- Titles: Deca-Dence
- Genre: Science Fiction, action, adventure, dystopia
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: NUT
Natsume is going to be a Power. She’s going to learn how to fight and protect everyone inside Deca-Dence from those huge monster-like creatures called Gadoll. It doesn’t matter that she lost her arm as a child. It doesn’t matter that she’s grown up an orphan. She’s still going to do it because she simply has to. She has to prove to herself that she can be brave. That there is more to the world than dingy metal hallways and recycled air. Besides, all of humanity has been confined to the moving fortress Deca-Dence and someone has to protect it, right? It’s just that no one is willing to give Natsume a chance. Since her father passed away, it seems most people just want her to stay safe and calm and not cause any waves. That is until her new boss sees a little something special in her. Will Kaburagi be able to finally allow Natsume to dream. And will it matter if mankind is going to be wiped out anyway?
I remember when the teaser for DECA-DENCE came out. I thought it was some of the most exciting-looking animation I had seen in a while. Everything was a rush of movement and colour. I really couldn’t wait to see it and I think a lot of people thought the same in the pre-season. But then the buzz sort of died down. I’m not sure why. Well, I have finally watched it and these are my thoughts!
I still think the actual animation of DECA-DENCE is just wonderful. Studio NUT only has four anime under its belt but I notice that all of them feature a lot of action and often aerial choreography. Now that’s an interesting niche for an animation studio and I dig it. I’m not sure how good of a business move it is to be so highly specialized but I do at least think studios should have departments with really granular specializations. In any case the action looks great.
The rest is going to be up to personal taste. There are two main art styles used throughout the series. This in itself is an unusual and in my opinion visually interesting ploy. Natsume and her side of the story are illustrated in a very traditional and somewhat realistic style while Kaburagi’s side uses more cartoonish images with a lot of rounded shapes and thicker linework with more vibrant but flat colours. The visual contrast is of course meant to separate the narrative and I think it works. Some people could get annoyed with it though.
In any case, it’s a well done anime that looks good in just about any episode. And the fact that it is trying to inject some storytelling into the production elements is appreciated!
Story & Characters
It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for main characters called Natsume. I also happen to have an affection for father daugther narratives and DECA-DENCE is a prime example of both. So already, I probably start by giving this series 5 extra points over the average viewer. So maybe keep that in mind when I say, I think this is a great anime that you should watch.
It’s a bit difficult to go into the story without giving away a few of the twists since one comes fairly early on. But I actually think the experience is better if you figure out what’s going on for yourself. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may be a bit surprised by this post. I usually am not that worried about spoilers. I will put in a disclaimer but otherwise, I generally think most good stories stand on their own and won’t be ruined by having a single surprise disclosed. In fact, I think that if a show is ruined just because you find out a twist, then it wasn’t that great a show. There has to be more to it than just one clever idea, you know?
And just to be clear, I don’t think DECA_DENCE would be ruined by spoilers either. But I do think the surprises it injects into the narrative actually serve to flesh out the themes and messages it’s going for rather than to simply be a cool thing for the audience. And as such, it works best as an integral part of the viewing experience.
In other words, the story is good but you have to take my word for it…
I will say this though. DECA-DENCE does explore two classic dystopian models and in Kaburagi’s case, it uses what can at first glance look like a mild subversion to essential rewrite and upend a lot of traditional views about human nature. When you think about it, it’s doing something that has very rarely been done before but dressed up in a familiar way. I was pretty impressed by that and it leads to a lot of interesting thought experiments I’m not going to tell you about!
From my viewing, the main theme that the series dealt with, other than a very touching exploration of father-daughter relationships both biological and found, is the conflict of risking a comfortable but deeply flawed status quo for a chance at something better that could also end up much worse. Both sides of this argument are touched on in both little and huge ways. The series clearly sides on the side of taking a chance at something more but there is an attempt at arguing for the uniformity and safety of the known.
