Of Cyborgs and Scorpion Hair - A Deca-Dence Review

Deca-Dence is over, for now at least, so what did we think of this Nut-y sci-fi anime original series? Let’s dig into what made it one of the most exciting shows of its season and discuss some of the places where it came up a bit short. Log in, let’s get started!

Original & Creative Worldbuilding

Probably what stands out most prominently in Deca-Dence is its setting and how it is used to further its story. Sure there have been countless anime tackling the broad concept of “the world is a game” but the way Deca-Dence has it set up is cool for both its non-digital nature—Deca-Dence is actually just part of Earth that’s being managed by cyborgs—and how it mixes cyborg players and their world with real humans and, to a lesser extent, the genetically engineered Gadoll monsters.

While the actual backstory isn’t explained in extensive detail, the way the workings of Deca-Dence are revealed over time keeps up a sense of mystery throughout the anime that really works in its favor. Little wrinkles like the escaped cyborgs finding the remnants of an older Deca-Dence fortress, Kaburagi and Natsume’s flashbacks that explain the top rankers and limit breaking of the cyborgs and Natsume’s father’s investigation of the past before people lived in the fortress make the world feel believable, at at least thoughtfully constructed, despite some of its more out-there sci-fi elements.

Strong Character Moments

This world design also facilitated many great character moments. The avatar system, in particular, is used in interesting ways. Kaburagi “dies” multiple times throughout the story but is able to reclaim his avatar, or use a backup, allowing for a unique sense of tension, especially when he’s being hacked in from the depths of the bug rehabilitation center. Having him return to Natsume in the alternate avatar to see her grief over losing him as a spectator is another strong example of the creativity this afforded the story.

That being said, Deca-Dence didn’t lack for more ordinary character moments, heck even the tried-and-true training montage came out swimmingly thanks to Natsume’s great expressions and some good comedic timing. Overall, the focus on Natsume and Kaburagi’s relationship might have been to the detriment of some secondary characters, like Fei, and Kurenai to a lesser extent, but it did really let these characters shine in scene after scene. While existing more in the background and backstory, Minato also was handled quite well with his last episode performance talking with Kaburagi before he connects to Deca-Dence and later when he resumes his role as commander being clear highlights. Donatello’s duel with Kaburagi and Sarkozy’s development and eventual noble sacrifice also provided some memorable moments for secondary characters.

Amazing Art and Design

Going along with all of that, we’d be remiss not to mention the great design work that went into Deca-Dence. The cyborgs and their world have an incredibly wild and vividly cartoony style that provides a strong contrast to the rest of the show. Some of the Gadoll designs are quite interesting too, mixing a wide variety of animals into some bizarre creatures like the powerful rolling one with the Dunkleosteus-like jaws and the ultra derpy Pipe of course. Likewise, small touches in the human character designs like Natsume’s bug-appropriate scorpion-tail braid and Hugin’s angry, angular, and wicked shades show good diversity and expressiveness.

The fortress of Deca-Dence itself is also quite cool if a bit over-the-top, particularly in its weapon transformations but we’d argue that it adds to the experience. Seeing those weird blue arms grab all of the old Deca-Dence parts to form the new weapon in the final episode was amazing after all! The needle-based weapons, goggles, and jetpack-like gear that let the warriors fight within the Gadoll’s generated Zones are also a great example of the world-building facilitating unique designs, and some cool fight scenes we might add!

Was it Rushed & Missed Opportunities?

If asked to point to the biggest flaw in Deca-Dence, it would likely be that it might have deserved a couple more episodes to further flesh some things out. We already mentioned how some of the secondary characters like Fei weren’t given that much time to shine but another dent is in the antagonist department.

The real evil is “the system” but it is only really shown as Hugin and Munin which aren’t given any real development despite having memorable performances and designs. At one point we were speculating on the possibility of Hugin pulling a Donatello and joining the rebellion but that obviously never happened and his motivations beyond “serve the system” are never explored, which feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Likewise, there are hints of some complexity within the Gadoll after the one that was being tortured injects an egg or something into the scientists but that just goes on to become the big, bad end-boss thing to defeat. Giving the Gadoll more of a voice might have been more interesting. Also, why couldn’t Pipe have come back somehow? Wasn’t he a bug that could have escaped the genocide? He could have been the bug that Jill said she left behind in Deca-Dence, c’mon.

The whole thing Munin says near the end about everything, even bugs, being part of the system is also arguably a bit of a cop-out. Sure, it kind of allows for the happy ending to make a little more sense as a system update but it also robs us of the righteous victory that Kaburagi promised when he said he would “tear it all down”. Perhaps this speaks to Japanese sensibilities about making change from within “the system” instead of overthrowing it but considering the dystopian results for the humans, and the cyborgs as well, not to mention the Gadoll, seeing the system get wrecked would have been some tasty just deserts.

Final Thoughts

Altogether, though, we really can’t complain too much as Deca-Dence was an overall fantastic and original series that continued to surprise and entrance us throughout the season with its colorful world and characters. That OP was a real banger too with bonus points for using pixel art to drive home the game aspect of the series.

Would you like to see another season? Please let us know what you think of Deca-Dence in the comments section below and be sure to stick around Honey’s Anime for more reviews of the latest anime series and more! Until then, logging off... See ya~!

Deca-Dence-wallpaper-2-1-700x391 Of Cyborgs and Scorpion Hair - A Deca-Dence Review


Author: Oskar O.K. Strom

Call me Oskar or OkiOkiPanic or other things depending on how whimsical you're feeling. I'm an artist and game designer currently working in the indie scene. In true otaku fashion I'm also interested in anime/manga, collecting figures, building robot models, idols, denpa music, retro games and electronics, etc. Judging by the company I keep I figure it's only a matter of time until I'm obsessed with wrestling and mahjong.

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