Mini Review: Death Billiards

Death Billiards is one of the four releases to come out of the Anime Mirai – or Young Animator Training Project – for 2013, which is a project used to train new animators with the help of an actual animation studio. Even if you’re not familiar with this project, you’re probably familiar with Little Witch Acadamia, which was Studio Trigger’s contribution for this same year. The animations that get produced are single, self-contained episodes that are about thirty minutes long, and released as a batch into theaters during March.

Little Witch Acadamia ended up being the most talked about and praised release of not only this year, but probably of the Young Animator Training Project as a whole (which started in 2010), but I would actually rather talk about Death Billiards, because it’s a fascinating little product that I feel didn’t get talked about enough.

Seeing as how short it is, I’m pretty much going to be covering most of what happens in it, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest watching it now before continuing. It’s so short that there’s really no reason you shouldn’t anyways.

The big question at the end of Death Billiards is: who went to Heaven, and who went to Hell? Or, perhaps more to the point, how do you judge the two characters to the point where you can actually confidently answer that question?

As you watch, you observe the characters in order to learn as much about them as possible, and decide whether you like them or not. They both seem pretty well-mannered and decent at the start, but once the game of billiards is underway, you also learn about their faults. Namely how the young guy is kind of a cheating asshole, and the old man used to be a bully in his past.

It’s easy given what transpires to say that the young guy should go to Hell and the old man to Heaven, after all, the young guy’s girlfriend killed him because he cheated on her, and he also resorted to violence in order to win the game.

But nothing’s really that simple, is it?

What if, like the old man, he was also going to grow into a calm, quiet old man? The old man was a bully in his past, is it fair to give him a pass just because he was actually able to live long enough to grow out of this behavior? Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes in their life. And yes, the young guy fought with the old man in order to stop him from winning, but the bartender himself said that he had not forbidden the use of violence to win. Is it fair to condemn the young guy for it when it was something he was actually perfectly allowed to do?

Then as the two are lead into their respective elevators, each going to who knows where, you come to a sudden realization: you don’t even know these two guys’ names.

Before they were sent into the elevators, the young guy makes a spiel about how people are never born on equal footing due to any number of circumstances. It’s a bit pathetic coming from him, considering we saw that the old man’s childhood consisted of his house getting bombed during what’s presumably World War II, but that’s actually the entire point. The young guy doesn’t know that about the old man.

The young guy also just assumes that he’s the one that’s obviously going to Hell, simply because of how he’s seen the old man during their billiard match. He knows nothing of his past at all, yet he’s so quick to judge the old man as a good person, and himself as awful (at least in comparison).

It really speaks about how we’re so quick to judge other people, despite knowing hardly anything about them. Hell, sometimes we even act like we do know everything about someone when that’s actually completely wrong.

We were only shown snippets of the young guy’s and old man’s past, and their interactions while they were in the bar. Can we even say that’s enough information to judge who should go where at all?

Ultimately Death Billiards raises more questions than answers, but that’s because there really is no one answer. At the end, the bartender’s assistant asks him who went where, and rather than say that he can’t tell her, he asks her what she thinks. When she says that she’s asking because she doesn’t know, the bartender seems to show a slight smirk before finally saying that he can’t tell her. But is he refusing because he’s not allowed to tell her, or because he literally can’t tell her? Judgement of morals and character are for you to decide for yourself, not for you to be told. The bartender is asking not only his assistant in that scene, but also the audience.

So, which do you think?


One Comment on “Mini Review: Death Billiards”

  1. Panait Ciprian says:

    old man had to go to heaven, the young one to hell because their past actions do not decide their fate, just their behavior during the game. the slick old man determined Decim to change that decision. The true mistery is what he told Decim to do that.

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