 2016.
In the modern world, a broken-down celestial bureaucracy is straining to process the souls of 7000 people dying each hour. The judges of the dead take the memories of one pair at a time and arrange a game to pressure them into revealing their honshin, an emotional basis for determining whether to send each soul into the void—an eternal fall through darkness—or back to Earth for reincarnation.
Spiritual fantasy patterned after court drama. Likely for the better, the show does not take its own premises seriously. All of the dead are Japanese, yet only one of them is old, or two—a married couple!—if you include “Death Billiards” (2013). One may speculate that the elderly are mostly dealt with by some other means, and that judges like Decim—a male version of the Roman Decima crossed with an upscale bartender—are only used for difficult cases. The bureaucracy has specialists, but it’s unclear whether it’s got rules for saying who goes where, and consequently, what is considered a difficult case. Also, judges aren’t meant to have emotions, which is a dumb restriction to place on a legal system, especially one without a law. Don’t watch this for the worldbuilding.
While gloomy, this is not a horror show by any means. Aside from the ridiculous scenes of play, it’s a tonally sensitive, relatively mature and clever little chamber play with decent moments of comic relief and an emotional conclusion. Solid craftsmanship all around.