Plot: An episodic anime about a kind shinigami clad in white named Momo and her cat Daniel. While their main job is to ferry souls to the afterlife, Momo also likes to help the souls that she ferries with any unresolved issues left behind in the land of the living. She likes to help the living move on past the deaths of loved ones as well.
Breakdown: If you asked me to describe this anime in one word, the perfect fit for it would be ‘bittersweet’. Just by the description you can tell that this is a depressing anime filled with death and discussions about the impact of death on loved ones. I’ve never watched an entire anime where basically every episode made me feel like crying, but you win that award Shinigami no Ballad.
However, Momo does make light of nearly every story. The unresolved business left behind by a departed soul allows the soul to rest. The loved ones left behind are then also able to get through the death of their loved one and live their lives to the fullest with what both Momo and their lost loved one taught them.
I’m a sucker for episodic anime as I really love short stories. Unlike some other episodic anime, there’s nothing that ties together these stories besides the characters of Momo and Daniel. One character from the first episode makes a reappearance in episode five to help someone else deal with the death of a loved one, and we learn that his contact with Momo left him with the power to see ghosts that he’ll supposedly lose when he becomes an adult (because….ghosts are like fairies?), but that’s it. I really wish they had left that episode as the last one because it would’ve felt like the series came full circle in as much of a way as it could, but it’s alright.
Momo is not your average shinigami. She wears a beautiful white dress, she has long white hair and blue eyes. She holds a scythe, of course, but that’s really the only indication that she’s a shinigami. Momo is a very kindhearted individual who not only wants to help departed souls with their unresolved issues left in the land of the living, but she also likes to help the living (usually ones connected to a departed soul) live their lives to the fullest.
Momo is also a tragic character, but you only get that from the opening theme song because we don’t really learn anything of Momo’s story, unlike, in the opposite extreme, Ai from Hell Girl. I guess in some ways Momo wants to be a part of the living world, but can’t. However, she is very dedicated to her goal of helping as many people that she can. I really liked Momo, she was a very sweet and caring character.
…But then there’s Daniel. I feel like there’s some sort of unexplained dynamic between Daniel and Momo. Momo’s character design is almost that of an angel without wings. Daniel’s seems somewhat demon based. He’s a black cat with a red collar and blood red demon-esque wings. I can only guess that Momo is meant to ferry good souls to heaven while Daniel ferries bad souls to hell, sorta like Zombie Loan. However, since they never deal with any bad souls I can’t be certain.
While Daniel does love Momo very much to the point where he basically treats her like royalty, Daniel can get a little annoying because he’s Momo’s foil. While Momo is gentle and will go to great lengths to help people, Daniel is pretty blunt and even somewhat rude, and he sometimes thinks that helping people is a waste of time. However, because of his deep respect and admiration of Momo, he’s more than willing to help her.
All of the episodes are really great. I can’t think of any episode I particularly disliked. I preferred some over others, but they were all really well-written and interesting. All of the characters involved in the stories, for the most part, were likable as well.
Art and Animation: The art was meh. Nothing really to write home about. Same with the animation.
Music: I really liked the music even if Nihon Reviews said it was the worst part of the series. It may seem out of place on first hearing, but it fits pretty well with the show as you continue to listen to it. Both the OP and the ED were really good, even if I think the pacing of the lyrics in the OP are a little too slow, and the BG music was memorable and enjoyable.
Bottom Line: If you can stand up to a little depression and a lot of talk of death, this is a pretty good series. I wish it had gone on longer and that we had gotten really anything of the story behind Momo’s drive to do what she does or her character at all. It’s also a really short series at six episodes when the series could have the potential to go on for much longer. Hell Girl got four seasons yet this only gets six episodes. However, that does also mean that it’s a fairly short watch, and well worth the time.
Additional Information and Notes: Shinigami no Ballad was based on a light novel series of the same name written by K-Ske Hasagawa, which also spawned a manga version that ran from 2005-2007. The anime version was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who also directed Princess Nine, Pupa and Dirty Pair Flash II and III. It was written by Reiko Yoshida, who has done screenwriting work for a massive list of titles including Kaleido Star, Digimon, D-Gray Man, Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection, and Jyu-Oh-Sei.
It was produced by the now defunct Group TAC, who also helped produce Space Battleship Yamato, Space-Time Detective Genshi-Kun (Flint the Time Detective) and Grappler Baki. They worked alongside Ginga-Ya, who also did some animation work on Angel Beats!, Five Numbers!, Terror in Resonance…..Oh and Yosuga no Sora. There is an English dub available of this series, and it is currently licensed in North America by Maiden Japan.
Recommended Audience: Well, there are obviously a lot of mentions of death and talking about death, but you actually never see a single person die on screen. I’d say the first episode is likely the saddest because that’s the only time that a character that we actually get to know while alive ends up dying during the episode. Everyone dies of either sickness, old age or car accidents, and none of the deaths are seen on screen. The final episode deals with the aspect of suicide and shows the character falling off of a bridge, but they cut away so quickly that you’re not even entirely sure she fell.
Other than that, though, no questionable content. No sex, no swearing, not even drinking. Though the heavy aspect of dealing with death might skew towards an older-ish audience. 10+?
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