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Madhouse's Anime Mirai project comes in the form of a high-stakes billiards game. Where have I heard this before?
Now I remember! Back in the good old, pre organization change days - before the formation of MAPPA and Tetsuro Araki's move to Production I.G - Madhouse prided itself on its brand of psychological sports thrillers. So much so that they adapted Akagi, Kaiji and One Outs. Just from that, it's not hard to see where the inspiration could have come for their Anime Mirai project about a billiards game where you put your life on the line. In this case, you're gambling the fate of your afterlife.
In many ways its a sentimental project for them and as much as I wanted to like it I just couldn't.
It's a neat idea, with a good number of plot twists. The revelation at the end about the purpose of the game was well-done, however it was everything in between that didn't click with me. At the centre of this was the young male character. You can understand where he's coming from and his desperation is even more understandable, yet he still managed to come off over-dramatic. Whether this was the result of the voice acting is unclear to me, but the chemistry between him and the old man just wasn't there.
Then we had the ending. An ambiguous and downright confusing ending to the game, which in some respect was to be expected. Who was it that made it to heaven, and who was sent to hell? I don't think I care enough to think about it.
All in all Death Billiards was a nice attempt. An interesting story with good looking animation and decent execution. Nevertheless it didn't strike a cord with me. Still. Not the worst Anime Mirai project.