Original Run: July 8, 2020 - September 23, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Deca-Dence. Reader discretion is advised.***
Centuries have passed since humans began living in the mobile fortress Deca-dence. The human race has been brought to near extinction, and the survivors live under constant threat of attack from monsters known as the Gadoll. Fortunately, the people of Deca-dence are under the protection of the mighty Gears.
Since her father’s death, young Natsume (voiced by Tomori Kusunoki) has dreamt of becoming a Gear to defend humanity. However, she is assigned to maintaining the Deca-dence’s armor. There she meets her supervisor Kaburagi (voiced by Konishi Katsuyuki).
Although adamantly opposed to Natsume’s ambition, Kaburagi was once a skilled Gear himself. And like the other Gears, Kaburagi is keeping a secret.
The Deca-dence, the Gadoll, and even humanity’s struggle are all a plot device in a massive fighting simulation developed by a cyborg society. Kaburagi has since retired from the simulation, but his interactions with Natsume show him there is more to life than doing what one is told. Sometimes, people must stand and fight back.
To make a long story short, I enjoyed Deca-Dence. It was exciting, fun, and satisfyingly entertaining. Will I remember it within a month? I doubt it, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time this series surprised me.
To start, Deca-Dence had incredible visuals. It managed to combine beautiful 2D animation with well-crafted, not-the-typical-garbage 3D CGI. As a result, this series produced multiple action scenes that were thrilling, fast, and impactful. Not only that, the backgrounds, sceneries, and – hell – the entire world was gorgeous. There was also an undeniable mastery of magnitude and weight.
The titular Deca-dence, a colossal moving fortress, was precisely that – colossal. When standing next to it, characters appeared insignificant and small. Here was humanity’s last stronghold, and it emanated a pervasive sense of security. Thus, when monsters, the Gadoll, broke through the Deca-dence’s defenses, it was calamitous. Conversely, the mighty bastion wasn’t just a defensive apparatus. When necessary, it could fight back.
The moments when the Deca-Dence’s cannon fired were beyond awesome. The sheer amount of force and destructive power was gargantuan. When it hit, it hit hard.
Additionally, this series was as exhilarating on a smaller scale as it was on a larger one. Where the Deca-dence was brutal and thunderous, its ground warriors were swift and precise. The combat-ready Gears were quick, fierce, and formidable. When they fought, the show adequately replicated the feel of a video game, which, given the story, was most likely the whole point.
With that said, Deca-Dence’s story was its most “alright” aspect. If you’ve seen The Matrix – or to get real classical, if you’ve read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – then you already know what this show is about. This narrative wasn’t anything special, but it did work, and it worked well enough. This basic structure allowed this series to give more of its energy to building its characters, and that was where its real strength came.
Deca-Dence had a solid central group of characters. At worst, I can tell you that everyone played their roles effectively. At best, many were quite likable and worth investing emotion. As an example of the former: Natsume. As an example of the latter: Kaburagi.
Natsume was a catalyst and didn’t do much growing herself. She was the anchor that allowed those around her to better themselves. Still, she remained very much human. Although she possessed an infectious optimism and never-give-up-attitude, Natsume had self-doubt and didn’t always see the silver lining in things. Her contribution to this story, and the quality that impressed someone like Kaburagi, was her determination to keep fighting for an unlikely future. After all, from Natsume’s point of view, it was better than living in constant fear.
Compare this sentiment to Kaburagi at the start of Deca-Dence. When introduced, he was already beaten. Kaburagi saw struggle and resistance as futile since the powers at be were far too great for a person to challenge. To him, idealism was an unattainable fantasy. Thus, someone like Natsume was setting themselves up for pain and disappointment.
It is worth watching Deca-Dence to see how Natsume’s energy and personality slowly began to inspire Kaburagi, a person who could strike at the very heart of the system. This was a story of hope that just so happened to be filled with kick-ass action and spectacular visuals.
Learning that a race of cyborgs was monitoring humanity was a jarring revelation.
I can already hear the counter argument:
“Of course, this would be jarring; it should be. Learning that your entire world and existence is part of a simulated program used for another group’s entertainment would be quite a shock.”
I get that, and I commend Deca-Dence for exploring what such a realization would do to a person. However, that is not what I am getting at.
The cyborgs came out of nowhere. This development felt like a random addition rather than a creative twist; it just happened. Aside from an extremely brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to it in episode one, Kaburagi and most of the other Gears being avatars in a video game seemed more like a strange joke than anything legitimate.
Plus, it didn’t help that the cyborgs were given cutesy designs that did not fit with the human’s more turbulent world.
Eventually, the series did catch up with itself, and the dramatic change in visual styles became less distracting. Although the structure of the story was fine once implemented, getting there was a bit rocky.
That leads me to the least memorable aspect of Deca-Dence – its story. I might have said that it worked, which it did, but I also said it wasn’t anything special. To be more critical, this narrative was almost laughably predictable.
Deca-Dence was a paint-by-numbers anime through and through. Every single character had a set-in-stone role that didn’t waver or deviate. For example, surprise; the shifty looking robot was shifty.
I admit that that is a barebones generalization of what this show was. Then again, though, aside from the flashy visuals, high-octane action, and excellent animation, this show was pretty barebones. But like I said at the start of this review:
Deca-Dence was enjoyable. While you are watching it, I’m confident it will hold your attention, and you’ll leave it satisfied. You probably just won’t remember it for very long.
I have seen plenty of bad shows from 2020, and this was nowhere close to what I would consider a bad show.
Although you can’t expect much from its story, this series has plenty of qualities to make it thoroughly entertaining:
- The visuals are excellent.
- The fights are exciting.
- The characters are likable.
There are things to enjoy. Therefore, Deca-Dence has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Deca-Dence? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.