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This Week in Anime
Time to Get Decked

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Deca-Dence is revving up for its big finale this week and the show has certainly gone some places. Human avatars, penal colonies that shovel literal shit, and hope that the system that grinds its people to dust can be overthrown. We're rooting for you Kaburagi and Natsume!

This series is currently streaming on FunimationNow

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Hey Nick, not asking for any reason in particular, but do you ever get the feeling that we're living in a zero-sum simulation run by an unfeeling corporate master and powered by a giant shit factory?
Ah you're being silly Steve. There's no real parallels between our world and the high-tech, gamified dystopia of Deca-Dence. I mean for one, in our world the for-profit prison would make us pay for the nutrition-slurry enema.

In other news, boy Deca-Dence sure has GONE some places, huh?
It's gotten about as real as an anime with these character designs can possibly get, that's for sure.

But yeah, figure we might as well check in right before the finale drops, because it's been a hell of a journey, and I'm not going to pretend to know how it's gonna wrap everything up.
In the time since we last logged in to Deca-Dence it feels like at least 2 seasons worth of show have happened, even if it's just 8 episodes. Which is a compliment! One of D-D's strengths is that it doesn't waste your time padding things out. It cuts to the quick with both character and story arcs in order to constantly evolve.
Yeah, we've gone all the way from breaking the "narrative" of Deca-Dence The E-sport, to starting a prisoners' riot, to wiping an entire species off the map, to reckoning with the final and utter destruction of the human race. Deca-Dence is nothing if not ambitious, and I've had a fun time both enjoying the spectacle and appreciating the uncommonly frank progressive political bend to its aspirations. Also the Heybot! faces are still good.
So that narrative-breaking part is pretty important. When we last talked about the show it seemed like the story going forward would be about Natsume's journey to becoming a fighter under Kabaragi's tutelage. Well it turns out she's a quick learner and made it there literally the next episode. They grow up so fast.
That's the power of Pipe, baby.

Of course, the first mission after she fulfills her lifelong dream is an unbeatable boss fight preordained by The System to wipe out the Gears and usher in the next dramatic chapter of the Gadoll onslaught. Because why wouldn't it be?
OK that bit really hit the Log Horizon cluster of brain cells hanging out in my cerebral cortex. One of the most constantly engaging parts of this show is the brutal reality of human life contrasted with the codified storytelling of the cyborgs. Like hey, just what would it be like to be an NPC in WoW when Cataclysm dropped? Probably not good.
And it sucks in an especially novel way for Kaburagi, who knows all of this, and thus has to find a way to convince Natsume to sit this one out without also divulging the whole thing about her entire life being flavor text.
Yeah that doesn't go too hot.
This turns into a big thematic moment for the two of them, since Kaburagi believes without a doubt that this fight is hopeless, while Natsume doesn't. In other words, Kaburagi at this point is still beholden to The System and trusts it to be infallible, but Natsume has no such restrictions—both out of ignorance and out of pure moxie. She's a bug, and she's gonna follow her big dumb heart right into the fray.
It's also a good example of where Kaburagi's priorities lie. Even as he quietly bucks at the system, his perspective is still that of a cog in its machine, and his only real goal is to get Natsume out of harm's way, everyone else can fend for themselves. And it's an interesting contrast to Natsume's other mentor Kurenai, who has a similar desire to find purpose as Kaburagi, but with way more immediate stakes.

That's the thing about being a Tanker: you don't get to log off and chill out in orbit inside Heybot! City. Deca-Dence is their only home, and their lives are their only ones. Also, the other thing driving Kurenai is that she has the hots for Kaburagi in a major way. I respect someone who knows what they want.
Girl's gonna have to have a real reckoning when she realizes she's been Heybot!-sexual this whole time.
If the finale doesn't give us that scene in particular, I'm going to have some very stern words for Yuzuru Tachikawa.
I have friends who had minor meltdowns over realizing they were bi at 28. I can't imagine what kind of crisis of identity it must be to find out The Minions is what gets your motor running. Heybot!-fuckers aside though, I really like how this whole conflict gives us a deeper look into Natsume. She could have easily been the plucky upstart who heals our jaded male hero, but she's got plenty of depth. It turns out her drive to change the world is just externalizing her own hatred of being "useless" she's lived with for so much of her life.
Yep, turns out growing up in a society that prioritizes the categorization of its citizens for maximum productivity kinda messes you up when you don't slot neatly into any of them. But Natsume's determination to fight against the tide of society is strong enough to even pull the scales off Kaburagi's eyes.
Old Man Heybot! discovered class consciousness and I couldn't be prouder.

