The Parades Ending, Explained: Is Nana Really Dead?

The Netflix Japanese drama film, ‘The Parades,’ follows a heartfelt drama about a woman’s journey into the afterlife that ends up teaching her more about life than she expected. After waking alone on a beach, single mother Minako frantically searches for her seven-year-old son only to realize she’s no longer a part of the living world. However, after bumping into a young man named Akira, Minako meets a ragtag group of other souls in a similar predicament as her. Stuck in a limbo between life and death, these people band together while searching for whatever unfinished business is tying them to the earthly realm.

As a result, Minako, surrounded by unlikely friends, embarks on a quest to search for her son, Ryo, and finds herself gaining an unexpected family along the way. Even though the film keeps Minako and her narrative at the center, it also delves into the afterlives of the ensemble cast, bringing their own significant perspectives to the forefront. Therefore, captivated by the compelling characters, the story’s surprising conclusion must have left the viewers with some questions. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Parades Plot Synopsis

In the aftermath of a drastic quake, Minako wakes washed ashore on the beach surrounded by garbage and debris. However, the woman’s son, Ryo, remains her first and only thought as she rushes into town looking for the little boy. Nevertheless, Minako fails to spot her son at the building housing survivors. Worse yet, she realizes others can’t see, hear, or touch her after attempting— and failing— to catch her friend, Kanada’s attention.

Resorted to her fate, Minako walks to the ruins of her home alone, clueless about locating her missing son while invisible to the rest of the world. However, her confusion only lasts so long before her paths cross with Akira, a man who can interact with her just fine. The man drives Minako to the outskirts of town, where a group of people hang out in a lively picnic area. Consequently, Minako learns that she died in the quake and has turned into a ghost, unable to pass onto the next stage due to her unfinished business.

The others at camp— a motherly woman, Kaori, filmmaker, Michael, ex-yakuza, Shori, and even Akira are all in the same boat as her, having died in the past, remaining unable to move on. Although the group graciously accepts Minako as one of their own by offering her a room and company, the woman remains agitated about Ryo’s unknown fate. As a result, after spending a whole day searching for Ryo to no avail, Minako decides to part ways with Akira and the others, unable to reconcile with the idea of relaxing and enjoying herself after her death.

Nevertheless, before Minako can leave, the monthly call to the parade arrives, and Akira convinces her to tag along with the group for a walk. On every full moon, the town’s ghosts gather together in a parade through the town, helping each other search for the conclusions of their unfinished businesses. Thus, Minako learns she was wrong to assume the others were avoiding the reality of their deaths by neglecting to move on as soon as possible. Furthermore, she also realizes that even though everyone— including herself— has died, they still exist within the world.

Over the course of the following weeks, Minako learns more about the life and death of her newfound friends. As such, she unknowingly inspires Michael to continue shooting his film, “Remembrance of Things Past,” a pseudo-biographical film about the student revolution against the Vietnam War. While the man attempts to finish his incomplete film, another soul— a young schoolgirl, Nana—stumbles across their home.

Nana is gloomier than the other and appears to have committed suicide, according to her slit wrist. The same day, Shori manages to locate his fiancé— which dissolves his unfinished business, granting him access to the next plane of existence. Although his goodbye to the group is emotional, the man is content to move on.

Eventually, Nana’s first full moon parade arrives. The girl remains perpetually angry at her circumstances but begins to understand the nature of her limbo. Furthermore, the next full moon brings a conclusive answer for Minako after Michael manages to find her son, Ryo, settled in a shelter for kids. As a result, Minako finally sees her son again, even if the latter is under a feverish haze at the time.

Somehow, despite being alive, Ryo manages to talk to his mother, bringing bittersweet closure to the woman, who promises to look over her son even in her death. Nonetheless, the next morning, instead of allowing Mr. Tanaka, an afterlife guide, to take her out of limbo, Minako stays behind, deciding to finish Michael’s film.

The Parades Ending: Why Does Minako Stay In The Afterlife After Finding Her Son? Does She Move on?

