Death Parade Episode 12 (Finale) – Empathy and Sympathy; Dolls and Free Will

Last episode was pretty great. I had quite a bit to say, check out that lengthy post-episode write-up. Mayu made a declaration, that she’d make the decision, she’d sacrifice herself for what she loves, and so long she deems something as meaningful in her life, it all that matters. On the other spectrum we had Chiyuki, who deemed her own life meaningless, and gave us a beautiful ice skating and memory-montage sequence.

And now we need to see how it all shakes down, judging others, understanding them, and the “plot”, which had thankfully not been the focus of the show, leaving the stage for vignettes about humanity.

Thoughts and Notes:

1) The Dolls’ Heart-Strings:

Death Parade anime episode 12 notes -  Nona rises against her kind's lot

1) So, Arbiters don’t have emotions (obviously a lie, though I guess they do lack empathy), so who is pulling Nona’s strings? Is everything done according to some God’s will? Is she defying the will of the one who created her? Not too unlike parents and children, who become their own adults.

2) Oh man, Oculus’s words to Nona, how could this be the finale? There’s enough material for an entire new show hidden behind those words, stretching both into the past and into the future. Nona is a doll, set to overlook other dolls, but who set her on her position? Yet another doll. And who set him? There’s the hint here that Oculus is as Nona is, or he at least was, perhaps a never-ending string of puppets, long-lost from its original goal. His message is one of hopes turned to ashes, speaking of what Nona will find, and the existence and malaise it may yet bring her.

But it’s not over here. What are the dolls made of? What is this whole tower erected upon? Turns out it’s erected on the souls cast to the void. Empty husks of people left after their souls depart. Empty husks, incapable of change, incapable of thinking of life and making the right call. Why only those sent to the Void? Is there truly reincarnation, or is it all just a lie? Is it because most Arbiters, like Ginti, send everyone to the abyss?

And there’s another option, arbiters can’t change not because they’re built on the ground of people who can’t change and thus were sent to the void, or of dead people who thus can’t change, but arbiters are built on people, and people can’t change, period. It’s not necessarily true (we certainly wouldn’t want to think so!), but it might very much be in line with what a doll like Ginti would think, centuries (or millennias) later, after becoming Oculus.

3) Nona sees her kind as people, who can change. This is the war to assert individuality, to assert that arbiters must not be arbiters. That arbiters can feel, that arbiters can change. That arbiters can be “not-dolls”, not arbiters.

2) Death in the Land of the Living:

Death Parade anime episode 12 notes - Chiyuki observes her mother

1) Little Chiyuki is so adorable.

2) I thought they went to the bottom level of the tower, where all the dolls’ remains were left, but is it possible they went down to Earth? Then again, who knows. Decim said, “This is reality,” but he might have simply meant, “This is not a dream,” as opposed to “This is the land of the living.” More likely, even.

Well, guess it’s “our reality” reality. “Suicide Tour” seems to be very much inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life. The question is why Decim is doing it, to understand Chiyuki for the sake of understanding her? To help him judge her? Or just for her sake?

3) Chiyuki is now being given the same question, the same test as Mayu was. Will she give up someone else’s life in order for the life she holds most dear? The judgment is usually simple, as people choose their lives over others’, and the judgment is there to make sure of it. Mayu was given the same test, but with someone else’s life instead of her own. Chiyuki committed suicide, which makes her problematic, because she’s willing to surrender her life away, but that does not mean there isn’t darkness within.

Meaning, this test Decim is giving her now isn’t going to change anything, unless she was given a renewed taste for life in Quindecim, and now in her home, seeing her mother again. Regardless, that he and Ginti provide the same “ultimate test” shows that they’re cut from the same cloth. Well, dolls on a manufacturing line.

4) Ah ha, before she thought humans can’t understand one another, but her time in Quindecim taught her, humans really are just that easy to understand, to relate to, and you don’t need to dig deeper. She told Decim as much after the two-parter with the killers.

