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Yurei Deco
Episode 5

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Yurei Deco ?
Community score: 3.6

We're in the second week of the Yurei Detective Club's new status quo, and "On the Trail of a Liar" is the second “Case of the Week” episode we've gotten so far. It also features some of the most overt social commentary we've seen from Yurei Deco up to now, with a story that focuses on the consequences of misinformation and fake-news memes being spread in a culture that is driven by surface-level understanding of viral trends. At least, kind of. Maybe? We'll get to it.

At the end of the last episode, Hack discovered a robotic carrier pigeon with a request for a brand new case attached to it, and this week we learn that the request comes from the vaguely Mark Twain-looking Professor, who runs Tom Sawyer Island's premiere “zoo”, which tries to make up for the island's lack of natural fauna with a bevy of Deco-skinned robots that are meant to perfectly mimic the look and behavior of all sorts of critters that have presumably gone extinct in this future. The issue at hand is that the supposedly all-knowing Decopedia has been tampered with in the wake of the Zero Phenomenon, and one of the zoo's star animals, the nue, is being falsely advertised as a cute little kiiten chimera, when its face really resembles the traditional artistic depictions of a lion (which I think looks perfectly cute in its own right, but that's beside the point I guess).

This is where the episode's attempts at social commentary come into play, and where they immediately become kind of messy and difficult to parse, because as the characters themselves eventually learn by digging through a mysterious and ancient artifact known as a “book”, the Professor's insistence on combating false information with a dedication to 100 percent accurate representation of real-world biology is a moot point. The nue is a chimera plucked straight out of Japanese mythology, and even though the Professor gets furious over how Hack and Berry's wild nue chase results in a completely borked version of the nue becoming a social media phenomenon, he's been basing his own creations off of the wild stories found in cryptozoology rags. It's actually a bit confusing, since the Professor claims to have always known that the nue was never based on a real creature, which leads to the honestly sad scene of the poor thing getting destroyed, but then he seems to be utterly convinced that monsters like Big Foot and Nessie from the Loch are totally rooted in historical fact.

Either way, Yurei Deco is obviously drawing parallels between this case and the way that completely nonsensical conspiracy theories and the like can spread like wildfire in the age of social media, though the exact conclusions it comes to are…tricky to nail down. On the one hand, as an increasingly distressed American that is trying to survive the insane conflagration of misinformation and despair that have characterized the last six years, Berry's commitment to spreading the truth of the nue, no matter how disappointing it may be, feels like the “right” choice. We've seen all too well how the machine of memes and misconceptions can transform lies into very real—and very harmful—delusions. I don't think this is the direction that Yurei Deco is aiming, though. The sad “death” of the nue and Berry's ambivalence over her actions make it feel like the show is leaning towards treating the case as a much more straightforward allegory for cryptozoology conspiracies in general, which is to say, “If all it does is get people interested in learning more about the world around them, what is the harm in letting folks believe in nue, or Bigfoot, or Nessie?”

It kind of feels like the subplot of Hack being mad at Berry for digging into her past aligns with this interpretation, since Berry defends her invasion of Hack's privacy as simply hunting for the truth, which ought to be a positive endeavor no matter what, even though Finn is in the one to explain that people have a right to privacy, and that violating that right isn't justified by pursuing the truth for the sake of it. I hope it goes without saying that this is an entirely different can of worms from the whole “Fake Nue-s” storyline, and it's odd that Yurei Deco seems to be conflating the two. Now, obviously my own perspective as an American writer is going to color how I view any story that digs into such sensitive issues, even a candy-colored adventure story like this one, and while I'm sure that Japan is facing many similar conflicts over the proliferation of politicized and factually skewed misinformation online, I can't pretend to have a thorough understanding of how these themes would be taken in by the show's native audience.

To be clear, I don't think that Yurei Deco is doing anything that is actively harmful or in bad faith this week, and the episode isn't terrible on account of its muddy themes, but it sure does make for an odd viewing experience. I don't need my satire to offer complete and utterly spelled out answers for whatever social issues it wants to probe, but I tend to prefer when the questions it asks don't confuse the issue even further, or outright contradict themselves. Maybe it's a case of Yurei Deco biting off more than it can chew, or maybe the show will have more cogent things to say moving forward. Either way, the episode left me wanting a lot more from it, which is a shame.

Rating:

Yurei Deco is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


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