DecaDence is like a house of cards. 100https://i.ibb.co/8DJL0hF/HorribleSubsDecaDence051080pmkv20200923231509755.jpg There are fascinating ideas at play and a strong core storyline but blink for a second and the whole piece falls on its face. It took me an unusually long time to firmly ground my takes on DecaDence DD. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago I was constantly flipflapping between my thoughts on the series and whether or not it was meeting its objectives. Was this a muddled mess of a plot? Or the bestwritten show of Summer? After much deliberation Id now answer with: a little bit of both. As promising as this premise is there are key details that one could easily miss ruining the entire experience. And even when interpreted as intended DD fails to see through its fullest potential. I hope youll join me as I attempt to inspect the puzzling case that is DD: the strengths the weak spots the twist in Episode 2 and more. On that note theres no way I can hold a meaningful talk about DD without spoiling that major leftturn so I advise you to have at least caught up with the first three eps before reading further. 100https://media2.giphy.com/media/s4ujqFSkED1upbg14Z/giphy.gif There arent many recent prospects in anime that left me as excited as DecaDence. Thats coming from a guy who mostly watches his Japanese cartoons seasonally so make of that what you will. The last time Mob Psycho director Yuzuru Tachikawa got involved with an original work the small OVA got picked up by none other than Madhouse for a 12ep series nowadays known as Death Parade. Learning that one of the brightest industry talents was attaching himself to another original script sent my expectations through the roof. I openly shared my hype in discussions and gave this series my backing. This had the potential of becoming the dark horse of Summer and I was thrilled. DDs pilot did little to keep me hopeful. The episode had your standard postapocalyptic setting a dystopian class system a bythebooks arc about our MC proving herself and a CGI battle with a horde of indistinguishable alien blobs. I was just about ready to lower my expectations significantly when they brought out a giant mecha transformation sequence while Konomi Suzuki belts the admittedly banger OP. None of this was bad by any stretch but weve seen it all before. For a Tachikawa production there seemed to be a copious lack of ambition and intrigue. Something to really knock my socks off. 100https://media2.giphy.com/media/IWi2V04M8NAFGiCXJ6/giphy.gif And blow me away it did with a huge heelturn that changed everything. The reveal that the DecaDence fortress was in fact an entertainment facility controlled by a space corporation won me over. Shifts in context challenged me to question everything taking place in the surface world and what that meant to the chibi cyborgs participating in the simulation. The newfound setting opened up room for worldbuilding which the show does rather well at times. It occasionally dripfed information about how the grand illusion was held together by staging scenes in control rooms factories that manufacture the Gadoll aliens for the company and the storage facility for our robots ingame avatars. A dichotomy presented between the remaining humans and their descendent cyborgs was fertile ground for social commentary to go along with some sick action scenes. Ideas behind the ranged aerial combat feel distinct and something out of a video game and cool concepts pop up wherever you look. Now you might think that I had a good time with DD. But I didnt. For most of its run anyway. See my dumb ass didnt quite pay attention to the second episode as I was still reeling from its amazing twist. This was probably the worst possible mistake I could have made while watching the show because for several weeks it was the only episode that defines who Rankers and Tankers are. To make matters worse my brain went on overdrive from that episode on and my frustration grew as time went by. When a supposedly important character death occurred midseason I had no idea what to feel since I failed to catch the context behind that moment. Was that character a human or a cyborg? There are different implications for each interpretation so which should I take? What the hell is a bug anyway? I kept running into those same issues with each plot point running into brick walls as I regressed and reassessed the story. I never realized the answers to those questions until late in the season and even then it took a series rewatch for me to comprehend what was happening. Im all for sheepishly admitting that I ruined the experience for myself and in retrospect I enjoyed a lot of the narrative presented. However that isnt the only reason Im sharing this anecdote. 