A lot has happened since the destruction of the Gaddoll nest 2 weeks ago, hasn’t it? Ever since Kaburagi and Natsume worked together to break into the Gadoll research facility and destroy it from the inside 2 weeks ago, the entire world of Deca-Dence has fundamentally shifted. At the end of that episode, we were left with a tantalizing cliffhanger as Natsume learned the truth about the world she lived in and the powers beyond her reach that had ultimate control over her life. Following this revelation, episode 10 and 11 of Deca-Dence have sought to explore what this could mean for the character in line with the themes it’s explored so far.
Deca-Dence Episode 10: Dealing With the Truth
Before diving into Deca-Dence episode 11, in lieu of a review last week, let’s recap last week’s episode. Considering how many of the revelations and points of personal character growth last week have a major bearing on how this week’s events take place, it’s a useful way to contextualize how this week’s episode accomplishes the follow-through of the series’ anti-corporate, anti-capitalist messaging into what looks set to be a mightily-impressive finale.
If we look at how the series has developed and evolved from its deliberately-misleading opening to now, we go from seeing the outer function and design of the system of Deca-Dence before gradually diving in, layer by layer, to see the structural inequalities that keep it in operation. We see how racial divisions between humans and cyborgs are entrenched into the fabric of the world, with humans being stuck in sub-optimal conditions and fighting for survival in a world that’s a game without personal consequence for cyborgs. We see how, further down the system, people who try to rebel against it are incarcerated and exploited as prison labor to keep the world functioning and to ensure control. Quite literally, the people in prisons are the bottom rung, being forced to shovel and even consume the feces of those who are above them.
It’s a system structured for those on top at the cost of people at the bottom, where increasing suffering and keeping them in the dark from the truth is the way to ensure the system keeps operating as intended. The cracks began to show as those who idealized a better world and chose to fight to achieve it were able to expose flaws in the supposedly-foolproof system. They fought back against their oppressors, defeating the Gaddoll by shutting the system down, and suddenly the Gears had no choice but to witness the world for what it was, while the Tankers could at last dream of a better life where they weren’t subjugated to the system’s control.
The question last week’s episode explored was the question of whether ignorance can really be bliss? After all, for Natsume, her fight against the Gaddoll had been for finding purpose and confidence and avenging her father. Suddenly the reveal that everything was just a facade that she had no control over made her lose that purpose and feel powerless. Worse, her father which she had once thought was killed by a Gaddoll was killed by the system that she had found purpose within. Because he was close to finding out the truth about the Gaddoll being manufactured, he was killed for that reason, with Natsume’s failure to die turning her into a bug in the first place. Natsume and Kaburagi working together may have helped defeat all remaining Gaddoll in existence, but now her whole existence has been brought into question. Would it not have been better to simply keep on going in this I just system because at least there she had a reason to fight?
Ultimately, it’s a worthwhile question asking. We all seek purpose in life, whether that be from some grand creation or carving a hole in this mess of a universe to be yourself, and if you can succeed in finding that purpose, should you even WANT to move outside your comfort zone and lose that? In what I feel is an accurate description of the situation and a powerful, compelling argument, comfort within injustice is still not true comfort. While she may have lost her desire to keep going from learning the truth, encouragement from others and a reassessment of the situation allows her to realize that fighting for something better for everyone and fighting for a just system doesn’t have to come at the cost of her liberty and happiness.
She can find her own place in this world that’s better than the one she had before by fighting for equality, and a more just world not only makes her own situation better but makes things fairer and better for all in the process. This internal revelation may come about a little fast plot-wise for my liking, but it fits with Natsume’s character and ultimately aligns with the show’s thematic core.
Deca-Dence Episode 11: Plans Into Motion
Which brings us, finally, to episode 11 of Deca-Dence, the penultimate episode of the season. This week is all-action as it follows on from these ideas to take the televised revolution of Kaburagi, Natsume and the prison cyborgs to the next level. Ultimately, destroying the Gaddoll is just step one, and bringing people together to free itself from system control is the much harder second step needed to make their plan a successful one.
To allow for an action-packed culmination of this plan and these ideas, we need a ‘final’ enemy, and cleverly, the anime is coy as to who this enemy is. Sure, there’s a giant mutated Gaddoll that was free from the system and has rapidly evolved into a monstrous beast under the threat of extinction to prove itself a large physical barrier preventing the people of Deca-Dence from obtaining liberation. On paper, this is the true last-boss, a powerful Kaiju-like creature with the strength to crush Deca-Dence without breaking a sweat.
If you’ve invested yourself into the thematic ideas driving Deca-Dence as a series up until this point, you’ll soon realize the rapid evolution of this creature in episode 11 is a symptom, not a cause, of the issues facing our team. In the system’s all-consuming desire for power and control over the lower classes, they attempted to gain influence over life itself. With their assumed control, they couldn’t account for bugs like Natsume and Kaburagi, nor could they account for the possibility that one of their creations could be a bug that mutated its powers into something far stronger. Their assumption that they had earned their role at the top of the food chain with power over all left them unable to anticipate such a creature and the catalyst of its strength.
While the events of this week’s episode are mostly following each of these ideas of injustice and revolution through to their natural conclusion, leaving surprisingly little to say on the events themselves, the presentation of this story and the scale at play as we follow these characters through to the end is just a joy to behold. With just one episode left, it’s most impressive of all, especially in a season still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, that this season has had consistently-strong animation and pacing from start to finish, all while pushing the boat out as much as it can in every direction.
Even if episode 11 is more a culmination of everything that’s come before it than an episode with anything new to say, through strong production and storytelling Deca-Dence has delivered a compelling tale. I’m going to be sad to see it end next week, I really am.