To put it simply, DECA-DENCE is a classic dystopian science fiction anime with a very strong production. Like most titles in the genre, it has some pretty obvious plot holes, especially if you start to focus on the details a bit too much. There are also some grey motivations here and there. While I was watching it, I thought of the Matrix a whole lot. There are more than a few parallels to be drawn. And I also thought that the central concept of DECA-DENCE was way better than the using humans as batteries stuff. So you can make of that what you wish.
Personally, I enjoyed it a lot and I think a lot of sci fi fans would as well.
You might like this anime if:
You are a fan of old school science fiction or of wholesome father-daughter relationships.
My favourite character:
- Every time anyone says oxyone – think about taking a sip
- Any time something is a bug – take a sip
- Every time you hear “the world must be free of bugs” – gasp!
- Every time anyone says “Gears” – take a sip
- Every time Kaburagi is a tough teacher – raise your glass
- Every time we see Natsume’s cautious friend (Fei) – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions the strongest tanker – take a sip
- Every time we see Natsume’s dad – Toast to him
- Every time bodies are covered with sheets – pour some out
- Every time state of the art entertainment is mentioned – take a sip
- Every time anyone bypasses the limiter – take a sip
- Every time the hot tattoo blond guy is onscreen – cheer
- Every time Jill is being awesome – breath in, she’s always awesome
- Every time we see Hugin – throw your drink at him – kidding don’t do that! It’s just a screen.
- Every time someone says they didn’t need anything else – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.
12 thoughts on “DECA-DENCE – A New Dystopia”
Oooh a science fiction anime ! I may have to check this out after I finish some of my other shows .
It seems divisive but I hope you like it!
I’m still keen for a sequel series exploring the rest of the world – it’s not on the cards of course but I always thought there was scope for it.
I like what you point out re: the theme of ‘risk’ too, that’s always a hook for me 😀
Oh My. I don’t see a sequel happening. I would have loved side stories. I wonder if there’s a manga
I don’t think there is though I wonder if it’d happen in the future? Maybe depends on the reaction to the show in Japan?
Still unsure why I found the series’ allegory / social commentary so grating, even though I am fairly receptive to it. I think it might be a residual Pavlovian response from my university days, where I was surrounded by loud left-wingers more interested in blanket condemnations than boring nuance. Thought I’d moved past that, guess not.
Anyhow, the main reason I kept watching was Natsume — what a delightful little ball of energy. I really missed her when the show switched the focus onto Kaburagi.
Dawnstorm mentioned that the reception was positive but that has not been my experience.
Oh, I meant that I’d associated the show’s “systemic capitalist exploitation of the underclass” shtick with my university days, I wasn’t commenting on real fan feedback.
I frankly don’t engage with the broader anime community — a small bubble on WordPress is my main window into the fandom, and probably a non-representative one at that.
But for what little it’s worth, I think the few blogs I follow have been kind to the show overall. Now I’m curious, was the non-positive response you mention on Twitter, or elsewhere?
Some of the blogs I follow had so so posts and a lot of them gave it a pretty low rating on AniList.
I think I’d have enjoyed the show more if I’d read less SF. As SF, the show’s pretty abysmal failure, IMO. It’s a pretty good action show with really great characters to make up for it, though, so in the end I enjoyed it somewhat. I’d probably have enjoyed it more had I binged it later, as the constant praise the show received sort of soured me on it (not because I begrudge people their enjoyment, but because it’s sort of grating to see stuff praised for things you think is below avarage – like, say, the execution of the twist).
To summarise, my personal take would be something like this: bad SF, good character writing (for likable characters), a nice aesthetic, and a run-of-the-mill story make for an ultimately good-to-avarage story, whose overpraising somehow lessened my experience.
In the end, I even enjoyed Gibiate more (no, it’s not a better show…).
Well obviously I have a much more generous appreciation of it. I usually do though, no surprise there!