Even though souls are supposed to move on after completing their unfinished business, something holds Minako back from giving up her current afterlife just yet. The same highlights the ambiguity around death and “unfinished business” that the film establishes in various ways through different characters. Some, such as Michael and Akira, are unsure about whatever is keeping them bound to the mortal world.

Meanwhile, others, such as Kaori and Shori, know what their hang-ups look like. Thus, they remain on the path to complete their afterlife’s purpose, ready to move on after achieving it. Even so, they exist outside of these dichotomies, with Shori staying behind to watch one film with his ghostly family before moving on and Michael creating a new purpose of finishing his unfinished film. By doing so, both characters establish how, even though their life has ended, they have managed to essay a new existence that comes with its own set of “businesses.”

Minako’s decision to stay behind stems from much the same logic. Throughout the film, Minako’s search for her son to confirm he’s alive and healthy remains her sole purpose. In the end, once she’s momentarily reunited with her son, whom she tells about her afterlife adventures, Ryo asks her to help others as they have helped her.

For the same reason, after finishing her unfinished business, Minako adopts a new purpose— providing Michael with the same mortal closure he was able to find for her. As such, Minako helps him film his autobiographical film with assistance from the other afterlife residents. Likewise, Minako and the others even travel to Tokyo with Michael so that he can see his former lover, Maiko, one last time.

Afterward, Minako suggests screening Miachel’s film for the rest of the ghosts in town, leading to one giant celebration of the filmmaker’s talent. Consequently, Michael is finally able to move on. Likewise, having helped her friend, Minako moves on from the limbo in a walk along the beach with Mr. Tanaka.

Did Nana Really Die? How Did She Return to Life?

Following Minako’s departure from ghostly existence, the narrative shifts to Nana with the young woman waking in a hospital bed, wired to life support machines. Nana’s existence in Limbo had always been a peculiar one. Unlike the others, Nana’s death was intentional. Since the young girl committed suicide, she knew her death was coming. Therefore, since her death was her own decision, Nana assumes she wouldn’t have any unfinished business and remains frustrated by her existence in limbo.

Nevertheless, Nana soon realizes the fact that she’s apologetic for leaving her friend, Yasuko, behind is keeping her tied to the world. Nana and Yasuko face gross bullying from the girls in their classes, whose hostile and cruel actions toward them drive both girls toward dark thoughts. Still, they were able to find some solace and happiness in each other’s company. Therefore, by committing suicide, Nana effectively leaves Yasuko behind to bear the brunt of the girls’ cruelty alone while grieving over the tragic loss of her only friend.

In fact, the situation almost drives Yasuko to attempt to jump off a roof herself. Yet, Nana’s unheard apologies to the girl make no difference for the dead girl, who still remains stuck in limbo. Although Nana remains perplexed by the same, the film’s end explains her predicament. Unlike the others, Nana wasn’t truly dead. Instead, she was in a coma. As such, her soul held onto the living world through a thin thread. From there, it was only a matter of whether or not Nana succumbs to her death.

Although Nana was generally gloomy upon her initial meeting with Minako and the others, the latter’s company helped her see the bright side of life, with Michael even igniting a passion for filmmaking in the young woman. Therefore, after Michael and Minako depart from limbo, Nana’s soul also leaves. Nonetheless, instead of moving on to the next stage of the afterlife, Nana returns to her mortal life.

Years later, Nana lives a brand new life in Tokyo, away from the gloom of her teenage years. Her love for filmmaking propels her life forward and compels her to create a movie about her time in the afterlife. Minako’s son, Ryo, who has become Nana’s friend as he has grown up, often discusses Minako with the filmmaker and attends the screening to learn about his mother.

Meanwhile, the rest of the souls continue to exist in their old haunts— the picnic area, theater, and hills, which appear abandoned and dead to the mortals but remain bustling with the afterlife. Existence will continue to churn in and out of the limbo as people move from one life to another.

Read More: The Parades: Where Was the Netflix Movie Filmed?