Going Down The List: Death Billiards

(MAL LINK)

Death Billiards and its sequel, the TV anime Death Parade, didn’t leave a lasting impression on me, which is why it was so difficult for me to get started on this post. And that’s kind of sad, because while watching Death Billiards, and again while I was watching Death Parade, I got the feeling that it was special, or at least unique, in some way. And someone else must have agreed when it came to Death Billiards, otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten a TV sequel. Sadly Death Parade didn’t end up being wildly popular.

So why did I think Death Billiards was special? Well, first of all it revolved completely around the concepts of death and dying, which is not something that most anime deal with. Even if an anime involves the deaths of several different characters, which is quite rare, the actual process of dying and disappearing from the world is almost never part of the story. Surviving characters grieve the dead, but that’s about it. In Death Billiards, it’s the dead who get to speak. Or, rather, the people who are unaware that they are, in fact, dead are coerced into pouring out their feelings in order to judge whether they lived good or bad lives.

LOREM IPSUM. In that sense, the show borrows many concepts from Buddhism, though in a less complex and more binary way. In Buddhism, or at least Theravada Buddhism, your good and bad deeds influence whether you end up in animal samsara or human samsara, you can’t get to nirvana just by being a somewhat decent person. But I digress, because that black-and-white judgement is what made Death Billiards so impactful for me(at the time). Death Parade, on the other hand, focuses more on how this system that judges humans is very inhumane and flawed, and I found that very interesting as well. So, why didn’t it have a lasting impact then, if it was so interesting? To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it aired during a time when I watched a lot of different shows, some of which were really good(Shirobako). I can only guess.

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