Hm, but now mother says the same, that people can’t understand one another. Is it possible that this is the message, and somehow it’d mean what Decim and the others do isn’t entirely misguided? Well, at least not attempting to understand others, if not their goal. Perhaps Chiyuki only meant “People aren’t that complicated” in the sense that if you tug on their strings, they will move. The final “statement” on understanding others that’d be given between Chiyuki and Decim will be quite meaningful, to the show’s message.

3) The Sympathy of a Saint; The Sympathy of a Human:

Death Parade anime episode 12 notes - Decim hears of Chiyuki's sacrifice

1) Chiyuki had gained empathy, and sympathy, for the entire human race, by seeing a few in front of her face, she now feels it for every single member, even those she doesn’t know. She understood them. She understood them because it was her job as an assistant arbiter. She understood them, because as a fellow human, she could do naught else.

Chiyuki understood those humans, and now understands those who live, and she cannot take from them. She knows they’ll only wish for what she wishes, and she had already made her decision.

Decim is so surprised. Chiyuki doesn’t care just about those who will die in her place, but those who will remain behind the one who died. Chiyuki’s compassion isn’t just for the one she kills, and those who die, but for every life affected by death, meaning every single life there is. It is beyond him. Ginti would just not judge her, but is this not exactly what being “rewarded” should be about? Or perhaps Decim is just overcome with grief, because his judgments only revolve around those who die, missing the bigger tapestry of those left behind, which also impacts the actions of those who try to go back.

2) Chiyuki’s sorrow over others not understanding her, something she may not have had control over, transformed into sorrow over not trying to understand others’ feelings, something she did. How can you accuse others of not understanding you, not even trying, when you’re guilty of the same? That’s a big part of what being a human, of being a hedgehog, is about.

3) A lie. Decim cried, and his “Arbiter Eye” became “real”, because he stopped being an Arbiter? Doesn’t matter. What matters is Decim felt grief, over the grief he caused. He finally felt sympathy, even if not to Chiyuki’s situation, then to her sorrow. No, I think it’s incorrect. Decim truly did feel sympathy to Chiyuki, he felt the wish he could trade his life for hers. He felt sympathy because he felt pain over causing others pain, by not considering their feelings, just as Chiyuki did over her mother’s feelings.

4) Humans are but Dolls with Cut Strings:

Death Parade anime episode 12 notes - Chiyuki begs Decim

1) Ok, Decim crying, admitting his wish to understand Chiyuki, that’s where my own eyes really got moist, not just a thin and ultra-momentary glimmer.

2) So, there’s an equal measure of suffering to go around. Either you make the arbiters into humans, and then they suffer because they must judge their fellow humans, or they’re unfeeling dummies, which cause more suffering to the humans whom they judge. But will humans judging humans lead to less pain, or will those judged perhaps feel even more pain, including to those who judge them? Oculus presents what seems to be a very humane approach – they keep the dummies as unfeeling to protect them from feeling. Nona’s answer is that being a doll is hurtful as well.

Also, a fascination with death requires a fascination with life. Thus, the arbiters cannot help but wish to live.

3) See, he smiled!

4) Memine doesn’t come back, she doesn’t agree with Mayu’s judgment. And like Decim, seems Ginti creates mementos for guests who left a mark on him, via his own brand of dolls.

1) Ok, seeing Decim smile at his new guests, then seeing Chiyuki’s doll, that broke me ;_;

Post Episode / Show Thoughts:

Death Parade anime episode 12 notes - Smiling Decim

This episode, this series ended leaving the room for a continuation. This seems to be a trivial thing, but in the case of this show, it’s not. There are more cases to be judged. There’s the changed Decim. There’s the eternity of the dolls who live in the present and who try to get freedom, the freedom to feel, the freedom to live, and the freedom to die. There is Oculus, who does not feel as if he’s malignant, but playful, to alleviate his boredom, and also feels incrediblysad, in that he’s just trying to save Nona and the rest from false hopes, because he’s already seen where this road leads, which is nowhere. He’s trying to protect his precious dolls, his precious children, from being broken.

