As you can tell from this post, I’ve obviously watched Episode 2 of Deca-Dence but I can see someone not bothering to get this far. The premiere wasn’t exactly the best, bizarrely so even when you consider who’s at the wheel here. That said, resuming might be worth the time. I find Deca-Dence more interesting after watching Episode 2.
After teasing weird robot alien things at the end of the premiere, I was hoping that this means the plot has more to it than initially perceived. Surprisingly and to my relief, there is. While Deca-Dence is indeed the fortress home of what remains of humanity, it is also some sort of entertainment facility run by a company known as the Solid Quake Corporation. The robot aliens either spectate what happens or participate in themselves as Gears via mentally linking with humanoid avatars. It’s essentially an augmented reality game with the robot aliens acting as players while the human denizens of Deca-Dence are essentially NPCs. Weird? A bit, yeah. Interesting? I’d say so.
More importantly, Kaburagi himself is actually one of these robot alien players. He used to be in the top rank but has since been blacklisted by the Solid Quake Corporation after getting caught helping his friend illegally enhance his avatar’s abilities. Now, he serves as an agent of some kind, retrieving chips from people the corporation designate as “bugs”, someone who’s going against the societal norm created for them or is on the path of doing so.
Something I like about this episode is the recurring theme of free will. Kaburagi’s weariness and cynicism stems from the fact that he’s no longer in control of his life. He’s trapped in the game to do his employer’s bidding. Wanting to break free, he actually considers killing himself by neglecting to refuel on the substance his species survives on. Natsume actually also factors into this as well. When she catches Kaburagi in the act of bug hunting, her chip surprisingly doesn’t fry her. Kaburagi then finds out that it’s because the computer records believes Natsume has been dead for years (coinciding with when she got attacked as a kid). This means Natsume is a free agent in Deca-Dence with complete control over her fate. Seeing this as an opportunity, Kaburagi decides to continue on living and give his protege off-the-record Gear training. Maybe he hopes for Natsume to break the system but it’s more likely just a manner of Kaburagi being able to do something entirely of his own volition for the first time in eons.
I have one concern with Deca-Dence right now and it’s the fact that technically, the fundamentals of the story haven’t exactly changed. Kaburagi is still the world weary veteran who’s finding a new calling and Natsume is still Natsume. That being said, the revelation of Deca-Dence being some weird real-life MMO-esque game does make the show considerably more interesting, even if anime has been aping games for far too long now. Perhaps there’s hope for this show after all.
Thanks for reading!