Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Original Run: January 11, 2018 - March 29, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Fantasy, Harem, Isekai
Based on the Series Created By: Hiro Ainana

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Ichirou Suzuki (voiced by Shun Horie) is a video game programmer, and he has entered the death march for his latest project. Overworked and stressed, Ichirou breathes a sigh of relief upon finishing his job. Now, at long last, he can finally break away for a short nap.

When he wakes up, Ichirou finds himself in the world of what appears to be the very video game he had been working on. This dream of his includes fantasy monsters, old world settlements, and beings from many different races; as well as access to, of all things, an in-game menu screen. It is here where Ichirou notices three crucial details.

One: His character’s name is Satou. Two: He is only a Level 1 adventurer. Three: This dream of his is, in fact, not a dream.

Ichirou, now Satou, is indeed in a land of magic and danger, and his first challenge is an oncoming hoard of high-level enemies. In a panic, Satou unleashes his most powerful spell and successfully eliminates everything. This causes Satou’s level to skyrocket, and in an instant, he becomes the most powerful fighter in existence.

Satou must use his newfound strength and gaming knowledge to learn where he is and how he can return home.

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Series Positives

Was Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody any good? That is not an easy question to answer. Personally, I enjoyed this show quite a bit. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit this series had some problems; like a ton of them.

For instance, this show taught me the phrase “death march.” In software development, a death march describes a period of unsustainable work output to meet an absurd project deadline. I would agree that was an appropriate label for the events that took place during the first half of the first episode.

The issue was, the death march Satou, a.k.a. Ichirou, was on, only fit within these opening moments. The death march may have been a critical stepping stone for this story to exist, but it lost any relevance to anything once we got passed this small operating window.

What I’m essentially saying is, this show’s story was garbage. That notwithstanding, I can’t say the same for everything in this series.

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If nothing else, Death March stayed committed to its gimmick. This show took place in a role-playing video game (RPG), and everything about this series stemmed from that.

So you know where I’m coming from, I am a huge RPG fan. This show could have been a forgettable fantasy adventure because that was basically what this series was. Therefore, it is no exaggeration when I say Death March’s video game nature saved it from obscurity.

By the way, no, I don’t mean this show played it off as though it was based on a video game. The world of Death March was an RPG video game. All the hallmarks of one were present: leveling-up, party building, item management, experience grinding, puzzle solving, dungeon crawling. If you’ve played any RPG, then odds are you have experienced a mechanic that found its way into this series.

Again, speaking as an RPG player, Death March always had my interest because of this aspect.

To go along with the video game-ness of everything, there were two pillars to this show that stood firm.

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The first was how overpowered Satou became.

For those who may not know, in most RPGs, the player is always trying to make their character as strong as possible. To do this, a player must level up their character. This can be done in many ways, but killing enemies is the most common. The higher your level, the more powerful the enemies you can take on.

Within minutes of entering the fantasy world, Satou managed to go from Level 1 to about Level 310. The next highest level I saw a character have was maybe Level 40. For you RPG novices, the power gap between Satou and everyone else was the same as an ant facing off against a tank. Satou could one-shot an opponent just by throwing a penny. There was nothing that could touch him.

Plus, Satou’s sudden level jump gave him damn near unlimited skill points (a type of currency gained through leveling that allows a player to raise specific stats such as strength, endurance, etc.). Whatever video game Satou found himself in, it apparently had an incredibly complex list of optional skills to master. Thus, whenever Satou needed to perform a particular task, he quickly maxed out the necessary skill.

Satou could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.

For some of you, what I just described might sound like the makings of a story that is doomed to be dull. If there’s no challenge, there’s no tension. If there’s no tension, there’s no fun. If there’s no fun, there’s no point. Trust me, I had the same fear.

To Death March’s credit, there was something which helped prevent that possibility from becoming a glaring problem, and it served as this story’s second pillar.

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Without question, Satou was the best thing about this series, and there were two reasons why that was.

One: Satou was not only a game programmer, he was a gamer.

Satou knew how RPGs worked. The moment he opened his eyes and saw the world through a standard player-screen hub, he instantly put together what was going on. Sure, there was the quick period of panic I can only imagine one would have when they realized a dream-like fantasy realm was real. After that, though, Satou’s player instincts kicked in.

Satou never had his thumb stuck up his butt. He was always hyper-aware of his surroundings and tactical in how he moved around. Yes, in an RPG, you can jump into every fight hoping for the best. However, running-and-gunning is sometimes not the ideal strategy.

Part of the fun of any RPG is the role-playing aspect of its name. RPGs often have vast landscapes to explore and hours worth of lore to uncover. It’s hard to find out what’s going on when you’re killing everything in your path. An experienced player like Satou would know this, and that is why he didn’t only max out his combat skills.

Satou focused a lot of his attention on talents such as negotiation, deception, charm, and interrogation. One of my favorites was the ability known as Poker Face.

