20 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Anime Mirai: Death Billiards


Death Billiards is Madhouse’s piece for the Anime Mirai/Young Animator Training Project about a race of murderous sentient billiard balls enslaving the human race as their livestock HAH I wish. Actually it’s about two men, one young adult and one old dude, in a game of billiards that they are told their lives are on the line for. The game pushes both characters to their limits and we start to understand more about what makes them tick and why they’ve arrived here in the first place. It’s gorgeously produced, like (almost) all of the other projects under this title. It’s just that…well, I have some really significant problems with the story that I can’t get into without going into full on spoiler territory. So that’s what I’m going to do.


The story heavily implies that the younger guy went to heaven while the older dude went to hell. There were the masks above their respective elevators with a white face and demon face. The younger guy got a big hug from the bartender when he laid his heart bare at the end. Plus the old guy did an evil grin when he was going down, so clearly that means he’s evil. That’s how evilness works, right? It seemed like the younger guy was repenting for his actions in cheating on his girlfriend, while the old guy hadn’t for being a bully when he was a kid.

I really don’t buy that interpretation. Or more accurately, if that’s what we’re supposed to think, then they did a crappy job of making that believable. The younger guy’s repentance speech isn’t him repenting at all. He’s complaining about how life isn’t equal and they shouldn’t punish him because he tried to get ahead. By the way, he’s saying this to an old man whose house was bombed during the war as a child. An old man he just killed in order to save his own ass, or at least what he perceived to be his own ass. And that man is supposed to be more worthy of heaven than this old guy because he was a bit of a bully when he was a kid? Even though he lived peacefully with his wife since then and has been a vegetable for the past few years? But no, he did an evil grin, so now he goes to hell.

My problem is I neither buy the younger man’s repentance nor that the old guy deserved to go to hell. Their characterisation wasn’t enough in either direction. But then right at the end the lady bartender asks who goes where and the bartender says “not telling you nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh”. So maybe the old guy didn’t go to hell and it was the way around I thought it was all along? But in that case, what did the old guy do that meant he went to heaven? One theory I came up with that fit my reading of the story was the young guy went back to earth and lived again because he was not happy with how his life went and wanted to repent. Meanwhile the old guy went to heaven because he finally got what he wished for: Another game of billiards, which he hadn’t been able to play since turning into his vegetable state. However that is such selected reading of the material that even I know that it’s me reaching out in desperation to find an answer. I get ‘leaving things open to interpretation’, but when you pull this kind of bullshit it feels more like you haven’t thought your own story through so I end up poking holes in it.

This entry was posted in Anime Analysis and tagged , , . Anime: . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Stef
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Race of murderous sentient billiard balls enslaving the human race as their livestock

    Someone make that an anime. Now.

  2. Kuddlesworth
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I really liked this one episode anime. But yea I agree that the ending was left too open for interpretation, as it’s Madhouse I would have to say the young guy made it to heaven just to go against what was obvious.

  3. Nazaren
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the ending was so intentionally ambiguous that it came off as more pretentious than anything else.

    Everything pointed to the young guy going to heaven, and then ends with “… OR DID HE!?”. Uhh, I dunno? You haven’t given me enough evidence to really form my own opinion… so I don’t care? Fleshing out the old man a bit more would have gone a long way.

    Then there’s what the old man said to the bartender on his way out. One interpretation is that he said “let him take my place” or something to that effect, and his evil smile is him thinking he’ll get in to heaven by simply offering it to the young guy.

    Overall I really liked the atmosphere and most everything up until the last 5 minutes, which made me feel I wasted time. So much speculation there’s nothing of substance.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      Pretentious is a word I try avoid, but it probably fits here. Why leave it vague in the first place? What do you achieve? Bleh

  4. luffyluffy
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the ‘evil smile’ was something like, the old man is happy because he’s going to hell so he can make a deal with the devil in billiards and come back to life.

    or maybe hell is ‘better’ than heaven

  5. Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    It’s pretty simple. The moral of the story is: cheating will bring you into heaven, but if you’re happy is a completely different question.

  6. matrixEXO
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    At first, I thought the same as you, Scamp. About the masks. But as the story progress just slightly, I changed my mind about it. The mask is also one part of the whole scenario to break people out of their “masks” and to bare their true selves. Same is said with the “putting your life on the line” and “violence was permitted” notion.

    In the end, the show was about the way they (gods, demi-gods, shinigamis, whoever those 2 really are) judged people by having them bare their true selves. The only way is to actually have them think, through ambiguous terms, that they are putting their lives on the line (then followed by the whole Heaven and Hell scenario). Well, that was my interpretation, what do you think?

    • Scamp
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really know what you’re getting at. What does revealing their true selves do to them anyway? Why are they going into lifts at the end anyway?

      • matrixEXO
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        The fact is, both of them are dead. The reason was stated why they were there, “There are some who can’t be immediately judged.” In this context, we understand that to judge oneself would most likely be to have them reveal their true nature. That being said, they laid traps all around to force people to show their true nature.

        About the lifts, it’s just like whether you ascend to heaven of descend to hell. Imagine the lifts as a part of the concept of Heaven being up high and Hell being down below. That way, the story would explain itself much more clearly. Also, they are dead. They will never go back to Earth or have a second chance.

        Anyway, like I said, it’s just my interpretation.

