With all the action happening in Episode 5 of Deca-Dence and all the information we are privy to at this point, it’s pretty interesting seeing how everyone views the conflict. Natsume and all the other humans all think this is a battle that’ll turn the tide of their long lasting war and at the same time, you see the cyborgs’ avatars treating it all as an exciting and challenging in-game event. It especially comes to play at the end when everything resets. The humans are all horrified to learn the war with the Gadoll will never end while the cyborgs playing the game sees it as the start of a new season in their live service. For the first time, it seems that Deca-Dence is finally exploring the ARG-like nature of its setting. More specifically, how the pretense of a game affects the gravity of a situation.
Going into this episode, I had to wonder just how harrowing the so-called unbeatable battle against the Alpha Gadoll would be. Natsume I had no doubt in my mind would survive, Kaburagi I was less sure on, and it would be a huge waste if Kurenai gets the axe after finally receiving center stage. And wouldn’t you know? Almost all the deaths that happen here are people you do not care about. The only one that comes closest to eliciting a reaction is Mindy, Natsume’s superior who risks her life to save her from one of the Alpha’s attacks. Even so, it only marginally works since Mindy hasn’t had a whole lot of screentime and it’s later implied that she’ll survive (though that does mean she gets another chance to grow on us).
That’s not to say this episode is devoid of any weight. This is still a turning point in the dynamic between the show’s two main protagonists. Kaburagi arrives in the nick and fights the Alpha Gadoll, going as far as bypassing his programmed limits to enhance his abilities which was previously established to be illegal to do in Deca-Dence. If you recall, that’s an illegal move for players of Deca-Dence to do. But Kaburagi does it anyway because in his eyes, Natsume is worth going that far to save. It’s the most heroic, most defiant, and most selfless thing Kaburagi has done in this show and it’s satisfying to watch.
A peculiar piece of dialogue comes when Kaburagi’s friend and Deca-Dence administrator Minato (Kohsuke Toriumi) warns him that his actions are going against the storyline. Beyond the fact that Kaburagi does destroy what is meant to be an unbeatable boss and causes a bigger one to take its place, I think this is meant to be a bit of meta commentary. Like, games always have a designed outcome of some kind and Kaburagi is going completely against it. On top of that, he’s going against what’s expected of him as a moderator of the game. But to be honest, it doesn’t sound all that clever to me when you consider that Deca-Dence the anime series hasn’t exactly been that wildly unpredictable. Kaburagi doing what he does in this episode, regardless of effectiveness, is what any viewer would expect of any character of his archetype. Hard to talk about subversion when that’s not really what you’re doing.
As for what happens to Kaburagi at the end, I can see this as this being the end of the road for him though I’m of two minds with this. On one hand, this is a very reasonable exit for this character. Even though he is punished, he at least dies on his own terms and with the knowledge that Natsume is safe for the time being (even if it’s a serious plot hole that her existence has gone so undetected). On the other however, I can see Deca-Dence losing a ton of steam from here on out. Kaburagi is the most interesting character in the show and frankly, I’m unconvinced Natsume is likable or interesting enough to carry the show on her own.
Thanks for reading!