Japanese animated tv series (2020). Created by the Deca-Dence Project. NUT. Directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa. Written by Hiroshi Seko. Voice cast includes Katsuyuki Konishi, Tomori Kusunoki and Michiyo Murase. Twelve 23-minute episodes. Colour.
The first episode presents us with a generic Anime scenario: long ago the Gadoll, Monsters of varying size and shape, wiped out 90% of Earth's population; the mobile fortress Deca-Dence was built, becoming the last redoubt of humanity (see Keep). It is immense: inhabited by Gears, brave warriors who fight the Gadoll, and Tankers, who maintain the infrastructure and live a more hand-to-mouth existence. Teenaged Tanker Natsume (Kusunoki) wishes to become a Gear but is assigned to clean the fortress's armoured walls, under the taciturn former Gear, Kaburagi (Konishi).
The second episode is a Conceptual Breakthrough for the viewer, but not yet for Natsume. Deca-Dence is a Videogame: nearly all the Gears are the players' meat puppet Avatars, though the Tankers are human. We learn later that hundreds of years ago, in the twenty-fourth century, Pollution saw the end of the nation state: global corporations ran the world from an aerial habitat, their Cyborg workers increasing as homo sapiens neared extinction. The most powerful corporation, Solid Quake, acquired the rights to humanity and erected a huge dome over Eurasia to create Deca-Dence. It is an AI controlled entertainment facility, intended as a distraction for corporate "cyborgs" (though they seem to be Robots with downloaded minds). Kaburagi is actually a cyborg's avatar whose real job is to delete "bugs" – Deca-Dence's potential disruptive elements. Natsume once nearly died (losing a hand), the system incorrectly recording her as dead: as such she is a bug – but Kaburagi, admiring her determination, trains her to become a Gear.
Kaburagi's interference has him declared a bug and sent to a Correctional Facility (literally to shovel shit). However, the prisoners have acquired illegal game access, so he logs on as a new avatar, to discover the Gadoll have breached the fortress – a tactic to cull the growing human population. With the help of the facility's prisoners – particularly computer programmer Jill (Murase) – and Natsume, Kaburagi destroys all but one Gadoll: but the survivor evolves into something that threatens the corporation too, who therefore plan to terminate Deca-Dence. Acting on a remark by Jill, Kaburagi makes the whole fortress his avatar (see Mecha) and, inspired by Natsume, destroys the Gadoll – but dies. Three years later, Deca-Dence is still a cyborg gamer's resort, but more leisure-based and with the humans' willing participation. Jill now discovers a back-up of Kaburagi, and shortly after he and Natsume are reunited.
The show's message – unite to fight your oppressors and don't give in – is softened by a bland ending, undermining its social commentary (see Politics; Economics; Satire): the threat of the evil corporations who oppressed both humans and cyborgs is suddenly dissipated, with Deca-Dence now apparently autonomous. Aside from this, Deca-Dence is an exciting, ambitious anime with humour and many nice touches – such as the reversal of having the cyborgs and their normal environment resemble a computer game, and the game setting appear realistic. [SP]