Deca-Dence – 1st Episode Review
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Synopsis: After nearly being driven to extinction by life forms known as Gadoll, humanity dwells in a mobile fortress named Deca-Dence. Built to protect humans from the Gadoll threat, it’s occupied by Gears, warriors who fight daily, and Tankers, those without the same skills. Natsume, who dreams of fighting, meets Kaburagi, an armor repairman. Their chance meeting will shake the future of this world. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Deca-Dence’s premiere displays a lot of promise. There’s a fun, if derivative, concept, carried forward by a lively, likable lead, and a number of intriguing teases hinting at more complex elements to the plot. That said, Deca-Dence’s premiere is hardly flawless, suffering from an attempt to cram too many intriguing teases and hints into its first outing.
Linny: Deca-dence’s insistence on shoving in so many teases and hints is hard to ignore. The first episode alludes to numerous aspects of this new fantastical world but barely gives them any time to breathe or settle in. What hints we get are so fleeting that they’re bound to cause confusion rather than set up promising intrigue. From throwaway lines about Natsume wishing she was born into a warrior race to unusual looking humans with green, purple or red skin and even mentors with secret missions, there’s so much being teased in this premiere episode. Many of these concepts are seemingly divorced from the main narrative so they end up feeling too distant and perhaps distracting as we’re still trying to become familiar with the basics of this world. All these disjointed elements make Deca-dence’s start feel uneven, unpolished and ultimately make for a less than smooth first experience.
Tom: Still, what keeps Deca-Dence fun is how easy the basic premise is to get on board with. The show is essentially another riff on the ‘dregs of humanity fight monsters that obliterated civilization’ putting it in the same field as Attack on Titan or Knights of Sidonia. We open with Natsume as a kid, who snuck out to follow her father and his studies of the ruins of human civilization. Things take a terrible turn when one of the Gadoll attack, slaughtering her father’s team, wounding Natsume herself, and likely sending her father to the grave as well (his passing is left ambiguous.) We flash to the present, and come to understand that humanity survives thanks only to the mobile fortress Deca-Dence, where the last of the humans have congregated. Natsume dreams of fighting the Gadoll and by episode’s end events have taken such a turn that she now perhaps has that opportunity. While Deca-Dence’s story might not be all that original, it does a good job of putting a fresh coat of paint on the idea, in part thanks to how lively and likable Natsume is.
Linny: Natsume is your standard lead for the most part; the kind who has big dreams about being a soldier and taking down the evil monsters. She is also so chirpy and determined, despite seemingly experiencing the tragic loss of her father. She’s loud, filled with personality and displays over the top reactions, enough to appeal to fans of that stereotype even if she isn’t the most original. As the episode progresses, she ends up experiencing things that expose her to just how naive and clueless she still is, which hopefully hints to her wisening up to the gravity of actually being a soldier. It could make for some good character growth, a common trope but one that can be enjoyable still with strong execution. Even if that never happens, Natsume seems poised to charm anyone who enjoys a brash and expressive protagonist.
Tom: You might think Natsume’s chipper attitude would sit at odds with a post-apocalyptic Sci-fi setting. But Deca-Dence is surprisingly even in tone. The first few minutes depicting Natsume getting horribly wounded, and her father’s team slaughtered, might make you think otherwise, but the show makes sure to keep these proceedings more even handed and less dark and dour than you would assume. When the comedy follows alongside us meeting Natsume’s teenage persona it doesn’t feel like there’s any tonal whiplash at all. There’s definitely more of a quirky nature to the entire show. It’s the kind of attitude you might expect from a Gainax or Trigger production. Heck, that attitude extends through the art-style, perfectly capturing the more fun and absurd atmosphere the show seems to be going for. That’s what helps Deca-Dence sit apart from Attack on Titan and Knights of Sidonia, as it takes itself a tad less seriously, allowing for more rambunctious characters and comedy. It’s not a perfect opener, and I’d say the jam-packed teasing of subplots and additional elements puts it a tad off balance, but overall Deca-Dence still has my recommendation. If you want a fun sci-fi action series with more bombastic characters and comedy, with an utterly quirky visual design sense, Deca-Dence is looking good.
Linny: Deca-Dence has competent art for the most part. The 2D art boasts solid, quirky designs for characters and even some for the Gadoll monster menace. However, the series’ also employs full on CGI for some bigger segments, like the transforming fortress Deca-Dence and largely enemy Gadoll, which clash quite a bit with the more traditionally rendered parts of the episode, thanks to how visibly clunky the frame rate is. All that said, I still feel Deca-Dence is yet another promising addition to the Summer 2020 line-up. Yes, it has a few flaws that cannot be ignored; i.e cramped, vague storytelling and sub-par CGI, but it does enough with its characters and creative world to be worth checking out for anyone who enjoys stories set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are fighting for survival using all sorts of unusual and unique weaponry. As long as you go in with braced expectations for the flaws we discussed, you may come away with another addition to your watch list.
Deca-Dence is available for streaming via Funimation.