But being broken isn’t the “meaning” of life. He’s told us. To live is to die, to die is to be judged, to judge is to judge. There is no meaning here. He’s trying to protect his dolls from being broken, and that’s all there is to it.

Did Chiyuki get reincarnated? Where did her doll go? What happened with Mayu and Harada, because if they’re together, it’s not really the void, is it? The point of all these questions is that they don’t matter, just like it never mattered where each of the people we’ve seen judged were sent. Those are entirely the wrong sort of questions, but the show fed them to us to keep us guessing. So, what are the right questions? As always, they revolve around why. Why do the arbiters send each people to where they’ve sent them, why do the people judged act the way they do? And the answer is always the same – empathy and sympathy, and lack thereof.

It doesn’t matter whether Ginti sends people to the Void or to be Reincarnated, and it doesn’t matter what each means. What it matters is what sort of mentality it is that believes everyone should go to the Void, and what it means of the situations that leads to these judgments?

This show had masterfully woven an ongoing series of “Tiger or the Princess?” series of questions, ever since the OVA – where do people get sent? Did the arbiter make the right call? Is the situation workable? Did Chiyuki think you can understand others or not?

And while the answer to this question doesn’t matter, almost by definition, it’s the journey to discover the answer that matters, a journey revolving around empathy and sympathy, a journey not about whether we can understand other people, but about attempting to. A journey of humanity.

I’ll give this show 8.8/10. It always surprised me, it had given me beautiful vignettes, it’s made me emotional, and it made me thoughtful. There’s not a lot more one can ask for. It even did not overuse its “backdrop mystery plot”, which often is quite weak. Why not higher than 8.8? Why not 10? Because. That is always the answer in these lives of ours, better get used to it.

Return to the Death Parade Episodic Notes page.

13 comments on “Death Parade Episode 12 (Finale) – Empathy and Sympathy; Dolls and Free Will

  1. Aeternix says:

    I agree with your final overview. The show very much speaks to the “why” than the “what”, however I feel like there are some answers the show gives us. Answers are important, but I agree that they are not the central focus (thankfully so!). At the same time, I feel like the creators positioned themselves perfectly for another season.

    This season asked the question throughout: what is the nature of judgement and why do we judge? What does it mean to judge and is an emotionless person (a god figure) perfect for that? The answer we seemed to get is no. Humans should judge humans for they understand empathy and through their emotions and experience of living (something arbiters do not have according to one of the rules – 2 I believe) they can understand the complexities of living far more than one who has never wanted to understand them (Giniti – shown by his poor judgement and the lack of Memine). Everything seemed to fall into this thesis, however the show did a 180 in the last few moments. A second question was raised in the form of a fourth – previously unknown – rule: “Four: arbiters cannot have feelings . . . for it will ruin them”.

    Now Decim is now an arbiter with humanity, the ability – due to Chiyuki – to share life experiences with humans. However, this fourth rule throws the wrench in this nice conclusion and forces us to ask a question: Is it possible for someone with human emotions to judge another and possibly give a negative conclusion to them? We see the agony that Decim went through with ONE choice and that was even a positive outcome. The next season (which I really desire) seems to hint towards a greater theme, away from gods and emotionless arbiters and more to human on human interaction. Can we, as humans, be the best judge due to our sympathy? Can we handle the agony of choice?

    This show has been superb and the amount I’ve just written in response shows that. It’s rare I get extremely passionate about a show nowadays, but this one really sparked something in me. A criticism I heard against this show was it’s weak writing. Mainly in the idea that the “emotionless” arbiters have emotions and the “feeling” arbiter (Decim) has no feelings. I would be interested in your response to this, but I feel as though since the arbiters are created from the cast off souls of the void. then their one note personality (Nona = rebellion, Giniti = rage, Clavice (elevator boy) = lonely/isolation, Queen (memory chick) = glutton, and Castra = (seduction – her name also means “camp” which could help signify this) makes sense due to their “unchanging nature” as Oculus put it. Decim is the only one with diverse emotions, which makes him human. These are my thoughts at least as I have thought the show has been excellent in terms of writing and I would be interested to see if you agree or disagree on that fact.