  7. BwackNinja
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    The pool balls definitely point to the both of them still being alive, at least at the start of the game. If they corresponded to the state of their organs, their hearts would not be beating if they were already dead. Their hearts no longer beating at the end when the bartender is holding the balls either points the fact that they’re both dead now, or that they’ve simply left. The fact that he was still holding on to them points to a belief that they were both valuable individuals from the bartender’s perspective.

    Whether he went back to living is still in question, but that was very clearly a possibility. It wouldn’t be playing with your life on the line, it would be betting your soul.

    The question I have after all of this is, what do Bjork and Coldplay have to do with all of this?

    • matrixEXO
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

      Looks like someone pointed out something I miss in my interpretation. Then again, it could also be a visual representation of their organs and heart beating to bring about the fear as pointed in my own interpretation.

      Sorry for replying onto yours but I did need to point this one out in relations to my own comments.

      EDIT: Just went back to the part where he held their “Heart” balls. Both never beat during that scene. So, does it signify that both are dead? In the end, I still think that it’s not about going to live or going do die but more of which went to Heaven and which went to Hell.

    • BwackNinja
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:59 am | Permalink

      I’m kinda disappointed that I seem to be the only one on the internet who noticed the song lyrics on the piece of the paper the younger guy was writing on in his flashback.

      I was hoping that they would be something more than a random reference, but at best it might be a vague description of his and his girlfriend’s perspectives.

      • Kenji
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure that’s because that ‘song lyrics’ looks more like English homework. I mean, there’s the Japanese words on top (5点x10) which is basically 5 points x 10 questions (?). Then there’s the blank space for answer, and he’s still in high school which mean he haven’t meet the girl yet (heck, the flashback is from old -> young to begin with).

  8. Posted April 11, 2013 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    My interpretation is that the old guy, seeing how obviously distressed the younger man was, personally asked the bartender to allow himself to go to hell in place of the young man. This is would be why their conversation isn’t heard nor revealed by the bartender. The smirk is just a final act of defiance and self amusement, denoting that he’s the real one who decides his own fake, so to speak.

    However, regardless of open interpretations, the OVA as a whole strikes me as more cryptic than thought-provoking and it’s not as presentable or easy to swallow as other shows which have tried similar attempts at storytelling in the past.

  9. Fumoffu!!
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I really liked it up until the end. Damn, that could have been the best Anime Mirai episode if not for that lackluster end.

  10. ANON
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    hah you all fell for it! that’s what they wanted you all to do! to speculate about the ending!


  11. ThatOneGuy
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    You know who is to say they didn’t both make it Heaven? Just like it doesn’t matter who wins or loses who is to say that heaven and hell are the only options or that one has to do the opposite of the other? For instance both men had some bad that they caused. The young man cheated on his girl but he obviously still cared quite a bit about her to learn billiards just to be noticed by her. He also was apparently a fairly happy kid, a diligent worker and a man who studied in an attempt to better himself and his life. Switch the one time the young man cheated (and obviously looked repentant) with bullying some kid and the Grandpa lives a life almost identicle to the young man. “not so different after all” comes to mind. Regardless what we know of both men is they had relatively good lives with mistakes all people make. Naturally the younger man lamenta his liss far more then tye older. After all his life was cut ahort yet old man lived to a ripe age even if it ended in a vegetatove state. Should either one be sent to hell for eternity for those mistakes even thouh they lived relatively good lives? No it is my firm belief that they both went to Heaven or whatever happens to he the good ending of this OAV and that it wasn’t a test for either of them ot was merely a chance for both men to play a game of billiards before they get whichever afterlife they ultimately deserve.

    • Kenji
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      This isn’t even a question of who get into Heaven/Hell, it’s a question of whether Heaven/Hell even existed in the first place. The show’s basically screaming I’M SO DEEP then expect the viewer to form their own speculation. Both of them simply go back into their respective elevator which is marked by the Noh Mask. Heck, we don’t even fking know whether Heaven/Hell is Up/Down and whether the direction of the elevator even matters.

      Oh, and the flashback. We all know it MUST be there for a reason. But who in the flying fuck can decipher such an intricate code when we can’t don’t even know what to decode? Are we supposed to see who did the most good/bad deeds? Judge them based on how much they fked up in life? Or whether they passed their English test?

      The whole show feels like the author’s indecisive whether he wants the viewer to take it literally or figure out the subtle hints scattered in the show so he simply blend them together and call it a day.

      • Posted April 24, 2013 at 12:47 am | Permalink

        honestly the show seemed incredibly straight forward….like way straight forward if you looked at the different signs and such. It seemed like there was a bit of misdirection and its up to you to figure out what’s not too important and what is.

        The bartender’s statements were true & when he said they came in the place equally, they came in there on equal terms skillwise I’m assuming. You can always debate “equality” like the brat did, but im sure you get it.

        Anyways, the easiest way to tell the kid went to hell was when the bartender said “as soon as you STEP INTO the elevator, you’ll see how your fate’s been changed” or something very very close. Everything the hostess and bartender say are very plain. Yes, they leave room for interpretation, but only if you overthink it.

        Why is it that the kid flips out from the labeling? Why does the bartender look at him like he’s so pitiful when he’s crying? But most importantly…why does the idiot-guy look like he just saw a ghost in the elevator?

        Because the bartender said they’d know as soon as they got in the elevator…not after, not before, not anything else.

        See? Simple.

  12. Kasey
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone ever think outside the box that the bartender “won”. he put the eight balls in his pocket. Was it possible that they had originally come to that place in the same way and chose not to leave? Not to kill each other or take the elevators?

  • Categories

  • Anime