When Natsume’s father was killed by the Gadoll, she vowed to defeat them all, but that might be easier said than done. Unbeknownst to Natsume, there are more than just man-eating monsters in her way!
What did you watch?
Deca-Dence was the first title I decided that I was going to watch from the Summer 2020 schedule. I’m a sucker for stories with post-apocalyptic monsters and the last dregs of humanity. Having only seen two promo images for the show, I was pretty confident that was what I was getting. Now, while that was mostly true, Deca-Dence is a little different to most. I”ll get into all that in a moment, but first I should warn you that there will be spoilers and it’s best to watch this series without it being spoilt. This is your last chance to turn back…
Natsume lives in Deca-Dence, a mobile fortress that houses the last of humanity as it trundles around the desolate wasteland that was once Eurasia. She lives alone after her father was killed by the Gadoll, creatures that have plagued the world and almost driven humanity to extinction. Natsume’s only goal is to join the Power and fight back against the Gadoll, however, her application is ignored and she is forced into a job repairing the shields of Deca-Dence under her new boss Kaburagi, a battle-hardened grump.
However, not all is as it seems. Kaburagi is actually a cyborg and the body that Natsume interacts with is an avatar. There’s a warrior class known as the Gears that make up most of the Power. They too are avatars controlled by cyborgs. To them, Deca-Dence is one giant interactive game. The Gadoll are the manufactured enemy and the humans are the non-playable characters. Nothing is as it seems. Kaburagi is tired of this life and is ready to allow his battery to die, but his interactions with Natsume change his mind and before he knows it, he’s determined to tear down the entire system for her.
What did you think?
So, just writing the description above made me realise that there is a really cool story in this series. I kind of knew it while watching it, but laying it all out like that makes much more sense. And that, I think, is the biggest problem with Deca-Dence. It has a great story and some very cool ideas, but the way it’s been put together doesn’t do it justice. We learn about the cyborgs in episode two which means we’ve barely got to know Natsume by this point and from that point on we know more than her. It made the reveal to Natsume so anticlimactic that it was almost impossible to empathise with her.
Another jarring thing with this series is that the cyborgs are drawn in this cutesy, cartoon style which really doesn’t mesh with the more realistic anime style of Natsume and Deca-Dence. It almost feels like you’re watching a different show and not in a good way. Ultimately, I enjoyed Deca-Dence, but can’t help but feel like it could have been so much better had we been given the chance to bond with Natsume and then discovered the secrets together.
What was your favourite moment?
There was a point in episode seven after Kaburagi had vanished. Of course, his avatar had been killed and his cyborg body was put in a rehab facility that was basically a big prison. Anyhow, he’d found a way to get back to Deca-Dence using another avatar. He met up with Natsume and she broke down, revealing her fragile state and the way that the system had worn her down. It was heartbreaking to see her this way when she’s normally so positive and full of life. It got to Kaburagi too. You could feel the rage coming through the screen as he vowed to himself to tear everything down. It was a very cool moment.
What was your least favourite moment?
This is the whole of episode two. The reveal came too soon in the series and the change in art styles was so drastic it felt like you got whiplash going from one to the other. It also pulled me so far out of the story, I don’t think I ever truly recovered. It’s a great twist, but it wasn’t handled well. How good would The Sixth Sense have been had the kid told Bruce Willis he was a ghost in their first scene together? It wouldn’t have been a fraction as good. Timing really matters. This really didn’t do Deca-Dence any favours.
Who was your favourite character?
Natsume was easily my favourite character and that makes it even more frustrating that we didn’t get to experience the story with her. Instead, we just had to watch it happen to her all the while knowing more. When I compare this to a series like Fruits Basket where they are able to emotionally grab you with almost every character, I can see how this one failed and not allowing the viewers to really bond with Natsume before pulling back the curtain was a huge mistake. Natsume deserved so much more.
Who was your least favourite character?
The system administrator Hugin was pretty much an awkward version of an agent from The Matrix. I still can’t work out exactly how he was able to move around in the real world as if he was in a computer game. It’s part of the reason for my belief that there is actually another layer to the deception and this is all a game within a game. That was not confirmed in the season and I get the feeling from the way this season ended that we probably won’t get another season.
Would you like some more?
While I did enjoy parts of Deca-Dence, I don’t think it did enough with what it had to make me want another season. The ended was fairly good as it was. Again, this feels like a real missed opportunity as it has the potential to be so much more than it was. It had the ideas and the concepts but didn’t pay enough attention to connecting with the audience and pulling them into the world. This felt like we were constantly being told the story, rather than being shown it.
What have you learnt?
I made some predictions about the series around the midpoint and they were focused on the idea that the twist in episode two was a deliberate attempt to turn our attention away from an even bigger twist. While this didn’t happen, it certainly got me thinking. I love the idea of setting things up so that the audience is expecting a twist and then you give them one, but not the big one. It’s like the jump scare in a horror movie. You build the tension up and up until everyone is sat on the edge of their seats, then you make them jump, but it’s just a cat or something, so everyone relaxes. That’s when you then hit the with the real scare. That’s what I’d like to try, but with a plot twist.
Other posts in the series
- Season One
- Bonus Posts