…then allow us to clarify a few things for you. Yeah, that’s how this episode basically works. If you were lost at any point in last week’s episode, then allow Nona to give you a simpler, more straightforward take on the show’s premise. We even get down to brass tacks and debate whether or not Decim had sent the husband and wife pair from last week’s episode to the right places. Oh yeah, the void is pretty much just the deep darkness. Well, there’s no ambiguity there, then. If you lose, you get sent to the void. In other words, the wife failed in Decim’s eyes. The new assistant — we don’t know her name yet — doesn’t quite agree, though. She, too, noticed something odd about how Machiko had acted near the end of the whole ordeal. As I have discussed, perhaps the wife was lying in order to spare Takeshi the anguish of thinking he had killed his own kid. I’m not convinced, though.
Everyone seems to acknowledged that Machiko did cheat, but the assistant kind of suggests that Takeshi’s jealousy had driven his poor wife to commit something she would forever regret. And hey, we all make mistakes, right? Well, the assistant is quite empathetic on that front: “I’m sure it could have been just a one-time thing, couldn’t it?” What does that mean, though? Everyone reacts to adultery differently, and you can’t just brush it off as a one-time thing. One man might find it in his heart to forgive his wife for cheating once, and another man might not. Neither of them are wrong to feel the way that they do. Personally, I would never forgive cheating of any sort. Takeshi’s problem is that he could never maturely discuss his insecurities with his wife. Of course, we can also acknowledge that Takeshi’s jealousy had poisoned their marriage, but then again, the mature adult would simply walk away, i.e. not cheat on her husband.
Plus, I’m still bothered by the fact that when they realized that they were playing a game with their lives at stake, Machiko never told Takeshi about the baby. He had to start hurting her — inadvertently or otherwise, we’ll never really know — in order for the wife to reveal the truth about the baby inside her or, more accurately, was inside her. Sure, they lost all their memories when they died only to get said memories back slowly over the course of the game. Still, I don’t think knowing whether or not you’re pregnant is one of those memories. Otherwise, the story would have made a big deal out of Machiko realizing that she is (or was) pregnant. The story makes a huge point whenever one of them recovered a significant memory, so why would it be subtle and coy about Machiko’s pregnancy? As such, I suspect she knew from the start that she was pregnant, and was hoping to secure a future for herself and her husband. So then why would the wife lie at the end in order to spare the husband’s feelings?
Well, Machiko didn’t initially remember whether or not she had cheated. She also didn’t remember how much she truly loved Takeshi. Whether or not cheating is forgivable in your book, she still cared for the guy. She still truly regretted what she had done. So in order to make amends, she allows Takeshi to believe that she is the bad guy. The baby’s fate doesn’t matter anymore, since she realized she was dead. But don’t me wrong; I still think she is the bad guy. The sad thing is, so is Takeshi. Ultimately, they’re both flawed individuals, and they both had serious issues that should have prevented them from every marrying in the first place. Takeshi was unable to actually communicate with his wife. Instead, he emotionally abused her by constantly accusing her of cheating. Meanwhile, who actually cheats just because your husband suspects you of cheating? Like what?
At the end of the day, we’re right back where we started, which is a good thing. A lot of this week’s episode is rather disappointing, as it serves only to dispel much of the confusion anyone in the audience might have had after watching last week’s episode. But as I have argued in the past, I don’t think that sort of thing is necessary. It’s not like Death Parade‘s premise is even all that bizarre or convoluted, so we should just let people figure things out on their own. Come to their own conclusions, if you will. And as you can see, with the episode trying to spell everything out, there was the danger that the assistant might have just given us the true solution to last week’s dilemma. But in the end, she merely shows us that these arbiters are hardly perfect. They can mistakes; they’re still human in one way or another. That is, however, troubling in some respects. How can you have imperfect individuals ultimately decide other people’s fates?
In the end, perhaps the arbiters and their assistants are in some sort of purgatory, and their imperfections are thus purposeful. Like Nona says, they can only guess at what the participants are thinking. As such, Decim better has a good understand of human nature in order to condemn someone to the void on nothing more than a hunch. But again, I don’t think the assistant gave us the true solution. Rather, her job is to convince Decim that there’s still a lot that he doesn’t know about humanity and their feelings. He’s quite robotic in his ways, and perhaps this is why he needs to have front row seats to the dramatic play that is human nature. Maybe this is why he’s obsessed with mannequins. Maybe he’s trying to fashion a replica of a man, but he ends up creating nothing but creepy simulacra because he’s missing that certain something that defines the human experience. As a result, he and others will stand here and judge the lives of others until they can learn what it means to be alive.
But isn’t this unfair to the participants? Why should they be guinea pigs just so some emotionless guy can learn the human experience? Meh, they’re already dead. And they did not exactly live good lives before they died. And to be honest, with the world in its current state, i.e. careening towards irreversible climate change, I’m not sure reincarnation is so much better than the comfortable finality of nothingness that comes with the void. I mean, would you rather suffer in a dying world or just blink out of existence? C’mon, who honestly wants to suffer? Anyway, I’m a bit disappointed with this episode, but hopefully, the weeks to come won’t feel the need to hold our hands. The preview for the next episode would suggest that we will quickly return to our regularly scheduled judgments of tragically flawed human souls.
Stray notes & observations:
— This is where the assistant first arrives in her strange, new world. Lying there upon the leaves, she almost look as though she is already in the serene embrace of death. At the very least, we’re in some sort of afterlife, if not purgatory.
— In case there was any doubt with regards to what we’re dealing with…
— So their eyes are supposed to resemble film reels…
— According to Nona, they are to judge people on not just their memories, but also “the extent of the humanity they display during all this.” So does this help us decide who got sent where in the Death Billiards OVA? I’m inclined to think that the young man got the chance to reincarnate. More over, perhaps the old man had whispered in Decim’s ear that he would like to concede. After all, the old man wanted to return to life in order to see his dear wife once more, but once he realized that he had already died, there’s no way that would actually be possible.
— The episode also suggests that Nona is the boss around here. If she doesn’t outright run the whole show, she is at least superior in rank to Decim…
— And this is where the short, pale girl retires after a hard day’s work. Of course, it’s hard to say if there are even day and nights in this world. Plus, if this is where Nona goes, where do the others go in order to get some rest?