Shinigami no Ballad

Title: Shinigami no Ballad aka Shinigami’s Ballad: Momo the Girl God of Death
Genre: Drama
Company: Pony Canyon/Group TAC
Format: 6 episodes
Dates: 3 Mar 2006 – 7 Apr 2006

Synopsis: Momo is a shinigami, a spirit given the job of claiming the souls of those who have passed on and escorting them into the afterlife. With her black cat, Daniel, she also guides those left behind after the deaths of those she takes.

The Highlights
Episodic characters: A mixed bag; some very charming and deep, but some rather dull.
Main characters: Little more than a common thread between episodes.
Atmosphere: Perfect… until the music starts.
Theme: Unique take on shinigami myth and perspective on death.

Like many other episodic slice-of-life series, Shinigami no Ballad passed quite low under the radar during its initial airing. Though it’s not totally unexpected and, some would argue, not undeserved, Shinigami no Ballad does have a number of rather unique elements and stands as an interesting and often charming slice-of-life outing, even in spite of some patchy execution.

Since it’s such a short and episodic series, trying to discuss Shinigami no Ballad with “on-the-whole”-isms is a tough and somewhat misleading assignment. The episodes are highly varied, both with respect to their perspectives and casts as well as in terms of quality. While this can lend itself to the label of “inconsistent”, within its sporadic delivery there are numerous worthwhile and enjoyable moments. Some episodes feature very likeable casts which are given enough depth and personality to make their adventures and growth captivating. However, a few episodes become trudged in mundane melodrama and are irksome to watch. No episode is more guilty of this than the first, which is unfortunate, since it will no doubt turn off many of the very slice-of-life fans that are most likely to enjoy this.

Atmosphere is also something built on inconsistency. While mostly created by a lack of background music to allow nothing but the story unfolding in front of the audience to draw them in, Shinigami no Ballad chooses to play music only in the more dramatic and intense scenes. The problem: the music is unbelievably tacky and only serves to distract the audience and destroy the atmosphere rather than to absorb. I strongly argue that many such scenes would have benefited from the complete absence of music that complemented the atmosphere so well for the majority of the progression… or even just better tunes.

Shinigami no Ballad also suffers from the fact that its main character (and her accomplice) merely fill the role of facilitating the development of the episodic focus characters, rather than having any sort of interesting characteristics or growth of their own. While Momo is likeable, her experiences with the living ultimately have an inconsequential impact on her. In the end, however, she’s more an embodiment of the running theme of the numerous ways death impacts life than a walking, talking character. Opposite her, Daniel is almost completely pointless and seems to be there purely to provide company for Momo. In this respect, he’s just as useless as a real cat… except for the fact that he talks.

In spite of its flaws, Shinigami no Ballad still has much to offer to fans of deliberately paced episodic slice-of-life pieces. If there’s something worthwhile about Shinigami no Ballad, it is its unique take on the shinigami myth; however, its fair-minded standpoints on death are also engaging. Provided you’re willing to let yourself be immersed, Shinigami no Ballad, with its significant fraction of likeable characters and enjoyable episodes, is worth the time.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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