Too bad he didn't also learn about laser crows.

On the other hand, he did learn how to make sick burns to his boss, so it wasn't a complete wash.
And of course, like any mega-corporation who catches an employee trying to unionize, the big boss sends Kabu to jail, and this show turns into Dead Leaves for a hot minute.
And thus ensues my favorite arc in the show, which takes place on the bottom rung of cyborg society, inside a literal shit factory. It's Deca-Dence at its most outrageous, most outspoken, and most outstanding.
And especially its most cursed.
Nothing but curses here.
For real as much fun as these episodes are, I have to imagine the arc filled with candy-colored robots puking en masse after getting blitzed on prison toilet wine made from fermented monster shit is where Deca-Dence is gonna lose some people.
It's unapologetically gross and unapologetically political, and that's why I love it. All pretenses about the “majesty” of Deca-Dence are utterly stripped away here. The whole thing is propped up by back-breaking manual labor from prisoners deemed as "bugs" by The System, for the express purpose of sequestering them and breaking any independent spirit they might have left. And I hope that reminds everyone of something.

What I especially like about this is that it's not even the imprisonment that flips Kaburagi's switch on this. It's once he manages to VPN his way back into the game and sees the game's new story actively culling the Tankers that he realizes just shooting spitballs from the back of the classroom isn't enough. The system isn't just wrong, it's wretched and destroying it is the only moral choice.

When something is that utterly rotten to the core, there's no safe middle ground. There's only one option.

Subtle, Deca-Dence isn't. But these are decidedly unsubtle times.
Of course even in an absolutely horrific system there are going to be scabs, and that's definitely the word I'd use for this little bastard.
The unfortunate reality is that even in the most comically exaggerated oppressive systems, there are still going to be many people content with the status quo. Change is fluid, uncertain, and frightening! Even back on Deca-Dence, which is at this time reckoning with worsening Gadoll assaults, there are people who would rather just keep going about their usual routines.

That part was fucking rough. It's clear that Mei's concern is born out of love, and all she wants is for Natsume to stay safe instead of throwing herself into danger. But that love is, in its own way, an expression of complacency, to accept that the chance of things getting better isn't worth what reaching for it would risk.
It's one of the many parts of Deca-Dence that impressed me with how much raw humanity it was able to squeeze of its characters and their relationships. A lot of the thematically ambitious shows I love still end up faltering a bit when it comes to the emotional side of things, but Deca-Dence has had some heart-wrenching whoppers. Alongside, of course, things like a tense caper episode with a sextoy punchline.
And sometimes it does both at once! This is the most emotionally charged robot enema suicide I've ever seen.
This is Art, to me.
Oh, I shouldn't forget to mention another reason why this arc is my favorite: it introduces Jill.
Ah, you mean Heybot!Sucy Manbavaran
Now I no longer have to wonder what a Michiyo Murase minion would sound like. Thanks, Deca-Dence!
Jill's really fun, though it's not until the latest episode that we figure out what her whole deal is in all of this. But for the first 5 episodes she's great as the requisite hackerbot.
Thanks to her, lines of dialogue like this one are possible, and that makes all the difference.
Gamer Cops: the only thing more Bastard than regular cops.
Naturally, too, there's a poetry to the fact that it's the people discarded by society who end up being instrumental in rebelling against and remaking the system into something new.
I also rather like the dynamic with Kaburagi's pseudo-collaborator, Minato. With how much he helps our hero out, you'd think he would sympathize with his rebellion, but it turns out his loyalty is because he admired Kabu as a player, and just wants him to give up on all this revolution nonsense so they can go back to playing Fortnite together.
When you love your boyfriend enough to preserve his corpse for future co-op sessions. Just Gamer Things.

