When a series presents you with a jarring reveal after already selling you on a tone or setting, there are generally two extreme responses. Some would reject it flat out, maybe feeling as if the show had betrayed a trust by making them feel invested in a particular thing before pulling the rug from underneath them. The other reaction would be to accept this crazy twist with open arms as a sign the show is doing something out of the ordinary. To be a little different in a world of tropes and archetypes.
Which category will I fall under you think?
Deca-Dence is a animation original production from NUT. Based on the first episode alone, you’d imagine you were watching a post apocalyptic setting story, in which a skyscraper sized tank holding the remnants of humanity, circles the globe and fights off the monstrous Gadoll that threaten this last bastion. Obviously, there is more to it than that, but let’s not jump the gun just yet.
Within Deca-Dence lives Natsume; a “Tanker” girl born into a caste of humanity predetermined to fulfil the more mundane roles of keeping the human race alive. Butchering, maintenance and other such essential but unglamorous roles within the colossal tank. Natsume is a lively, free-thinking girl who dreams of being a part of the Power; the combat class that live above and fight off the Gadoll threat that are constantly in pursuit of the enormous bastion.
The entity of this first episode shows the “mundane” aspects of her life, how she lost her father years before and how she is refused access to the power upon her graduation, mostly due to the mechanical arm she has to replace the one she lost in the attack that took her father. She is instead assigned to the cleanup and maintenance crew that dangles on the outside of tank and cleans the monster gunk from the surface.
From this episode alone, the show is already super stylish, with a visual aesthetic is very much in my wheelhouse. I was on board with what it was doling out from minute one. Especially when she meets Kaburagi, the gruff foreman whom wants little to do with her. But through her bright and pushy personality, she keeps getting into his business. There is some intrigue some laughs and an ending to the first episode that turns into a great display of the shows unique action sequences.
In a style that feels very inspired by Attack on Titan, the Gear warriors float around within anti-gravity fields, nimbly darting around the monsters and peppering them with harpoons, killing them by bleeding them out and then harvesting their blood, which acts as their fuel. It looks great. And goes great with the barren open setting surrounding by gargantuan tanks and monsters.
At this point, we’ve got a bit of Blade Runner mixed with Attack on Titan and Gurren Lagann. I was totally, 100% on board, before we even got the epic, city sized rocket punch. Then, after the credits have rolled, we get one little twist that I don’t think anyone saw coming.
My comparison to Gurren Lagann ended up being far more apt than I’d ever thought, as we cut to a totally different art style and a bunch of little, chibi looking robot characters. All living in paralel to the humans, who seem totally unaware of there being more to the world than their little Super-Tank.
Surprise! The world’s a video game and robots are the gamers. Maybe that’s a over-generalisation: the world is real, humanity did screw up the planet and the humans living aboard the Deca-Dence are the last remainder of humanity in the flesh and blood sense. What they’re happily ignorant of though is that they’re living inside a giant dome run by a mega-corporation called Solid Quake.
This corporation have bought the rights to humanity and use them as a massive entertainment experiment called Deca-Dence. Within it the robots, who are the former humans themselves, control avatars within the world, playing to kill as many Gadoll as they can and farm their blood for themselves. I’m getting a very Monsters Inc. vibe from it, even more so with the revelation that Kaburagi is a former top ten ranked gear.
Blackmailed by the company after one of his teammates was caught cheating, he now finds himself under the corporate thumb. Spending his nights hunting down humans that come close to breaking the Deca-Dence experience they’ve carefully crafted. It’s when he realises Natsume, having almost died in the event that killed her father, is now believed dead by the system can act while being undetected by it.
Thus he begins training her to be a fighter like she dreamt, so he can presumably use her to strike back against the company that exerts stifling control over every aspect of everyone’s lives. I swear is this goes full Trigger and adds one more layer of control over the Corporation I’ll lose my mind.
Verdict: This is fascinating and I love it
There are so many things for me to like about this series. From it’s visual style, to its cool-as-hell action sequences to very unique setting its created for itself. The bright eyed kid and the cynical, world weary mentor dynamic would have been enough to engage me in the world on its own, but the reveal that Kaburagi is a cute little robot with dreams of tearing down the walls of corporate tyranny is like the secret filling you find under all that icing on the cake.
There are so many aspects of this world I still want to discover, and I feel like these first three episodes have really just worked to establish the setting and goals of its main characters. I’d say it eased us into it, but with such an intense twist after only the second episode, I could see why a lot of people might be turned off by it.
In the end though, I’m all for the story this series looks like its trying to tell. I don’t know if the title is a play on the word decadence, and how humanity’s slow decline is happening for a second time in this world. But I really want to see where it all goes and what’ll happen when these two worlds start to properly interact with one another.