What I love about Deca-Dence episode 4 is its wonderful exploitation of the gamification gimmick of the series in service of another episode where the series grows from strength to strength. Welcome to the action, comrade. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
If episode 1 and episode 2 of Deca-Dence sought to build a manufactured post-apocalyptic landscape that, as it turns out in episode 3, is simply planet Earth repurposed by an all-powerful corporation, episode 4 explores how such companies exert their control through the distraction of the masses.
Episode 3 placed the human race as an exploited minority in the world of Deca-Dence who serve the whims of the Tankers for their own entertainment. The Solid Quake Corporation in charge of it all is pulling the strings of it all, knowing they can get the resources they want this way without caring about equality or their wellbeing. Kaburagi’s work as an eliminator of bugs has allowed him to see behind the curtain and, in Natsume, found a ‘bug’ that challenges the status quo. For the company, this can’t be allowed on mass.
If the masses learned the truth about this world they simply assume is an entertainment arena created for their pleasure, would they be so keen to participate? You’d have to hope not. So you get them excited about anything else so they can’t snoop around and find the truth.
That’s the latest surprise this show has going for it in this week’s episode, though perhaps instead of a twist we should call it a well-executed natural progression of the events at hand. Just as a free-to-play game that wants you to spend more money may have in-game events to encourage you to drop your hard-earned cash, the world of Deca-Dence has its own events.
We start the episode where last week’s left off, as Natsume jumps into a fight against Gadoll to save Pike. Whenever we’re placed into a fight against these behemoth creatures we’re fully engaged in the dynamics of the battle, in part thanks to the wonderful animation by the team over at Studio NUT.
The seamless transitions between different states of gravity is one thing, but the way Natsume effortlessly moves around the arena to take on the Gadoll, without a sense of space being lost in the frenetic camera motions, is just a joy to watch. It’s floaty and dynamic without being weightless, attacks against the Gadoll themselves landing with the necessary punch. The fight in the first episode was impressive to watch, but this one arguably surpasses it.
That’s when the veil is lifted. Similar to how episode 2 lifted the veil on episode 1, the second half of the episode recontextualizes the fight and attempts to create guilt for our enjoyment by reminding us of the powers that be which are pulling the strings. You create the most exciting fights you can to keep people consuming.
That’s when the upcoming ‘event’ factors in. To Natsume and those within Deca-Dence, it’s a big deal. This could end their struggle and allow them to live on Earth freely, as the news is drip-fed to them that the Gadoll nest has been found and could finally be defeated. In reality, this is a ploy. Everyone who fights who isn’t a former ranked fighter like Kaburagi will die because Solid Quake wants it that way. The legendary fighters at this point can return, and suddenly the dynamics have shifted. This result isn’t known by the players, but you bet they’re excited to find out.
There you have it. A perfect distraction. Who cares about the company when a cool fight is going on.
Deca-Dence is constantly impressing me every week. Far from simply being a well-animated action series, the series challenges expectations by taking it in this intriguing anti-capitalist direction that helps it stand apart from its competitors. After Deca-Dence episode 4, it’s difficult to predict what’s coming next, and I personally can’t wait to find out.