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.