Death Billiards (デス・ビリヤード Desu Biriyādo) is a 2013 animated short consisting of only one episode. It was created by Yuzuru Tachikawa, a producer from Madhouse. This short was produced as part of the Young Animator Training Project's Anime Mirai 2013 project, which funds young animators. It aired on March 2nd, 2013.
On October 31, 2014, it was announced that a television anime series based on the short, titled Death Parade, had been green lit for production and scheduled to air in 2015.
Somewhere is a mysterious bar known as the Quindecim, where a lone bartender named Decim works. Whenever two people emerge from the bar's elevators, those two must participate in a Death Game with their lives on the line, the results of which will reveal what secrets led them there and what their fate will be afterwards.
An Old Man gets out of an elevator and is greeted by a black haired woman who escorts him to a bar, where a Young Man is already waiting. Behind the bar is a mysterious white haired bartender that welcomes them to Quindecim. The Bartender asks them if they remember how they got there and neither the Old Man or Young man can remember what they were doing before they arrived.
The Bartender then declares that the two men will play a game and states the rules.
- He cannot tell them where this place is.
- The two men WILL play the game.
- The game is decided by a roulette (later mentioned to be predetermined).
- The men will risk their lives on the game.
- They are not allowed to leave until the game is over.
- Lastly, they have one hour to decide.
Additionally the Bartender mentions he can't say what happens if they win or lose. Yet, they may or may not leave either way.
The young man panics and tries to find a way out, but without success. Then both men suggest they wont play, the Bartender reveals a large room with "corpses" hanging by thread and recommends against that decision.
Threatened with "death" the Old Man immediately starts the roulette, revealing their Death Game to be Pool.
The black haired woman explains the rules of 8-ball pool, but with a twist. The balls are not stripes and solids, but blue and red. The balls have pictures of their organs on them in sync with their body, but for "decoration" only and to enhance the game.
Before the game begins, the young man explains that he spent a long time in college playing pool to impress a girl, he also really wants to apologize to his girlfriend for an argument so he wont hold back. The old man also wishes to leave to see his wife and live out his days peacefully, therefore neither of them will hold back.
The Young Man sinks a few balls and then it's the Old Mans turn. The Old Man demonstrates great skill and pockets several of the young man's "organ" balls including his "stomach" and "eyes". When this happens the young man's vision becomes blurry and he feels stomach pain. The young man begins to doubt the Bartender and Woman's words about the "decorative" balls. He decides to go for the Old Man's "heart" or "brain" ball, but misses. As the Old Man is about to win, the Young Man remembers that he cheated on his girlfriend and was caught when she came home. It's also revealed that the girl he tried to impress with pool was her. it also shows him being a model student and employee throughout his youth.
In a panic, he attacks the Old Man with his pool cue. The Old Man defends himself skillfully and promptly beats up the younger man. The Old Man spaces out and remembers things about his life. Revealing he learned Kendo at a young age, as well as was a pool champion, and a delinquent. The Young Man snaps him out of it by attacking again and slamming him into a jellyfish tank. The Young Man shows immediate remorse thinking he killed him. The Bartender encourages the Young Man to finish the game, saying violence was never forbidden. The Young Man finishes the game and convinces himself to survive he had to kill the Old Man.
After he finishes the Bartender invites both of them over to talk, revealing the Old Man is not dead. The Old Man thanks the Young man, to his surprise, stating that he hadn't played pool in a long time. He had remembered that he was a "vegetable" for the last few years of his life and must be dead. Upon hearing this the Young Man remembers that he is dead also, his girlfriend stabbed him in revenge for his cheating. He opens his jacket to reveal a blood stained shirt.
The Bartender explains that humans go to either Heaven or Hell, but there are many exceptions. One rule is when two people die at the same time, they are invited to Quindecim to play a game and be judged. The young man questions the Bartender and then attacks when he refuses to answer any questions. The Bartender reveals a "superpower" that he is able to control strings, which he uses to restrain the man (also hinting that the hanging "corpses" as well as piano mannequin are his).
The Young Man believes he is going to hell and is angry with the Bartender for deceiving him. The bartender reveals that both were on equal footing when they arrived, but it was predetermined that the old man would win the pool game. The Young Man argues that it's not fair because they lived different lives, and that he (Bartender) couldn't understand because he's not alive. The Bartender agrees, but reminds him that he won the game and had changed "fate" and embraces the Young Man, who breaks down into tears. As the Bartender moves the Young Man towards the elevator, the black haired woman notices the Old Man talking to the Bartender.
Both the men are in the elevators. The Young Man is in shock, but the old man smiles grimly when the doors close. The Noh masks above their elevators are an Oni for the Old Man, and Woman/Geisha for the Young Man.
Afterwards the Bartender is shown making the Woman a drink who mentions that the Young Man's words got her thinking (that they may have been alive). She wants to play pool and see if they will remember anything. The bartender declines reminding her more "guests" are coming and that she should go greet them. She then asks about what the old man said and where their souls went, which the bartender refuses to answer. She is shown to be irritated and calls him petty. The bartender seems pleased and is shown smiling slightly. He then greets the next "guests" and the episode ends.
- The Oni mask represents the Void/Hell, and the Woman/Geisha mask represents Reincarnation/Heaven. (This appears to be true, evidenced by the Death Parade series and future judgements.)
- The Old Man may have requested to be sent to the void in exchange for the Young Man.
- The Old Man asked Decim where his soul was headed. Decim refused to tell him, or told him he was going to the Void. The Old Man assumed/or knows he was going to the Void, hence his grim smile while in his elevator.
- Bartender (Decim) - Tomoaki Maeno
- Black Haired Woman - Asami Seto
- Old Man - Jun Hasumi
- Young Man - Yuichi Nakamura
- Male Customer - Eiji Takeuchi
- Female Customer - Asuka Nishi
- The roulette panel is a picture of Chavvot, placing this film after Episode 5.
- The Old Man's wife is shown to have died later in the series. In a flashback of the deceased wife, he is shown in the background lounging on the porch. This possibly places this film before Episode 10.
- The Young Man has a dry cleaning ticket in his pocket dated 2012-07-12 (Year-Month-Day, used in Japan, China, Canada among others). Setting a possible date for July 12th, 2012.
- The Bartender's name is not revealed in this episode. We later learn his name is Decim in Death Parade.
- In Death Parade, the hanging corpses are shown to be decorated mannequins/dummy's that Decim sets up.
- The piano playing mannequins number is MD 952.