Deca-Dence Series Review

The World Might Suck But You Don’t Have To

The title of this anime gives you a bit of a hit going in that things are not exactly as they seem in episode one. With ‘decadence’ being a decline usually as a result of excessive indulgence you kind of assume when you see the set up that the Tankers, humans who live inside the mobile fortress, Deca-Dence, that somewhere along the line we’re going to see a master class that has skewed things so that they can live in luxury. While that isn’t actually the case it most certainly does make it easier to pick up the signs in episode one of what else is going on that the innocent protagonist seems unaware of.

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Where Deca-Dence definitely won me over however, was that in the introduction to episode 2 they simply let the audience in on what that secret was. While I have nothing against anime that allow the audience to discover the ‘truth’ with the protagonist and the suspense that can come from anticipation and waiting to show your hand, it seemed refreshing for an anime to just come out and make it clear to the audience what the state of play actually was and then let us watch as things unfolded from there with the protagonist really not getting to find out what was really going on until about three quarters of the journey through.

With that said, there will be some spoilers in the review below however I haven’t included any images from beyond the half-way point and will refrain from discussing the ending, other than expressing my absolute satisfaction that in 12 episodes this anime told its story, reached its climax, and even dealt with the fallout. While it might be a little too neatly tied up in the final moments, I wasn’t left feeling disappointed when it ended and I don’t need to wait for a sequel that may or may not ever happen.

Deca-Dence Anime Review

Game log-in - Deca-Dence Anime
This is not just another game simulation anime.

When trying to describe Deca-Dence to someone who hasn’t watched it you really are a bit stuck. On the one hand it tells a nice coming of age story for protagonist Natsume. As a precocious child she sneaks out of the fortress with her father and then they are promptly attacked by a monster. She loses part of her arm as a result and he is killed. All of this happens as the introduction to the story.

Despite her disability, Natsume is determined and though so many people around her try to dissuade her from the path she has chosen, Natsume is working toward becoming a soldier and one of the few Tankers (humans who live inside the fortress) who can join the army which is largely made up of ‘Gears’ (who are warriors who live on the upper floors).

While Natsume’s arc is a little heavy handed at times as she goes through periods of grim-determination followed by set-backs, acquires a mentor and confidant who at first is reluctant to take her on and then is fiercely defensive of her, feels abandoned by friends and then reconnects, and works to define what it is she is fighting for, her character journey shapes the rest of the story that is unfolding around her for the most part without her knowledge.

It is solidly done and Natsume is a delightful character. She reminds me a little bit of Emma from the Promised Neverland, but she is most definitely her own character. However, it is impossible to spend time watching Natsume and not want to better yourself or work to improve your situation. She’s just a bundle of motivation.

Natsume and Kaburagi - Deca-Dence Anime
Kaburagi’s motives are at first a little confusing as he takes on Natsume’s training.


Though, describing it as a character journey would kind of be lacking. The overarching narrative is incredibly far-reaching as the nature of the world is described and then changed through the course of the story. As a dystopian sci-fi there’s some common tropes with civilisation on Earth having ended due to pollution and corporations seizing power as governments collapse.

We’ve seen these basic trapping before. Even the Gadoll, monsters who attack the fortress, aren’t overly unique, though they are very colourful. When we throw in game simulation elements, cyborgs, and an AI system that has decided it is perfect and defends itself (strong reminder of Psycho Pass’s system coming through without the mental health aspects) a basic description of this 12 episode anime might leave someone thinking that the writers simply threw a bunch of ideas together hoping some of them would stick.

The gears prepare for battle - Deca-Dence anime
I also continued to love the clear visual distinction between Tankers and Gears as well as inside the Deca-Dence fortress compared to other settings. While it means the anime uses a range of different colour palettes and styles, it really helps to cement each segment and faction and clarify what the current focus is.

I will admit, the second part of episode 1, where the entire fortress did a transformers style reconfiguration and turned into a giant canon in order to blow up a giant Gadoll, and as we saw the first fight with the Gears zipping around in the Gadoll’s zone (which manipulates gravity allowing for some pretty cool fight sequences really) had me worried that this Deca-Dence might end up being a little too derivative and have tried to push too much into its own narrative. Fortunately, I was very wrong as all things considered the narrative is actually pretty tightly woven and the characters are strong enough to link events and ground the more fantastical plot elements at play.