With a character as strong as Satou, any type of physical fighting turned into a joke. Thus, Death March was at its best when it wasn’t in battle.

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Two: Satou was an adult.

Although Satou reverted to a younger version of himself once in the fantasy world, he retained his grown-up mind. This was a massive relief.

For the record, I could say that this was fantastic solely because Satou’s maturity mixed with his gaming experienced allowed him to solve problems logically, see through obvious BS, and go about his journey without portraying bumbling buffoon. While all that was excellent, those were only secondary traits.

Satou thinking like an adult meant he didn’t think like a horny teenager that fell in love with every pretty face he saw.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but Death March was a harem anime. By the end of this series, Satou’s party included himself and seven female companions. And before I lose some of you, let me say a few things.

Death March wasn’t a great harem anime, but it wasn’t that way for the reasons you might be assuming.

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There was fanservice in this series, and it was awkward. However, the fanservice was never the point, and Satou was rarely involved in it. Did this show need to make it clear which female characters had big busts? No, it didn’t. Luckily, Satou was aware that girls have boobs, and that was the end of it. These weren’t some magical items to make your brain go blank.

There were instances in Death March when Satou came back from a night a brothel he was dragged to. There is no denying that he had some adult fun time. Regardless, he never once made a move on any of the women in his party. As Satou saw it, he was the leader of the group, and it would have been wrong for him to do anything with the people under his care.

To say it clearly, Death March should have been nothing. Most of it was nothing. This show only got one or two things right. Nevertheless, what it did get right, it got really right, and one of those things was Satou as this story’s protagonist.

Satou didn’t turn this into a good series, but he did prevent it from becoming a bad one.

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Series Negatives

To the people who made Death March: I don’t care about the food in this show. I don’t give a crap about what anything tastes like, so please stop describing every meal the characters had.

Was that a weird way to start this section off. Yes, it was, but goddamn it, this was annoying.

That aside, I’m not sure where I should begin. There were a lot of things this series didn’t have. Important things. Things you would think would be essential. For example, there was no end goal.

This story went nowhere. Nothing ever happened. There was never any indication that anything would happen. Satou got stuck in this fantasy world, and that was it. There was no big boss. There was no trying to find a way home. There was nothing.

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Don’t get me wrong, this series introduced the idea of a Demon Lord. Satou mentioned that he wanted to figure out how he got stuck. This show definitely brought these things up. Too bad that was where they stayed.

Death March only ever had ideas on a list. Sadly, these ideas weren’t on a To-Do list. It was more like a bucket list. This show would get around to doing these ideas when it had the chance, except that chance never came during this series’ run. If you think this “story” included a conclusion, boy are you in for a surprise.

The worst part was, even if there was an ending, there was nothing to get invested in.

This was where Satou’s overpowered strength backfired a little. He was never in any danger. There was nothing that could hurt him. Is it even possible to worry about such a character? If the answer is yes, you’re not going to find it in Death March.

As for all the other characters in this series: Who?

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There are three things a harem anime needs in order to be worth anything. The center needs to be strong, the harem members must be engaging, and there has to be a substantial reason why the members fall for the center. Satou took care of the first and the third. The second, though, had nothing.

Other than Satou, I’m having trouble remembering the characters that were in this series.

If I’m being honest, I shouldn’t have liked Death March in the slightest, let alone how much I actually did. I was not joking when I said the video game nature of this saved it. Despite the amount of nothingness that was in this show, I firmly believe that if you are a fan of RPGs or know how those types of games work, you may still get a kick out of this one.

Raise your hand if you see the problem with that?

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If you are not familiar with RPGs, there will be a ton of scenes in Death March that won’t make sense. This series would often not explain its reasonings.

There were moments when Satou did something, and I never questioned it. Satou performed actions that I, myself, have performed many times in many games. The way Satou moved, the way he thought, the way he predicted what was coming next have become second nature to me and others who regularly play RPGs. Fittingly enough, Death March operated under video game logic.

Unfortunately, if you are not familiar with this way of thinking, good luck with this show. The only things you are going to see are all the issues this series has.

Death March played to a specific audience. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if a story is too reliant on this, and it ignores everything else – such as plot, purpose, and characters – that story quickly limits the number of people who will get anything out of it.

Let’s finish this review off by going back to my original question. Was Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody any good? If you are a part of the target audience, sure. For everyone else, this show doesn’t have much of a foot to stand on.

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Final Thoughts

I’m somewhat stuck here, aren’t I?

On the one hand, this show had no story. The majority of its characters were forgettable and bland. There wasn’t much in the way of purpose or point. There was hardly any action. Details allowed things to move forward, but they often didn’t lead anywhere. Looking back on it all, yeah, this wasn’t great.

On the other hand, if the few things this series got right click with you, you’re probably going to like this one.

In the end, Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody is not a show I can recommend to everyone. For those I do recommend this series to, you know who you are.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Editor: Onions

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