100https://i.ibb.co/3YBX9pW/HorribleSubsDecaDence041080pmkv20200923231429683.jpg Other viewers Ive talked to have had equally confusing experiences indicative of greater problems with DDs storytelling. In an interview conducted midway through DDs airing one I highly recommend you check out+ Tachikawa admits that him and his team made the setting somewhat complicated. Theres certainly credence to his statement but I dont think that fully describes whats happening here. A pattern crops up where select scenes pack exposition in dense chunks separated with slower story segments. This stopstart pace runs about as well as a truck low on oxyone and robs DD of its momentum. Normally I wouldnt find this approach problematic but certain episodes dont give me a lot of faith that the writers are using its singlecour length wisely. A notable example came hot off the heels of a big cliffhanger where we follow characters in a factory processing feces. These lulls in the narrative are all that harder to get through when those moments of plot progression leave holes unfilled. Earlier I mentioned my misunderstandings with the shows terminology but even the parts that I could make out yielded unanswered questions of their own. A bulk of those gaps lay with the relativelyunexplored secondary characters. Human survivors in DecaDence dont come across as well humans adding to the confusion with Rankers Tankers. These background roles arent given a ton of complexity which is a huge shame. The aforementioned potential for social commentary and ideological reflection got relegated along with characters like Fei Mikey and Kurenai. The apparent caste divide between upperclass Rankers and the lowerclass Tankers goes unmentioned which I found really strange. The episodes I enjoyed most were ones that were better able to tap into that potential namely Episode 7 and its longoverdue return to the community Natsume was fighting to protect. Most of the writing behind its cast contrasts and betrays the intricacies presented by the premise making me question if the series could be improved on given a higher episode count. 100https://i.ibb.co/7rR3LgR/HorribleSubsDecaDence021080pmkv20200923231913898.jpg Then again judging from the kind of story DD wanted to be perhaps my expectations were too high to begin with. In the interview I brought up earlier Tachikawa claims that while the setting was complicated the plot was more straightforward. Its an observation I agree with 100. To better describe what were referring to lets briefly compare DD with the other script by this director. Death Parade was a story revolving around arbiters charged with deciding the fate of the dead. Episodes were mostly selfcontained but came in a variety of tones and themes. Some nifty worldbuilding was done in the background while not being necessarily integral to the plot. Instead the show dedicated its focus to challenging the viewers understanding of morality and ethics. Death Parade chose to present a fullyfledged question and left the viewer to derive their own answers. On the other hand DDs conclusion was all but setinstone the moment it revealed its twist. You know what they never say: Nothing like a good ol battle against a Big Brother AI to convey your anti space corporation sentiments. Joke aside this predictability was a series mainstay even amidst some incredible surprises as opposed to the ambiguity of Death Parade. One show held all the cards the other laid them all out on the table as early as Episode 6. This resulted in the story feeling needlessly demanding at times setting up a hardtofollow plot but paying it off with a lessambitious message. With such a fascinating backdrop which arguably surpasses that of Tachikawas previous script one can only wonder if this mostlypredictable journey and its halfexplored ideas could have spent more time developing in the Pipeline. Now none of this is to disparage what the show does well straightforward doesnt mean bad. So enough of me bemoaning what the show could have been and lets get into what makes DD work. 100https://i.ibb.co/tLqkChw/HorribleSubsDecaDence051080pmkv20200923231541891.jpg At DDs core is an affecting bond between its central characters. Amidst my countless conflicted thoughts on the series one constant remained clear: Natsume carries the show on her back. She may not clock in the most screentime but is always a joy to watch. A lot of these narratives about protecting important helpless characters struggle to make an emotional connection with the viewer. Natsume could have easily fallen into that trap by being written as annoying overlychildish or a cheap plot device for instigating conflict that feels illogical and unnatural. Thankfully DD never runs into this issue Natsume is charming and entertaining to watch. In a reversal of the DamselinDistress she is fully capable of fending for herself in dangerous situations. Giving her character resilience and strength in spite of her physical handicap made her an empowering figure. She shares plenty of chemistry with Kumicho Kaburagi. While the stoic protagonist may not feel as endearing hes still a welcome presence onscreen. Instrumental to DDs success is their bond when theyre together and their development whenever theyre apart. Utilizing their vastly different backgrounds and perspectives to good use the series is able to convince us that this formidable duo have what it takes to conquer the system. Fun kinetic action is another of the shows strengths. Hordes of Gadoll getting mowed down every week made for an entertaining spectacle. Sound and visuals are serviceable no problems there. I appreciated the design contrast between the Space Colony and Earth. The chibi robot designs may have put some people off and it admittedly takes some time getting used to. Use of CGI was inevitable but far from nauseating. Overall this presentation was a good effort from relative newbies Studio Nut and I wouldnt mind checking out their future projects. 