It makes sense, too. Minato, while beholden to The System, is living a perfectly comfortable and satisfying life in charge of Deca-Dence's ground operations. He's a pawn, but he's a powerful pawn, so of course he doesn't understand the things Kaburagi has experienced.
Also in true E-boy fashion, he vapes. Truly no one is free of sin within the Deca-Dence.
Nobody but this good boy.
Ah the wonderful, immaculate Pipe. Surely nothing bad will happen to him! Anyway, time for Kaburagi and Natsume to make a road trip down to the Gadoll Extermination Button.
Hey, Deca-Dence? The fact that this happens off-screen doesn't make it ANY better. Just want you to know that. You monster.
The fucked up part is Natsume doesn't even get to mourn him because she's busy with even more shit.

Yeah, this conversation was always going to have to happen, and Natsume takes it about as good as one can. Which, at first, is not.

And I mean, to be fair, if I were to suddenly learn that Heybot! was a documentary, I'd have a hard time accepting reality too.
To its credit, it's not just the typical liar-revealed shtick either. The revelation is shocking, but more importantly it works to undermine everything about Natsume's life and journey. Losing her father, her arm, her training, every relationship she's built since meeting Kaburagi; it's all thrown into chaos because until a week ago this was all a really in-depth Second Life session for him.
The way she expresses fatigue really struck me, because, at many points this year, I've thought about how nice it would be to stop knowing things.

Ultimately, though, it's the fundamental authenticity of those connections and relationships that brings Natsume back from the brink. And besides, it's not like their goal changes all that much with the additional context: they're still gonna tear shit down.
And in classic Zoomer/Millenial solidarity, they're going to dab on em.
This thing's probably gonna take more than one dab to go down.
Oh riiiiiiiiight. Things also went kinda Jurassic Park-y with the Gadoll. Whoops.
Yeah, Shrimp Baby here really ate all of its vegetables. And people.
In hindsight not only was creating an entire race of semi-sentient monsters with a thirst for human/cyborg blood a shitty thing to do on a personal level, it was in fact a terrible god damn idea.
And another extension of The System's philosophical failure. The more you try to perfectly control something, the easier it is for one little deviation to totally undermine everything.
And of course the leadership's solution is to just factory reset the remainder of humanity.
Look, that's just how Silicon Valley rolls. You build a big game dome with venture capital, it becomes the only hospitable place for humans on the planet, and then when everything goes tits up and you've bled enough money, you declare bankruptcy and go onto the next project. That's disruption, baby!
Does that make Jill the Garret Camp of anime?
I don't think that's entirely fair to her, since at least she's trying to fix things.
Just saying, her solution is to make a self-driving car, if you think about it.

Though at least Kaburagi has some experience behind the wheel.
Experience, yes. Visibility, no.
I'm just wondering how he reaches the pedals.
This penultimate episode was extremely important, however, because it finally gave us our long anticipated meeting of human and robot alike. And Natsume proves to be the perfect ambassador.
Somehow her imagination is even more cursed than reality.
Deca-Dence is stuffed to the brim with ideas, but we didn't say they were all good ones.
Good or bad, I'm excited to see where this show decides ends. It's already sped through like 3 different places where I thought it would end, and the series' penchant for surprising means I'm still bracing for an 11th hour swerve.
Yep, it's definitely my most highly-anticipated finale for this season. I also don't plan on making any predictions, but I do hope that Natsume gets to do something as cool and important as Kaburagi possessing a very large fist. Plus, if I'm being greedy, more Mindy content is always welcome.
I also wouldn't say no to the miraculous resurrection of Pipe. Come on Deca-Dence, we've earned at least that much of a happy ending, right?
If Shrimp Baby can survive extinction, then surely one good lumpy boy can do the same. For now, though, wherever Deca-Dence ends up, it's already cemented its place in my heart and mind as yet another oddball masterpiece from Yuzuru Tachikawa and his team. I'll be sad to see it go, but its potent messages are gonna stay with me for a while. There are a lot of shit factories out there that need demolishing.
Today, we take down Deca-Dence. Tomorrow...well stay frosty, Bezos.

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