    Overall, through fluid animation, crazy good sound (the voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard) and an excellent set up I think this show easily is one of the best this season and will fit nicely in my top 5. I rate this show 9/10. It’s a bit higher than yours, but I think for my category of 9 (A piece of work that shocked me while exceeding all expectations) it fits perfectly.

    Great write up!

    • S&P says:

      The music, bro… I’m buying dat smooth OST

      • Guy says:

        It’s interesting, outside of the Chavvot/skating music, and the music playing at the end of the episode with the killers, I can’t actually remember any of the music. I remember commenting once or twice that it was chill jazzy music, but I can’t recall it. The sort of music that enhances the overall experience but gets out of the way. Would be interesting to listen to the OST, to notice the songs I can’t recall.

  2. awriterofsorts says:

    The final episode absolutely broke my heart. I will never be able to handle crying Decim.

    • Guy says:

      Hearing Decim cry left me cold, the acting there isn’t comparable to Aoi Yuuki as Victorique in Gosick episode 22 (one of my favourite scenes in anime, truly), but seeing it, and the moments where he gasps, caught in his pain, caught in the understanding of the pain he caused? Definitely a shattering moment.

      • awriterofsorts says:

        Interesting, I may have to check that reference out, so thanks! And I know what you mean about Decim, but the symbolism of it, for sure.

        Later: I must say, the youtube link didn’t hit home so strong, but a lot of it is to do with context, so. And it is good acting.

        • Guy says:

          Well, yeah, it doesn’t hit you emotionally as much if you don’t know what’s involved, obviously. It’s just that crying in anime is almost always bad to terrible, with it being average at best. Talking about the “acting” of crying, the sound. Decim’s was worse than usual, and I supplied that as an exquisite example of “good crying acting” in anime, heh.

      • awriterofsorts says:

        Obviously, heh. It’s an odd thought that most acting should be weaker on this, because if you can get actors to cry in real life, surely you can get a voice actor to do so behind scenes for realistic sound. But there you are.

  3. Finding out the arbiters were supposedly emotionless just reminded me of the contrast between Ryoko and Yuki from Haruhi Suzumiya.

  4. Psykomerc says:

    Hey, I saw your comment on reddit also! I didn’t get a chance to rewatch episode 11, but did it show Ginti’s cat being displeased with his judgement of Mayu? Because when I watched episode 12 and Ginti mentions Memine hadn’t been around, I took it to link to what the Oculus said but probably did not tell the Arbiters. Rule 4. Arbiters may not work hand in hand with life, for that will ruin them. I took that as a subtle tie in with Memine being removed from Ginti’s bar.

    • Guy says:

      That’s definitely a possible and interesting read, but feels less in line with the themes of the show (about unfair judgments), and we don’t actually know Memine to be alive.

      Memine left Ginti after he said he’s an arbiter and that’s why he does what it does, when Mayu said she pities the arbiters. Of course, my read for this moment is very much speculation, and not really substantiated by anything. But it just fits what I think the show’s trying to say.

      Or perhaps it’s to show Arbiters are humans and have to deal with people they care for moving on, which is also shown by Decim’s dolls and Ginti’s dolls, as well, mementos of past guests. If anything, it shows the lie of Oculus’s rules – Arbiters already are humans, minus the experience.

      • Psykomerc says:

        Awesome, I only ask because I may have missed something in episode 11 that shows something when Memine leaves. I didn’t get a chance to rewatch so it’s been bothering me all morning at work!

  5. Legend says:

    “…of being a hedgehog”

    Don’t think nobody noticed. I read all of it and I noticed. If I had to guess, that was an “is anyone actually reading all of this?” test, but maybe not. Either way, it did not go unappreciated.

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