Deca-Dence has been one of the most exciting anime this season, packed with visual flair, a compelling world, and excellent, well-developed characters. The main duo of Kaburagi and Natsume in particular have created a strong bond with each other that’s about to be seriously tested with Kaburagi having just revealed the true nature of the artificial world that she’s grown up in at the end of the latest episode. What happens next is unknown for now, but today we’re exploring the two characters’ relationship, how it’s changed throughout the story so far, and what makes it compelling. Spoilers ahoy, let’s get started!
Finding Hope in Uncertain Origins
The rigid class structure of both the human and cyborg worlds is a big theme throughout Deca-Dence that is shown from the very beginning of the story. Natsume wanting to become a Gear in spite of her disability and origins and Kaburagi’s jaded existence as he continues his secret work scrapping bugs for the system with machine-like efficiency are both unfulfilling but the two begin to find motivation from each other thanks to their chance meeting in repairing the fortresses hull.
After being unexpectedly saved by the surprisingly capable warrior Kaburagi in the first episode, Natsume confronts him after seeing him remove a chip from a bug and he offers to train her, thus giving her real hope that she can finally join the fight against the Gadoll. Similarly, Kaburagi begins to see Natsume’s potential, and danger, after he discovers she is yet another bug under his wing now who also knows that he’s secretly keeping Pipe. Although he keeps his stoic attitude there’s a sense that he knows the risk he’s taking on now but somehow feels compelled to help Natsume in spite of it, perhaps subconsciously seeing his own desire for a real, self-made purpose in her.
Tests and Training
In one of the most effective training montages of recent memory we see Natsume put through a series of trials by Kaburagi as she gradually becomes strong enough to take on Gadoll herself. There’s a lot of tough love, sink or swim methods, including literally being pulled underwater, but watching Natsume grow and the two of them become closer in a mix of funny and serious moments is a real highlight of the series. His belief in her, and her own growth, is physically manifested after he gets her mechanical arm a weaponized upgrade.
Soon enough, her new skills and arm are put to the test in a high stakes battle with a horde of subterranean Gadoll. She is able to overcome her initial fear and ends up being generally badass as she fights off many of the nasty monsters, enough that she attracts the attention of the elite fighting squad known as the Power and joins as their newest member.
However, just when everything seems to be on the up, a major wedge is drawn between them as Kaburagi learns the new push towards the “Gadoll nest” is planned to be unwinnable by the corporation running Deca-Dence. Unwilling to tell Natsume the entire truth, he viciously tries to convince her to stay out of the fight, highlighting both his care for her and his own slump back into hopelessness against the powers of the system. Natsume opens up to him about her own reason for fighting in a flashback with her father explaining how humans used to live in the outside world.
Undeterred, Natsume decides to join the fight anyway, leading Kaburagi to wrestle with his decision. He eventually goes against Minato’s orders to stay behind, presumably aware of the possible dire consequences for himself. His desire to protect Natsume and motivation from her strong resolve does eventually lead to him causing a major upset when he breaks his limiter to kill the alpha gadoll, ending the “event” early.
Shortly after, Hugin interrogates and ultimately ends up “killing” Kaburagi’s avatar but by now he is fully committed to his ideals. Natsume has shown him how completely wrong the system is, declaring that “the world needs bugs” before getting zapped away and then sent to the “rehabilitation center” in the cyber world.
Reunion and Future
The two’s relationship is tested once again, this time through separation as Kaburagi has to find a way to continue fighting from within the hellish facility. Eventually hacking his way back in Deca-Dence with a new avatar, he and Natsume have a bittersweet reunion. We get to see Natsume’s own fading hope as she questions her belief in his return and what he said about there never being peace. Acknowledging her role in saving him, he asks her, "Don't you think that part of you saved Kaburagi, too?" and then declares that he’s "going to tear it all down!". Seeing Natsume’s vulnerability here showcases how important Kaburagi was for
Inspiring her and how deep their bond had grown, making this scene even more impactful than their later, more proper reunion.
Now reunited and more determined than ever, the two set off for what seems to be the final fight to destroy the Gadoll factory and the corrupt system of Deca-Dence itself. Not only does this carry a lot of weight for the mission but it also means that Kaburagi will have to finally come clean on the true nature of this world to Natsume, which conveniently is where the latest episode has left us at! We can only hope that their mutual trust and shared purpose can grow to transcend existence and the artificial reality between them!
Altogether, the relationship between Natsume and Kaburagi has been an interesting one, particularly if you consider the bizarre circumstances it was built around with cyborg and human interactions largely within a world that blurs the lines between a game and reality. It's been a continuous cycle of building up trust and inspiring each other through times of doubt but the lingering imbalance of their relationship when it comes to Kaburagi’s knowledge of Deca-Dence’s true nature has finally been brought front and center. All we can say is that we can’t wait to see what happens and hope Natsume can come to grips with the disturbing world humanity has been living inside of.
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