After watching an episode I was asked by a friend what I thought and at the time I was feeling a mixture of Chrome Shelled Regios vibes crossed with Darling in the Franxx, and realistically that wasn’t exactly inspiring confidence. Fortunately, by the end of the second episode, and when I first tweeted my impressions, Deca-Dence had managed to really sell me on the idea that this anime was going to walk its own path and I was genuinely curious.

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Ultimately, Deca-Dence does not disappoint. The action gets more intense as each battle has higher and higher stakes, character growth and development continues throughout, and plot threads are always purposeful. Even minor characters are given decent motivations and goals that underpin their actions making most of the events feel purposeful. Jumping between locations from the bleak wasteland to the inside of the fortress to the home of the system isn’t jarring as each setting is distinct as are the characters who inhabit it.

Kaburagi real style - Deca-Dence Anime
Kaburagi takes it easy…not.

There’s little I would change about this anime as each phase of the story seems to do what it needs to do and move on. The audience is never left in the dark for too long and there’s really only one plot development that seems to exist simply for the sake of driving us to the climax. Everything else feels very natural within the set-up. If you didn’t catch Deca-Dence when it aired, I would definitely recommend giving it a watch as it is surprisingly delightful.

Images used for review from: Deca-Dence. Dir. Y Tachikawa. Nut. 2020.


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Karandi James


14 thoughts on “Deca-Dence Series Review

  1. Put me in the “Meh” category. It made my top ten for 2020 but only for the Natsume stuff. I enjoyed the first episode and thought it might have been a keeper but the big change in the second one killed that buzz for me. It might work better on a rewatch but as it stands, I went from high to low in the space of a week,

    1. Though that kind of shows what kind of year 2020 was when you rate it meh but it still made the top ten. Admittedly, Natusme’s story was the best part of this anime.

  2. This really was a fun series. My anime club is rewatching it now and it’s fun to see other folks navigating all of its twists and turns for the first time.

    1. The early episodes have you reeling as ideas are kind of thrown at you and first you think your watching one kind of anime but the you start thinking it is something else. Hope the club enjoys the watch.

  3. We had almost the complete opposite feelings. I thought they revealed all too soon, the difference in animation styles was so jarring, it pulled me out of the story and slapped me across the face each time it happened. I also felt it threw too many things in and hoped for them to stick… for me they didn’t.

    I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, although it did have its moments.

    1. I can see why you would find it jarring. For me it worked and I appreciated this anime for how it came together and how it decided the audience could be in the know while the characters often weren’t. However, I can see where you are coming from with your impression of of it as well.

    2. Yeah, I’m with Lynn more-or-less. It had the potential to be great – but they blew it.
      There was just too much going on, and too many obvious attempts to retroactively patch over the holes they’d written themselves into.

      In the end, Deca-Dence was one hell of a first draft of what could have been a powerful and compelling tale.

      1. I think the clutter or the mess kind of added to the unique feeling of this anime. While each idea wasn’t original (some early on felt very derivative) the way it came together was something a bit different. Whether you like that something will entirely depend on the viewer but I ended up having a lot of fun with it and liked how it came together. That said, I get your point about patching holes in the plot (at least they tried and didn’t just leave giant plot-holes and pretend they weren’t there).

  4. Ooh, yay! Another post on this one! It’s such a great series with so many different ways to interpret! We just did an episode on it too! I love seeing more people talk about it. I think it went away a little too quickly T-T

    1. While I enjoyed it, I am kibd of glad they didn’t try to stretch the story any further given as it stands the narrative progesses at a nice pace to a climax and resolution. Too many anime try to push for keeping a story going despite having used all their best ideas in the opening and really I find anime that do one season and finish to be far more rewatchable.

      1. Ah, no, I meant people talking about it. People stopped talking about it altogether veeery quickly, it seemed.

        1. Seasonal viewers tend to be like that before moving on.
          I do know in January when I asked on Twitter which anime from 2020 I should try and catch up with, this one got a number of shout outs. So clearly not totally gone from people’s radar.

          1. So I’ve seen. Either way, I super glad it was so well received among those who kept watching it after that early twist. What a ride, it was!

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