Deca-Dence was one of more promising shows this season. That partly has to do with the season getting screwed over by the COVID-19 pandemic so anything remotely interesting will stand out but I think in a more normal season, this probably would be somewhere at the top in terms of anticipation and interest. The big claim to fame for this show is that it’s the latest directorial work by Yuzuru Tachikawa, the same director of Death Parade (which was his passion project) and Mob Psycho 100. Tachikawa is a heck of a talent, one of the best young directors out there in the anime industry. Anything new he’s working on is at least worth checking out.
I’m still hoping that Tachikawa’s vision will pull through but I must admit that I am feeling rather underwhelmed about Deca-Dence after watching the premiere. Generic is the exact word I’d describe the show. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future crawling with monsters and has humanity trapped in a fortress of some kind (that turns out to be a giant robot but that’s more predictable than surprising). Natsume (Tomori Kusunoki) is our plucky heroine who’s denied her enlistment as a soldier but dreams big anyway. Kaburagi (Katsuyuki Konishi) is our grumpy and weary mentor character who has long abandoned the path of a warrior and will undoubtedly return to it because of his co-star. Even the main form of combat feels derivative with the characters using equipment to zip around the monsters being reminiscent of Attack on Titan (though the exact tech behind it reminds me a bit more of Princess Principal). All in all, everything about this show feels generic.
There’s also a surprising modicum of clumsiness to the premiere. Natsume’s backstory where her father dies and she loses her right arm feels horribly skimmed over in an opening flashback. As a result, you’re not able to relate with her situation nearly as well you should. Another example is the distinction between the two social classes, the offensive Gears and the supportive Tankers being lazily explained to you in exposition provided by Natsume’s class on graduation day. Although the context is them repeating what they’ve learned, it still feels contrived as the social classes ought to be a widely known part of the characters’ society. I know Tachikawa isn’t the head writer for this show, that credit belongs to Hiroshi Seko (whom Tachikawa worked with for Mob Psycho 100), but it is surprising to see this kind of writing under his wing.
To play Devil’s Advocate, I will say that there is some intrigue left by the premiere. Kaburagi has one peculiar moment where he’s shown to be secretly working for someone to collect “bugs” from people. He also keeps around one of the monsters around as a pet which Natsume takes no issue with but the implication is that this is technically illegal for Kaburagi to do. The very last scene of the episode is also quite strange as it reveals to you another society of what appears to monsters or aliens. Maybe the conflict is more nuanced than the lead characters are led to believe.
My fingers are crossed for this show. I’d much prefer it to be good, not just because it’d be disappointing to see Tachikawa miss the mark but also because this summer season could frankly use all the good shows it can air.
Thanks for reading!