100https://media0.giphy.com/media/EHw5AHLRjzlg3XVTAT/giphy.gif TlDr: My experience with DecaDence was one of misunderstandings. DD fell short of the lofty expectations I had for an original script penned by Director Yuzuru Tachikawa. Failure to keep up with the shows fascinating setting and missed thematic opportunities hampered my time with the show further. Nevertheless the series still stands out amongst its peers with its strong central character dynamic and distinct action scenes. The world presented while incomplete in some aspects is a complex dystopia that occasionally makes for thoughtprovoking TV. There is a good story and kernels of good ideas hidden in this massive show making it one of the more interesting highlights in this years anime lineup. Just pay attention dont make the same mistakes I did. 7/10 STRAY RAMBLINGS SPOILERS: +Reference: https://sea.ign.com/feature/163759/decadencedirectoryuzurutachikawaontheoriginsbehindhisscifianimeepic Highly recommend you give this a read : I also found another good one worth checking out: https://mipon.org/interviewyuzurutachikawadecadence/ Really insightful this director knows his stuff. Shoutout to AnimeSavant for sharing the interview While hes listed as series director Tachikawa stated in an interview that he had worked on the foundations of the script. Credits for series composition go to Hiroshi Seko who for the most part has a good resume and partnership with Tachikawa. Although this begs the question of who has greater influence between the director and the writer one which Im illequipped to tackle. In this instance it seems that a healthy balance was struck between the two and thats a relief to hear. Im having trouble wondering how bug elimination and chip retrieval makes sense. You can infer that this system control is meant to quell potential uprisings before they occur but what are the bounds that make up an Error Code? Is it like a Minority Report situation where the A.I. detects the behaviour and stops it at the source? We never see this in the show in both instances where Kaburagi takes a chip the people they belonged to just dropped dead. Furthermore how plausible is this concept anyway? If someone prominent in the small community like Kurenai dropped dead from these unnatural causes surely people would pick up on that trend? Its kinda unsettling how the populace never bring up such obvious topics they really fell twodimensional in that sense. Kept thinking about Toy Story 2s airport scene when watching Kaburagi find his avatar in Ep 8. Random brain fart but how does currency work? All we know about the world of the cyborgs is their lives in relation to the DecaDence game. What happens outside of that? Perhaps they pay with oxyone? But the game is an arcade feature and I assume most of the populace earn their money running errands. So the Rankers are sponsored and get living accommodations? In short their economy promotes being an epic gamer and clocking in esports money. Now THAT is what I call forward thinking. Amazon take notes. If the game has a 90 satisfaction rate whatever that means I assume there are more games? That could be interesting. I imagine there are some dudes chilling on the moon playing the futures equivalent of Animal Crossing while all this madness is taking place. Strange how the allcontrolling system seems liberal when it comes to using drugs 100https://media2.giphy.com/media/qb3rogRRwKaMVa75Qm/giphy.gif Decadence is defined as selfindulgence. This alludes to the leisurely activities of the cyborgs as opposed to the poverty and neardeath subsistence that humans undergo. Again those parallels would hit so much harder if you actually USED them keep calm Dweeb you actually like this show IN A NUTSHELL: Telltales The Walking Dead: Season One meets WALLE. BEST GIRL: Natsume. Her facial expressions in most episodes are peak memematerial so thats a huge plus. 100https://media4.giphy.com/media/gkM1HQN1AGr42Ywtlm/giphy.gif Apologies if I went off weirder tangents than what I normally tackle. I had a totally different review in mind until I gave the show a rewatch so this piece morphed into a weird exercise in coming to terms with my personal experience. In any case I hope I at least provided adequate coverage for the show. If you happen to like my verbose rants feel free to check out my other reviews https://anilist.co/user/An1meDweeb/reviews for seasons past and present peace
70 /100
48 out of 60 users liked this review