Monday, April 8, 2013

Death Billiards - Review

Year: 2013 (Anime Mirai)
Studio: Madhouse
# of episode: 1
Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa

As the newest addition to the Young Animator Training Project from Madhouse, Death Billiards is a strange little show that I can't quite put my finger on. It's morbid and dramatic, but also oddly sympathetic at the end when the pieces come together. I can't imagine anyone other than Madhouse handling this project – it's just something right up their alley in terms of mood and symbolism. I tried not to include any spoilers, so this should be safe for those who haven't seen it.  

The story starts with two strangers (an old man and young man) finding their way to a classy looking bar, but when asked, neither remember how they got there. The bar tender explains the situation without telling them where they are, and demands them to play a game with their life as wager. The young man attempts to escape but with every entrance blocked and no way of refusing, he complies. Decided by a roulette, the game turns out to be a round of pool, only not the kind you normally play – instead of numbers, the balls are marked by various body parts linked, quite literally, to each respective player. To win, they have to pocket all eight balls from their opponent, except the consequence associated with the outcome is not revealed and they have to play on the assumption that something horrific will happen – potentially death – if they lose. As the intense game involving lots of shouting and fighting nears its end, the life of each person flashes before their eyes and they recall what happened to them before they came here.  

I'll be completely honest with you, I'm not sure what exactly we were supposed get out of this story. No, the lack of understanding on my part doesn't it make it bad, just enigmatic and hard to make a well-informed analysis to that end. In part, it criticizes social inequalities through the young man's indignant outburst against society, but it also seem to encapsulate the frustration over the uncertainty of life in general. It's no question that we don't live in an egalitarian utopia where everyone has equal access to the same resource and our success is influenced, to a degree, by our upbringing, people we meet and even the amount of luck we happen to have, which are all fundamentally things we can't control. But regardless, we are ultimately responsible for the choices we make in life and choices we do have. At the end of the day, rationalizing our bad decisions by laying the blame on someone else won't give us peace. But I'm glad the story recognizes that living is never easy. Make no mistake, neither character is perfectly moral – they both satisfied their own desires at the expense of others and committed less-than-respectable acts at some point in their life – but I believe we are supposed to perceive them in different lights. While the young man is an emotional mess half of the time, he does seem to be plagued with regrets that we can empathize with. On the other hand, the old man readily accepts his predicament with a detached demeanour that comes across as a whole lot more sinister. I'm not sure what this contrasts symbolizes, but I think we can make a good guess about their fate on the basis of that. Also, the elevators are a big hint, if it's supposed to be a hint at all. Of course, if uncertainty is something it's trying to underscore here, we can never be sure of the answer and what transpired is up for individual interpretation. 

Animation wise, Death Billiards is solid throughout and the fight sequence is definitely the highlight. I'm also very fond of the slightly cartoony character design. Well, the production did receive more than 2mil and I'm glad the money was put to good use.

Overall: 8/10 


  1. Nice tabling! and good review, I might give this a look. :)

    1. It took me about forever to get the codes right haha. I don't think I'm gonna do this too often, but I should be used to it after a few more
      And yes, do give this one a look, it's not as tantalizingly dark as I would've hoped, but the bizarreness is captivating in its own way I guess. I want your opinion on it.

    2. If you set up a template in your post, you can just add the links and you're done. =) It's less annoying.

      I'll get to it soon, though keeping up with all the comments is driving me nuts, haha. I guess I'll have to not do that as much on a site as big as RC. ;_;

    3. What did I tell ya....>>...*cough* and someone was going to reply to everyone, don't say I didn't warn ya. I swear this is not my jealousy talking lol. But take a break and get back to it later~

  2. yeah i just did a video review on it & i might have went overboard with a 10/10 LOL, but Idk i honestly thought it all worked together so well within it's meager time limit.

    1. Haha, no worries, I think it's a pretty great episode. My only gripe is they tried to cram too much into too little time, but that can't really be helped in this case. Idea wise, it's nothing short of brilliant and ambitious, and it could really benefit from being told in a couple of chapters or rather than some 20 odd minutes.

  3. watch death parade. It explains everything. Normally the old man had to go to heaven and the young one to hell but after the old man says something to Decim their places are reversed. I have no idea what the old man says as normally his words should not change Decim's decision .